Officials Worried About Impact Alabama Sports Betting Could Have on Bingo Halls

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 14, 2023 12:00 AM
The key to Alabama sports betting may be the state’s attachment to bingo halls.

What’s the biggest concern that has prevented sports betting in Alabama from becoming legalized? The answer is supposed to be pretty straightforward: For Alabama sports betting to be fully operational, it would require the installment of a state lottery. And lawmakers thus far haven’t wanted to join the majority of states in forming one.

On the surface, this logic makes some sense. Any sports betting legislature wouldn’t just be a matter of setting up a sports gambling infrastructure. It would necessitate a larger undertaking that creates a state lottery, regulatory processes, commercialization procedures across multiple gaming fronts and so on.

Policymakers have often maintained potential Alabama sports betting revenue isn’t worth the trouble. The Crimson State is not among the most densely populated regions in the country, and it also doesn’t house a professional sports team inside the market. What’s the point of traveling leaps and bounds to legalize sports gambling if it won’t pay out in a big way? 

Reasonable minds disagree on this latter point. Many actually believe Alabama sports betting would be a fairly lucrative revenue stream for the state. That’s why select lawmakers have, on numerous occasions, attempted to pass legislation that would make it easier to legalize sports betting in The Crimson State.

Those efforts persisted during this past year’s legislative sessions. However, the push for an Alabama sports betting initiative ultimately came to a standstill again. And while this failure was very much “same story, different year” material, we actually gained more insight into the state’s sports betting hesitation.

Charity Bingo Halls at the Center of Alabama Sports Betting Debate

For so long, the failure to legalize sports gambling has been attributed to Alabama’s disinclination toward starting a state lottery. As it turns out, though, they’re not so much against a state lottery as they are concerned about compromising the business model of bingo halls that help drive local economies. From John Sharp of Alabama.com:

“Alabama also has bingo halls long established in some of its poorer areas within the state. Those facilities bring jobs and revenues to areas starving for both, and lawmakers in the Black Belt have been hesitant toward approving any comprehensive gambling plan that would erode that. ‘The folks who represent their areas, especially when we are talking about charity bingo in the state, are dependent on the local revenues that come from those entities,’ said state Senator Chris Elliott. ‘They don’t want to see that money go away. They are insistent that if we talk about a lottery, their gaming interests are blessed.’”

This is a fair concern to have. Legalized sports gambling will no doubt impact the revenue streams of Alabama bingo halls. This will ring even truer if they allow the best online sportsbooks in the United States to operate inside the market.

It’s one thing to compete with in-person sports betting at casinos. It’s another go up against that and mobile wagering. Last year, more than 75 percent of all legal sports bets placed in the USA were processed throughout an online operator. That is a ubiquity with which local bingo halls cannot hope to compete.

Not All Alabama Lawmakers Believe the State is Properly Handling the Sports Betting Issues

Of course, while the concern for the livelihood of bingo halls may be legitimate, it doesn’t necessarily mean Alabama’s hardline stance against sports betting is Teflon.

More than a few lawmakers believe that bingo halls are being used as an excuse, and that the state is failing to address what’s perhaps an even larger issue: unregulated sports betting in Alabama. State Representative Andy Whitt has been among the most vocal on this front. As he told Sharp:

“The question isn’t whether gambling will be allowed in Alabama – it’s already operating in the open to the tune of millions of dollars a year. We have to start regulating the existing facilities that are already operating in Alabama. The question is how Alabama can start sending a portion of those revenues to our coffers, classrooms and communities in order to make an already great state better.”

Squandered revenue is often cited as the primary rebuke to sports betting concerns. But opponents will, rightfully, point out that it doesn’t make sense to detract from one industry (bingo halls) just to capitalize on another (sports betting). The legalization of sports betting throughout Alabama will only invite more sports betting. The unregulated market is likely capped because of the hoops customers must jump through to engage in it. Traveling out of state or using VPNs can be inconvenient.

Can Alabama Find a Happy Medium on the Sports Betting Issue?

So, the question then becomes: Can Alabama find a happy medium that allows them to legalize sports betting without torpedoing the bingo hall economy?

It isn’t immediately clear how hard the state is searching for answers. This past year’s sports betting discussion was tabled without an official proposal ever making the rounds.

Still, happy mediums likely exist.

Perhaps Alabama bingo halls could be granted sports betting licenses alongside casinos and online operators. The state could also pull a page from the Minnesota sports betting issue. This past year, the House of Representatives in The Land of 10,000 Lakes approved a bill that would send some of the sports betting proceeds to race tracks. These entities initially wanted sports betting licenses of their own, but tribal operators pushed back. Giving race tracks a cut of the sports betting revenue was seen as a compromise.

Granted, the race tracks weren’t satisfied with this proposal and the whole thing fell apart. But bingo halls are an altogether different business. Alabama might have better luck swaying cagey lawmakers if the latter knows bingo halls will be getting a cut of the sports betting profits.
Will Alabama explore this possibility? Or will they continue to equivocate and let the status quo stand? This is a fluid issue, and we’ll have to wait until 2024, at the absolute earliest, for any type of clarity.

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:

  • EXCLUSIVE BONUS
    Bovada
    4.3/5
    50% bonus up to $250
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • BetOnline
    4.1/5
    100% bonus up to $1000
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • EXCLUSIVE BONUS
    BetUS
    4.4/5
    125% up to $2,500
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • Xbet
    4.3/5
    $500 Sign-up Bonus
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • BetNow
    4.5/5
    100% up to $1,000
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • MyBookie
    50% bonus up to $1000
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • Bookmaker
    100% up to $400
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • Sportsbetting
    3.6/5
    50% up to $1000
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • EveryGame
    $500 Sign Up Bonus
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • WagerWeb
    3.5/5
    100% up to $1,000
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • BetDSI
    3.3/5
    100% up to $500 + $500 at BetDsi's Casino
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

  • BetNow
    4.3/5
    100% up to $450
    No Code Needed
    Play Now

    T&C apply, 18+, Play responsibly

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read our affiliate disclosure here.