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Senate narrowly rejects controversial gambling bill – it is not dead yet though

On Tuesday the House of Representatives narrowly approved a controversial Alabama constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state of Alabama. However, the Senate, in a rare late-night vote, rejected the conference committee version of the bill that the leadership of both parties had tried to ram through the Legislature. A constitutional amendment requires a super majority of the Senators to pass. The convoluted gambling bill that the six-member conference committee approved just earlier that day only received 20 of the 21 votes that it needed for passage. There was a disagreement about the Senate rules. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R) said that the bill fails after the Senate rejected it in a 20 to 15 vote. Pat Harris, the Secretary of the Senate, said that since the vote was simply to concur with the conference committee report that it did not require a supermajority.

The Senate after much confusion voted to carry over the bill. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said that a second vote is still possible.

The Republicans have a commanding supermajority in the Alabama Senate and 15 of the 27 Republican Senators oppose this version of the gambling bill; however the leadership of the Senate has conspired with Democrats to jam this piece of legislation down the throats of their own more conservative caucus. A similar situation occurred in the Alabama House of Representatives where GOP moderates and Democrats narrowly voted to concur 72 to 29 with the conservative Republicans voting against.

Interestingly Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) who carried the bill in the Senate, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of gambling expansion in the state, and served on the six-member conference committee that crafted this third version of the legislation is recorded by the Senate's website as having voted no on the legislation.

The conference committee version of the bill is an entirely new piece of legislation with little resemblance to either the version that passed the Senate or the more massive gambling expansion that passed the House of Representatives weeks ago.

Albritton said that almost no one likes this version of the bill.

https://www.alabamagazette.com/story/2024/04/01/news/span-classbrnwsbreaking-news-spanconference-committee-passes-out-a-massive-expansion-of-gambling-in-the-state-of-alabama/3153.html

The conference committee version of the bill would allow ten casinos, though dice, card games, table games, etc would be constitutionally banned. Also there is no sports betting allowed. It did have a lottery and authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians who operate electronic bingo casinos in Wetumpka, Atmore, and Montgomery now. It would also give licenses to casinos in Houston, Lowndes, Macon, Mobile, Jefferson, and two in Greene Counties. Every other facility in the state would be closed. It also sets up a state lottery.

The Senate appears likely to reconsider the vote to concur with the conference committee version of the bill. The Legislature will meet in session next on Thursday. The Senate did not address the enabling legislation – HB152 after the constitutional amendment, HB151, failed.

If the controversial constitutional amendment is passed by the Legislature, it would still have to be ratified by voters. That special election would be set for August 20.

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