Alabama Gambling Legalization Continues to Face Hurdles
Several local representatives of the Poarch Creek Indians (PCI) and non-tribal casino owners spoke to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy revealing the state may secure its gambling agreement in the future, but the deal has major stipulations which need to be revised before it is finalized.
Representatives are putting together a proposal so Ivey and other lawmakers can use the information to write gambling legislation. However, any approved legislation will need approval from voters.
Currently, any legislation surrounding gambling in Alabama requires a deal between the PC and racetrack owners, as well as securing the support of the electronic bingo halls in Lowndes Counties and Greene. The racetrack owners are represented by Lewis Benefield, who operates the Birmingham Race Course and VictoryLand, and Nat Winn, GreeneTrack’s CEO.
Benefield on Sports Gaming in Alabama
“I’ve been an Alabama resident my whole life,” said Benefield, “I’ve got kids that are growing up here. I hope to see us take an opportunity and capitalize on the gaming that’s already here. Capitalize on it to a point to where we can get taxes. They can go to the right places for the state and also be able to pull back in some of these customers from the surrounding states… I feel like we can all work together. I feel like there’s a major plan out there that would benefit all of us.”
These local entities have pushed for their personal interests for years, which have thus far curtailed any progress on gambling expansion in The Heart of Dixie. They have had issues securing tax revenues from its operating casinos due to the legal concerns throughout the industry.
Alabama’s legislators are showing an increased interest in gambling expansion, fueled by the change of public opinion of the recent approval of sportsbooks, lotteries and casino gambling. Bordering states are now offering legal betting, which is increasing the pressure for the Cotton State to capitalize on the market before they lose tax revenue to neighboring states.
Racetracks and PCI Working on Agreement
The PCI and the racetrack owners are showing a willingness to discuss a deal that will be beneficial to both parties. An agreement with the PCI would help Alabama gain more tax revenue from local gamblers currently going out of state to place their wagers.
Arthur Mothershed, the PCI’s vice president for business development, stated the tribe is willing to make a deal with the racetrack owners – or anyone who would need to be involved in order to make the deal happen.
The talks toward developing an agreement would also most likely include former Alabama Governor Jim Folsom, a current lobbyist for several electronic bingo halls in Greene County.
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“I’m looking at the large overall issue of statewide gaming I think everyone can realize that maybe charitable bingo in Greene County may be a small part of the puzzle,” Folsom said. “But to the people and leadership in Greene County. They have been living for the last 17 years under this arrangement. Any threat to the existence of that revenue would surely put them in dire financial straits like they were placed in 1996.”