As gambling legislation is expected to be pushed in Alabama’s 2024 legislative session, a policy think-tank issued a new report on legalized gambling on December 14.

The conclusion of the Alabama Policy Institute (API) report was strong and clear: “Gambling is a bad bet for Alabama families.”

Unconfirmed rumors out of Montgomery are that Gov. Kay Ivey will call a special session on gambling to take place during the 2024 regular session, which starts February 6. This procedure of “isolating” the gambling legislation is similar to the procedure Ivey successfully used in 2019 to pass a gasoline tax increase of ten cents a gallon.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) recently pronounced a dismal prediction for the likelihood of passing gambling legislation on WVNN radio’s “Dale Jackson Show” in Huntsville.

“I don’t see an expansion of gaming in this quadrennium - based on the players that are there now and based on the issues that we have and the money that we have," Orr declared.

Orr said the only gaming bill likely to pass is some kind of crackdown against illegal gambling already operating in Alabama.

“I don’t know what the House committee that’s been looking into this is going to come with as far as legislation or a proposal or whatever," he added. "One of the things that could happen is ramping up the penalties for illegal gaming in the state. That might be a possibility that could pass, and we’ll just have to see.”

Quoting from the API gambling report:

There are renewed calls to legalize gambling in the State of Alabama. 

Advocates claim that current illegal gambling can be solved by changing the state constitution to make what is now illegal legal. Enforcement of current law and/or increased fines and penalties for illegal and unconstitutional betting is a better answer to the current levels of lawlessness in Alabama.

Curtailing gambling is an honorable endeavor, the expansion of gambling isn’t. Online gambling—on sports or anything else—would turn every smartphone in the state into a portable casino.

Where there are more opportunities to gamble, higher rates of addiction and negative societal impacts follow.  In addition, as state support systems and welfare programs will have to grow to meet new needs, increased burdens fall back on the taxpayer.

API’s report outlines that states that have legalized gambling experience higher rates of gambling addiction, crime, corruption, addiction, and mental health disorders. With more opportunities to gamble, the negative impact of gambling increases. This is especially true as gambling is normalized for children; early and increased exposure to gambling leads to increases in addiction that can cause emotional damage, strained relationships, and financial ruin.

API commissioned a report on the state of gambling in the state of Alabama, and one thing is abundantly clear: Gambling is a bad bet for Alabama families.

Dr. John Hill, Ph.D. authored the report.

API was established in 1989 as the Alabama Family Alliance. Attorney Tom Parker was its first executive director. He is now Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, in his final term that ends January 2025. U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) was API’s first president. Palmer is running a contested race for re-election in the March 5, 2024, Republican primary.

API describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to ensuring free markets, limited government, and strong families.”

Access the 20-page API gambling report here.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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