Date published: May 7, 2021, 08: 55 hrs.
Last updated: May 7, 2021, 09: 47 hrs.
The odds are lengthening for voters in Alabama, who will be asked next November whether they want to legalize the state lottery and add more casinos , including full-scale gaming on traditional slot machines and table games.
Senate Bill 319 passed the Alabama Senate last month by 23 - 9 votes. But the game expansion package faced much more controversy in the state's lower legislative chamber.
Last night, House Representatives engaged in a heated debate. Republicans accused Democrats of trying to make last-minute changes to the lottery and gaming. Democrats accused Republicans of introducing a lottery-only statute without their knowledge or input before it came to the floor.
Tensions were high because people were working so hard. Everybody was really upset about how things were going, "House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-District 25) told reporters.
As for Republicans who quickly drafted a lottery proposal that would not include more casinos and legalization of commercial gambling, McCutcheon said there is no ill will.
"There was no effort to pull anything behind. We tried to bill the floor, "McCutcheon explained, adding that Alabamans want to at least vote in the lottery.
SB 319 did not come before the House roll call because the GOP-controlled House decided it did not have enough votes.
Expansion to include games
Alabama does not currently have any full-service casinos with slot machines and table games. Instead, the only federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, owns and operates three Class II casinos.
The tribe's gaming division, Wind Creek Hospitality, has locations in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. The casinos offer only electronic bingo-based slot machines. Although they look and sound similar to slot machines, they differ in that their spin results are based on the casino's entire terminal network. Class III slot machines use an individual random number generator to formulate the outcome.
Many lawmakers believe it's time to let Alabamans decide to reconsider real casino gambling. A vote on gaming hasn't been held since 1999, when residents rejected an attempt to legalize the lottery.
Much has changed in the more than two decades since that vote. Legal sports betting is now widespread across the country, only five states do not operate lotteries, and states still authorize casinos.
Dems reject GOP
Alabama state Senate Democrats said Thursday night that the Republican government's actions have tainted the gaming debate.
If you don't have integrity when you're dealing with games, you need to give it up. And what I saw in that room tonight, there's no integrity anywhere, "stated Representative Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee).
Time is running out if any lottery and/or casino measure reaches voters during the election. The Alabama Legislature has only one day of session on its 2021 calendar.
now it's hard to pass," McCutcheon admitted. The only day remaining before the House session ends is Monday, May 17 .