WILL ALABAMA MOVE TOWARD LEGAL SPORTS BETTING IN 2022?
Despite the fact that more than a few neighboring states offer legal sports betting, Alabama’s gaming laws remain unchanged.
This does not mean that lawmakers in that state are against legal betting on sports. It does signal that there is not enough support to pass the necessary change in the current laws. Renewed efforts in 2022 could alter that stance with the proper approach.
One big development in 2021 pushing Alabama lawmakers is the launch of legal sports betting in surrounding states. Louisiana now offers legal sports betting along with neighboring Mississippi. To the south, Florida’s Seminole Tribe recently went live with both retail and online sports betting via a mobile app.
The only formally permitted legal gambling in the state are slots and bingo-style games at tribal casinos. Alabama is one of the few states not to offer a lottery. It is easy to see why opposition to expansion of gaming options remains so strong.
The primary legislative effort in 2021 was House Bill 161. This would have paved the way for legal sports betting at both retail and online sportsbooks. The effort to move this bill stalled but at least the precedent has been established.
Even if state lawmakers were able to pass the necessary legislation, existing Alabama law calls for a constitutional amendment. The only way to change or amend the state constitution would be through a general voter referendum.
This means that any successful legislative measure passed in 2022 would not be on the ballot until November’s general election in 2023.
HB 161 was not the first piece of legislation aimed at bringing legal sports betting to Alabama. Back in 2019, HB 315 never made it out of committee. Proposed legislation in 2020 met the same fate.
Also in 2021, there was an effort to establish an Alabama State Lottery. As part of that measure, legal sports betting was included. While that piece of legislation was able to pass the state Senate, it did not have enough support to pass in the House.
Where there is a will, there is usually a way, even in a state like Alabama. By the end of 2021, more than 30 states and the District of Columbia will be live with some form of legal sports betting.
Steeped deep into the SEC with schools such as Alabama and Auburn, the demand for legal sports betting in the state is on the rise.
Gaps in state budgets remain with a desperate need of additional funds to support vital services while improving education.
Legal sports betting should be available in Alabama at some point in time. However, staying true to the Deep South, it is going to be a slow draw getting there.
Written by Dave Schwab, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert. You can learn more about our author's expertise here.
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