It is hard to come by optimistic outlooks for the legalization of sports betting in Alabama these days. Not only has the state punted on the opportunity to approve some form of sports gambling on numerous previous occasions, but they haven't shown much of an inclination to change over the years. As it stands, in fact, legal sports betting in Alabama isn't even on the discussion docket for the 2023 legislature meetings.
Granted, the Yellowhammer State doesn't convene their legislature meetings until the first Tuesday of March during the first term following elections. At this writing, that gives them a couple of months to add Alabama sports betting discussions to the schedule. But that doesn't mean they will. They decide to ignore it altogether.
If we had to guess, that's probably how this plays out. There hasn't been enough chatter or updates coming out of Alabama to think otherwise. Not surprisingly, this has been an overarching concern for a while. The results of the 2022 Alabama election created new roadblocks to sports betting because of how little turnover there was in key positions.
This has naturally left many asking: What's it actually going to take for Alabama to legalize sports betting? Or at minimum, what will it take for them to actually discuss it? The answer may lie with their neighboring states.
Alabama Sports Betting May Only be Possible Once They're Surrounded by Pro-Gambling States
Alabama Republican Senator Greg Albritton has been among the state's most serious proponents for sports betting over the years. It was he who proposed the 2021 sports betting initiative that ultimately got shot down.
Over the years, both he and Senator Jim McClendon, another sports betting proponent, have been open about the challenges that stand between Alabama and legal sports betting. And recently, both have hinted that the state might need to be pressured into change by its neighbors.
This isn't a novel concept. We have seen it in practice already. New York legalized sports betting in part because Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey all did the same. Even now, we're seeing Missouri face pressure to legalize sports betting after Kansas joined the list of states to offer it. South Carolina is about to encounter the same pressure with North Carolina on track to offer sports gambling.
It isn't a competition, per se. But when one state is surrounded by others with legal sports betting, they understand the opportunity cost they've forfeited. Every state without legal betting is already losing money to some of the top reviewed online sportsbooks that allow almost anyone in the USA to make an account. That missed revenue stream exponentially increases if you add multiple domestic options within traveling distance to the equation.
In Alabama's case, they will be under the most pressure if Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia all add legal sports betting. The thing is, this might not translate to any pressure at all.
Which States Near Alabama Offer Legal Sports Betting?
Among the five states bordering Alabama, only two currently offer legal sports betting: Mississippi and Tennessee. And of those two, only Tennessee allows legal online sports betting.
Mississippi has discussed adding legal sports betting to their in-person policy, so there's a chance that could change in the coming years. But none of the others have made tangible progress.
Florida offered legal on-site sports betting for a few months back in 2021. But it was repealed almost immediately after a district court ruled the gaming compact between the state and Seminole tribe was unconstitutional. This issue has been tied up in litigation for over a year, and a resolution isn't expected to be reached before the middle of 2023.
Georgia has danced around sports betting legislature on numerous occasions. However, hope for imminent change likely died once Democratic governor candidate Stacey Abrams lost her election. There has been an increase in House members who welcome Georgia sports betting, but even if a bill passes, it is expected to face resistance in the Senate.
Don't Bother Offering a Timeline for Alabama Sports Betting, Because There is None
This is the part of the discussion where we're supposed to offer concrete details on a timeline for legal sports betting in Alabama. Sadly, we can't deliver on that practice. There is no timeline for Alabama sports betting. The state hasn't shown nearly enough interest in discussing the topic for us to even hazard a guess.
There may be increased pressure on Alabama to legalize sports betting if both Florida and Georgia implement it themselves. But the terms of any approval from their neighbors will also matter.
Alabama only has three tribal casinos and no state lottery. For residents to enjoy the most convenient access to sports betting, they need online transactions to be part of any initiative that gets the green light. And that might be a reach.
Let's say Alabama simply mirrors whatever Georgia and Florida do. Neither state has shown a definitive interest in the legalization of online sports betting. Florida initially instituted sports gambling without that option, and many of the scenarios floating around Georgia have focused on in-person wagering.
Tennessee is just above Alabama and has online sports betting, so that could help turn up on the heat on the latter. But if Alabama is really going to feel pressure to legalize online sports betting, it'll likely need to see Florida or Georgia, if not both, make the transition first.
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