Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter is pushing for the legalization of casinos in the state, in order to protect consumers and rid out illegal gambling operations. Ledbetter argues that many Alabamans are already participating in gambling activities, either in neighboring states, online, or with underground bookies and gambling rings.
The Alabama Legislature is set to convene in March 2024, and Ledbetter hopes that lawmakers will finally get behind a gaming measure to provide consumer protections. Currently, the state has hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal gambling operations, leading to serious criminal activity in various areas.
Gaming bills have been introduced in nearly each of the previous 20 legislative sessions, but have not been successful. However, Ledbetter believes that there is sufficient support in Montgomery for a gaming bill to pass. The issue lies in how to bring gambling to the state, as there is contention regarding exclusive rights to operate slots and table games.
Alabama is home to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the state’s only federally recognized tribe, which operates three Native American casinos. The tribe wishes to have exclusive rights to operate various games if commercial gaming is legalized in Alabama. On the other hand, gaming interests outside the state are pushing for lawmakers to welcome gaming developers and operators, leading to a stalemate.
In order for any gaming law to pass, voters would need to sign off on it through a statewide referendum, as the Alabama Constitution currently prohibits commercial gaming and lottery games. Ledbetter stresses the need for regulation and enforcement, arguing that with proper legislation, the state can go from having thousands of unregulated gambling outfits to only a handful that are licensed and regulated, ensuring public safety and consumer protection.