The people's voice of reason

Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) issued a statement on the failure of his gambling bills to pass the legislature.

"The House presented an opportunity to eliminate illegal gambling and allow the people to vote on an education lottery not just once this session, but twice," said Rep. Blackshear. "House and Senate conferees negotiated a compromise much closer to the Senate's substitute legislation than what was originally passed back in February. We made numerous concessions because the most important thing to the House was allowing the people to vote and running the bad actors out of our state. It's disappointing that after 15 months of work, we've accomplished neither and left $700 million per year on the table that would have supported education, infrastructure, mental health, retiree bonuses and more. The next time someone asks me why they can't vote on the issue of gaming; I'm going to tell them to ask one of the 15 senators that voted against this legislation."

Blackshear and his fellow representatives on the House Study Committee on Gaming met for 15 months in secret without allowing public comment or participation. Blackshear did not make his bill public until well after the session had begun; then he, with the cooperation of House leadership, rammed a bloated gambling bill through the House of Representatives that would have given the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and five casino owners in handpicked locations around the state carte blanch to operate while closing down dozens of their competitors and opening the state up to sports betting.

Blackshear's bill, which the Senate did not have a hand in writing, was dead on arrival in the Senate. The Senate substituted Blackshear's casino gambling bill with a bill which created a lottery, authorized a compact with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, and legalized historical horse racing machines in as many as seven legacy gambling establishments. Blackshear could have simply asked the House to concur with the Senate bill and then the public could have voted. Instead, he asked that the house non-concur with the Senate bill and send it to a conference committee.

The bill that emerged out of conference committee again expanded electronic gambling to as many as six locations, created a pact with the Poarch Creeks, and a lottery, while closing down unlicensed gambling establishments across the state. That third bill went too far for even some Senators.

At no point in time in the 2024 Alabama regular legislative session did either House of the Legislature vote on a clean lottery bill that did not have an Indian gaming compact and which did not enrich a handful of casino operators in Jefferson, Houston, Lowndes, Greene, Mobile, and Macon counties.

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