MONTGOMERY — The gambling debate will now move to the State Senate after the House of Representatives passed two comprehensive bills on Thursday.

House Bill 151 (HB151) repeals all constitutional amendments allowing gambling in certain parts of the state and removes the state's constitutional gambling prohibition. House Bill 152 (HB152) authorizes a series of provisions legalizing casino gaming in specific locations, a statewide lottery and online sports betting.

"It passed the House with 70 votes. That's significant. I think it would be very embarrassing for the Senate to fail on this one," State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) told 1819 News on Thursday. "It is very, very similar to the bills that I dropped two and three years ago. I like it. There's parts of it that I don't like, but I can't argue with the results. I think it's going to give Alabama a chance to capture this industry, cap it, control it, regulate it, tax it, stop the growth, and have a regimen that we can enforce and collect."

Albritton said he didn't know of a timeline yet for when the bills would appear in committee in the Senate.

"Most of the Senate was sitting back in laissez-faire mode, hoping that they wouldn't have anything to do, but the House got mean and sent it up. We've got some work to do. We've got some training and instruction and going through it. I don't know how long it will take. We'll see," Albritton said. "There's not anything new. There's not anything in there that we haven't seen previously. It's just in different positions, I guess."

State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) said he wasn't sure how much support the two gambling bills currently had in the Senate.

"I am not sure of the potential vote count in the Senate. I remain opposed to gambling," he said. "I have not seen exactly what amendments were added in the House. Gambling doesn't generate any goods or services; it just redistributes available money that would be spent on other things with the state taxing the transaction. Casinos aren't built by winners but by losers. We outlaw other schemes that are designed for one to lose money, but efforts are being made to sanction this statewide. It isn't good for families, our moral climate, or the culture."

Senate leadership said both bills would be treated no differently than other types of legislation.

"The Alabama Senate is prepared and ready to address gaming and lottery legislation passed by the House of Representatives," Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said in a statement to 1819 News. "We plan to address this legislation the same way we handle every piece of legislation our House colleagues send to the Senate. Our process will not deviate, and every member of the Alabama Senate will have the opportunity to voice his or her opinion, offer his or her amendments, and vote his or her position on the legislation."

Senate Majority Leader Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) said, "The Senate Republican Caucus has prepared itself to take on the gaming and lottery legislation passed in the House earlier today." 

"We understand this legislation will attract significant attention, and our process for this legislation will follow our normal procedures when legislation passes the House. Our goal for any piece of legislation is to make Alabama better and her future brighter. I look forward to working with our members to discuss and debate this legislation in the near future," Livingston said in a statement to 1819 News.

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