All around Alabama, sports gambling is gaining favor. Louisiana has it, Mississippi has it, Tennessee almost has it and Georgia and Florida could join the group this year, as well. Right in the middle of all of these sits Alabama, which means that state residents have plenty of opportunities to place wagers on sports in neighboring states, depriving Alabama of the additional revenue. This is a fact that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is well aware of, and she has said that she’s willing to explore sports gambling legalization, provided it can prove to be as lucrative for the state as some have asserted.
Lawmakers have been trying to put together a winning sports gambling proposal for a while, but Governor Ivey has remained against the move. She is loosening up a little bit as other states begin to see excellent returns with their initiatives, but nothing is going to happen this year. She’s doubtful that the industry would generate $1 billion for the state, as has been claimed by proponents, and wants to conduct a feasibility study to get to the bottom of the issue.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Governor Ivey told lawmakers, “Like you, I’m fully aware that the four states which border us all have some form of gambling. And neither you nor I are naive enough to believe that we’re benefiting in any way when our people cross the state line to bet on a game of chance.”
Governor Ivey is going to stay out of the picture regarding any study or any eventual framework for legalized sports gambling, or any type of gambling expansion. The state’s constitution requires the issue to be approved by lawmakers and a public vote, so the final decision ultimately rests with them. However, should any type of gambling expansion be allowed, she knows that she would have to be involved in negotiating any compacts with the state’s tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The $1-billion figure is lofty by any estimates, and it’s hard to imagine Alabama’s gambling efforts providing that much revenue to the state. However, at least Governor Ivey is willing to explore the idea, and Senate President Pro Tem Del March confirms her plans to investigate the issue. He states, “She has never felt like she has gotten accurate numbers. So she’s put this commission together to study that. I can’t argue with that. I think the voters need to have a realistic idea of what this would mean for the state.”
The idea would be to have the study completed within six months, if not sooner. Ideally, some progress could be made during the current legislative session; however, this isn’t very likely. In the end, though, expanded gambling options in the state would help pay for education improvements, rural broadband, the hiring of more state troopers and other plans that Governor Ivey has said she is trying to figure out how to cover. If Alabamians are already shipping their gambling money out of the state, bringing it back home makes perfect sense.