Senator Greg Albritton May Have Laid Blueprint for Legal Alabama Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Senator Greg Albritton May Have Laid Blueprint for Legal Alabama Sports Betting

The future of sports betting in Alabama has consistently been painted in bleak colors. It isn't just that they have failed to join the growing list of states to legalize gambling. They don't even appear committed to making the discussion a priority. As Jill R. Dorson recently noted for Sports Handle, the Crimson State was among the few who made zero progress on a potential gambling bill this past year. In turn, this has led many experts to predict that there will be no legal Alabama sports betting for the foreseeable future.

Yet, it isn't all doom and gloom on the subject. Despite a lack of urgency on the topic, Alabama sports betting does have notable supporters throughout the House of Representatives and Senate.

One of these advocates is Senator Greg Albritton—a major voice. He has been very outspoken on the importance and benefits of legal Alabama sports betting and has even tried, on multiple occasions, to cobble together definitive bills that would make it to an election ballot.

Albritton's attempts, of course, have been rebuked at every turn—including in 2022. But the case he laid out this time started piquing lawmakers' attention on both sides of the argument. Some of Alabama's staunchest sports betting opponents seemed more open to the idea when the state's legislative meetings concluded.

Could the principles Albritton laid out in his latest sports betting proposal last spring, which he called SB 293, be the driving force behind Alabama legalizing sports betting in 2023? The idea may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Greg Albritton's Argument for Legal Alabama Sports Betting Could Change Everything

Opponents of Alabama sports betting have routinely focused on the same two arguments: They don't trust the gambling industry to responsibly advertise or turn away underage bettors, and even if they did, the absence of a state lottery department renders legal sports betting a cumbersome undertaking that won't be worth the prospective return.

Previous sports betting bills have done an inadequate job of addressing either concern. Instead, they solely spotlighted the profit potential by accentuating the success of legal gambling in other states. However, SB 293 broke the mold, largely thanks to Albritton. He argued that legal Alabama sports betting would allow the state to better monitor the gambling industry. Consider this excerpt from an Alabama.com article that took stock of the sports betting situation inside the Crimson State:

"Albritton testified that his bills do not represent an expansion of gaming, but rather a 'reduction.' He suggested that it’s unclear exactly how many casinos are currently open in Alabama but that under his bills, only five would be allowed. All five would be on land owned by the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, who currently control any gambling outside of racetracks in the state.

"'This is not a gaming expansion,' Albritton said. 'It’s a gaming control bill. It’s about the state's sovereignty, and it controls growth as we do in the chicken industry.' He said it would provide guidelines to cover the gaming industry, similar to how other businesses in Alabama have to be regulated."

Without question, this is a savvy talking point. Sports betting in Alabama may be illegal, but it doesn't prevent it from happening on a larger scale. Residents can travel across state lines to place bets elsewhere, and at this very second, a vast many of the top online sportsbooks will allow Alabamans to register and use their accounts. And if people in Alabama are going to place bets anyway, shouldn't the state at least reap some of the benefits?

Is There Enough Momentum to Legalize Alabama Sports Betting?

Truth be told, it is far too early for an answer to this question. The state has yet to propose another sports betting bill, and the 2023 legislative meetings aren't scheduled to begin until April 10. As many have also speculated, Alabama may need other states around them to legalize sports betting before they give it more serious consideration.

Still, Albritton has provided a fundamental solution to one of the state's biggest concerns. That's a huge deal. And if he was able to squeeze in a sports betting bill last year, he should have no trouble doing so in 2023. The number of new faces inside the House of Representatives and Senate should make it even easier to bring a proposal to the discussion floor.

Granted, this doesn't offer any assurance. Remember: Gambling control isn't the only concern of opponents. They also don't see the value in setting up a state lottery just to facilitate the arrival of legal sports betting. Albritton and his allies have yet to provide a counter to this hangup.

Can the creation of a state lottery and, then, sports betting system be streamlined in any way? Or will the next sports betting bill have revenue projections that convince even the most stubborn opponents to reconsider the process? The next sports betting bill needs to provide an affirmative answer to at least one of these questions.

If it doesn't, chances are that legal Alabama sports betting will remain on the back burner through 2024—if not longer.

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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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