If the Alabamians have the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment to the game, 63 members of Alabama House will have to vote yes – most likely today.
Alabama House had two days in session to vote on a full set of games of chance including casino games, sports betting and a lottery. It all comes down to whether gambling bills can garner 63 votes in the House. Since the game requires a constitutional amendment, a 3/5 majority vote is required to pass. In addition, if bills go through the House, the governor’s signature is not required.
Political analyst Steve Flowers said it was difficult to predict what would happen with a vote in the House.
“If it passes, it will have to pass tomorrow,” said Flowers. “They only have two voting days left in the session and the last day will be too hectic for this to pass. I can come and it will be a close vote. The bill passed in the Senate, but it always had an uphill battle in the House.
Representative Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, chairs the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee where the bill was debated on Tuesday. There was a lot of opposition to the bill – including a former governor and the Alabama Policy Institute.
“I don’t know if this will pass or not,” Nordgren said. “Sixty-three votes in the House will be a tall glass of water.”
Nordgren said the bills were well-crafted pieces of legislation, in line with what Governor Kay Ivey had requested. Nordgren said the bill actually reduces the number of gambling sites in the state to a total of nine locations, about half the number of existing locations.
The gambling locations approved by the bill can be found at existing greyhound racing facilities in Birmingham and in the counties of Mobile and Macon and Green. A fifth location would be authorized at the Big Creek crossing in Houston County. The sixth location would be a new facility in Jackson or DeKalb County operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The bill also asks the governor to negotiate a pact with the Poarch Creeks to allow gambling at the tribal resorts at Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.
Nordgren said the reduction in the number of gaming sites was the source of some of the opposition. Both Green and Lowndes counties have passed local legislation allowing bingo to be played, and policies have been in place for decades. If the comprehensive gambling bill passes, Greentrack in County Green would remain, but all other gambling places in County Green would have to be closed. All sites in Lowndes County are also expected to be closed.
Nordgren said former Gov. Jim Folsom testified on behalf of Green County. By the time the gambling laws were passed, Green County was facing bankruptcy. Bingo operations have allowed the county to develop a stable source of income to support the fire and health care services. The same goes for operations in County Lowndes.
However, Nordgren said the bill includes a gaming revenue-sharing plan, which allocates a percentage of state-collected gaming taxes to be allocated to municipalities and counties in the state, not just to municipalities. places where gambling is permitted.
This means Pike County would receive a share of the revenue, although gambling establishments will not be licensed in the county.
Nordgren, said the main point of contention for Green and Lowndes Counties is whether or not profit sharing will make up for lost revenue as a result of the closure of gambling operations.
Nordgren said the whole issue is complicated because existing gambling operations are technically illegal, even though they were passed by popular vote. She said Article 105 of the 1901 Constitution prohibits a local government from enacting a law that would replace the state constitution. She said these facilities operated under the decrees of the former governors.