Alabama Legislators Preparing to Revisit Sports Betting Plans in 2024

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  • The House Speaker is ready to drive a sports betting bill next legislative session
  • The House has been mostly responsible for the failure to pass any sports betting bills
  • Alabama voters would need to approve a change to the state Constitution forbidding gambling

Lawmakers in Alabama are preparing to revisit the topic of legal sports betting during the 2024 legislative session after failing to agree on measures previously.

“We just can’t let this go on any longer. It’s a public safety issue,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter. “If we pass this legislation and put in place serious enforcement and regulations, we’ll go from more than a thousand gambling outfits to just around 10—10 that are well regulated and licensed.”

Alabama is one of only 12 states that have not passed sports betting legislation. However, there are signs that support for the idea is growing.

A new charge 

Ledbetter has made his support of sports betting clear and said that he will push a bill as soon as the House has one to present.

A committee that will be in charge of drafting the bill is expected to introduce a plan to legalize sports betting at a variety of retail locations. It will also focus heavily on ridding the state of illegal operators, which is a priority for Ledbetter. 

Having the support of the House Speaker makes the upcoming attempt, which there all signs point toward happening, different from past endeavors. The House has been less receptive to sports betting bills than the Senate and was responsible for the death of the last four proposals, all of which originated in the other chamber.

Senator Greg Albritton authored two recent bills that ultimately did not make it out of the House. He said that he cannot look into the future, but he is optimistic because of strong support from Gov. Kay Ivey and other senators.

“I hope [a sports betting bill passes],” Albritton said. “I can guarantee this, though: if we get a good piece of legislation, it will be difficult. As we make one person happy, we’ll make three mad. It will be a difficult move.”

Even if lawmakers agree on a plan for sports betting, they will need to amend a part of the state Constitution that forbids gambling. The threshold for that is majority support at the state General Election, which has already foiled attempts to legalize sports betting in marquee states such as California.

Learning from the past 

In 2022, Alabama’s Senate Tourism Committee presented two bills, SB 293 and SB 294, which would have created a state lottery and online sports betting market via a partnership with local tribal casinos. Both failed.

One of the differences this time around is that Albritton is being more assertive in his support, having already “blast[ed previous representatives] for their inability [to pass gambling legislation].

There’s a general expectation that the next House-sponsored sports betting bill will look similar to the ones presented in 2022 that would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos. However, Ledbetter and other lawmakers seem more focused on getting rid of crime and illegal outfits than they are on creating a robust gambling market.

“It’s like the wild west in this state for gambling,” Ledbetter said. “We don’t have the regulations and we don’t have the people in place to enforce the few laws we do have. It’s just rampant.”

Gov. Ivey commissioned a group in 2020 to study the potential for an Alabama gambling market. Their report suggested that the state could generate up to $800 million annually by legalizing casinos, sports betting, and a statewide lottery.

Sports betting was estimated to contribute $10 million on its own.

Although there are no professional sports teams in Alabama, the University of Alabama is the most successful college football program of the College Football Playoff era, and the school’s basketball team is becoming an increasing power in the national landscape.

The University of Auburn is also a massive draw and would help generate lots of bets, especially during college football betting and March Madness betting.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.