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Controversial gambling bill is expected to be in Committee on Tuesday

On Tuesday the Senate Tourism Committee is scheduled to consider a controversial amendment to the Constitution of Alabama that will dramatically increase legal gambling across the state of Alabama.

House Bill 151 (HB151) is sponsored by State Representative Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City). This proposed constitutional amendment would create a powerful Alabama Gaming Commission, an appointed board with exclusive powers to regulate, license, and tax a broad range of expanded gambling interests across the State of Alabama. The Gaming Commission would be empowered to license casinos, approve sports books, deal with out of state sports betting entities, license the full range of casino table games both traditional and electronic, and regulate gambling by the Poarch Creek band of Creek Indians (PCI) once they and Governor Kay Ivey (R) negotiate a compact. The gambling commission would have broad powers including a large number of armed agents to regulate unlicensed gambling in the state. This repeals a number of local constitutional amendments in certain counties.

House Bill 152 (HB152) is also in committee and is also sponsored by Blackshear.

This is the 180 page enabling legislation that ratification of the constitutional amendment (HB151) would then completely authorize. To understand the law a reader must read both of them together (well in excess of 300 pages combined). These two bills were created by a secret committee – the House Study Committee on Gaming – chaired by Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest). The minutes of those meetings, who testified before the committee, and why the press, the public, and reportedly even other legislators were barred from these secret negotiations has still not been explained. Blackshear was a member of the secret study committee. He and the committee produced the two documents, HB151 and HB152.

Opponents, including many House Republicans, claim that this massive expansion of gambling will increase gambling addictions, increase poverty, increase crime, grow state government, and is picking winners and losers.

Supporters claim that they are adding over a $billion in new revenues to state coffers.

The committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. in the Finance & Taxation room on the eighth floor of the Alabama Statehouse.

Sources are saying that Senators have prepared a substitute bill that they will introduce replacing HB151 and HB152 with a gambling bill they have prepared behind closed doors. If any gambling bill is given a favorable report by the Committee on Tuesday it could be considered on the Seante floor as early as Wednesday.

Tuesday is the 13th Legislative day of the session.

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