Alabama Sports Betting Added to 2023 Legislature Agenda

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 27, 2023 08:00 PM
Alabama Sports Betting Added to 2023 Legislature Agenda

Remember how all bills to legalize sports betting throughout Alabama seemed as if they would be on hold for another couple of years? Well, it turns out the tides may be turning. Alabama sports betting has officially been added to the 2023 legislature agenda.

This news is big, even if it doesn't portend anything definitive. It is further evidence that officials continue to consider Alabama sports betting a priority. Other states that have yet to legalize gambling, such as Idaho or Alaska, show little or no interest in discussing the subject. Alabama, on the other hand, has talked extensively about sports betting bills in three of the past four years.

Will this latest attempt to green light sports wagering in The Heart of Dixie be successful? Let's find out.

Alabama Sports Betting Among First Topics Discussed During the State's 2023 Legislature Meetings

Whereas many other states started their legislature meetings during the first month of 2023, Alabama's did not convene until the beginning of March. That's largely why pessimism over sports betting ran rampant. Nothing official was put on the agenda, and very few lawmakers seemed to bill it as a priority.

It appears that might have changed.

GeoComply senior vice president of government and public affairs John Pappas reportedly spoke with lawmakers about rewriting Alabama sports betting laws. Not only that, but this discussion took place on the first day of the sessions, which suggests a bit of urgency.

Then again, it could also be preliminary—or even a throw-in. The state has other gaming topics they plan to address. Discussing the future of sports betting in Alabama could merely be a ceremonial inclusion, a topic that is introduced out of obligation rather than sincere interest.

Is There Urgency to Legalize Gambling in Alabama?

As of now, it seems like the latter scenario is more likely. Alabama seems open to sports betting conversations, but they're not particularly bent on putting the issue atop their to-do list. As Pappas told Legal Sports Report last week:  “I expect we’re going to see different bills introduced this session. There were a lot of good questions, though I wouldn’t say I walked away feeling any particularly special momentum this year.”

This will naturally come as a bummer to sports betting enthusiasts in The Heart of Dixie. And there are a lot of them.

According to GeoComply data given to Legal Sports Report, "Alabamians attempted to access legal sportsbooks 797,000 times during the 2022 NFL season." Nearly two-thirds of those attempts were tied to sports betting apps in Tennessee.

This data—and statistics along the same lines—have become a rallying cry for those who support legal Alabama gambling. Residents aren't steering clear of the sports betting industry simply because it's not legal inside the state. For one, they are journeying across state lines. Papas even admitted to Legal Sports Report that he has friends who routinely travel to Tennessee so that they can place wagers. Alabama is also near Mississippi, which allows in-person gambling. On top of that, plenty of the sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow almost anyone in the United States to set up an account and place bets—regardless of where they live.

While this should theoretically create a sense of urgency for Alabama to capitalize on sports betting revenue, the state has not faced enough bi-partisan pressure to make it more of a priority. It also doesn't help that they're not exactly surrounded by states with legal gambling. Mississippi allows in-person wagering but not online sports betting. Both Georgia and Florida, meanwhile, do not offer legal sports betting of any kind right now. It may take one of these neighboring states changing their laws for Alabama to take a harder look at their own.

There is Another Roadblock to Alabama Sports Betting

Support of Alabama sports betting remains tough to pin down for a number of reasons. Chief among them: The logistical legwork involved.

The legalization of sports betting requires a state lottery system. Alabama doesn't currently have one. A commitment to online sports betting would also be a commitment to creating a state lottery. It would also mean expanding the scope of casino gaming laws and commercialization.

Many lawmakers continue to see all the necessary steps as more of a hassle than a benefit. This, of course, directly contradicts the GeoComply data. Sure, it would take time and money to set up a sports betting infrastructure, but there's clearly a market for it. Once more, with feeling: Residents tried accessing legal sportsbooks almost 800,000 times. And that was just during the 2022 NFL season. That number would grow when looking at the entire year. It would also skyrocket if there were data on the number of Alabama residents who placed bets with offshore sportsbooks.

Perhaps this sentiment is finally starting to resonate. After all, Alabama is expected to propose five different sports betting bills during their current legislature session. Whether any of them pass remains to be seen. They will need a two-thirds supermajority to make the 2024 general election ballot. That's a tall order when it doesn't seem like the state is especially keen to make the matter a priority. As it stands, we would bet against Alabama legalizing sports betting in 2023.

Still, the discussions taking place now absolutely matter. If nothing else, they could lay the groundwork for Alabama legal sports betting in 2024 or beyond.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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