MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives will publicly release two bills pertaining to gambling in Alabama on Thursday. One is a constitutional amendment, and the other is the gambling legislation in itself.

On Wednesday, Alabama State Reps. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), Andy Whitt (R-Harvest), Sam Jones (D-Mobile) and State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) held a press conference to discuss some key points of the bill. Several have already been outlined by 1819 News in previous reporting.

SEE ALSO: Law enforcement and Lawmakers push for tougher gaming laws in Alabama

1819 News obtained a copy of the bill, and there are a few key takeaways that have not been reported previously and were not mentioned in the Wednesday press conference.

As the bill stands today, all current gaming that is being conducted under the controversial 18 constitutional amendments will be allowed to continue to operate until Jan 1, 2027, so long as that institution completes the following: (1) Provides names of and addresses of its principal owners and investors, business records and any other information required by the commission. (2) Provides a sworn statement of its willingness to accept regulation by the state of Alabama and the Alabama Gaming Commission (AGC). (3) Pays any applicable state taxes as provided by general law. (4) Provide a description of what gaming activities are employed in its operations, the number of machines or devices, and any other information requested by the AGC.

After asking for clarification on that part of the bill, 1819 News clarified with several lawmakers that this provision does not include every mom-and-pop store with gaming. It only includes those recognized by the current controversial 18 constitutional amendments.

The bill also prevents gaming establishments from providing campaign funds to any candidate, including direct support or through a PAC. This would cover Poarch Creek Indians as well as the other licensees.

In addition to most of the criminal penalties being raised from misdemeanor to felonies, the AGC can also impose civil penalties. They will also be able to assess a civil penalty of up to $100,000 on any gaming operation that is not working within the regulation of AGC. The penalties also increase with subsequent offenses by the same individual or entity.

The bill gives the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals with original jurisdiction to hear various appeals of the commission's actions and would provide for an ability to appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Challenges by those that are "unsuccessful gaming establishments" that fail to receive a license will not have the ability like the medical marijuana commission to strangle things out in the local courts. Those unsuccessful in acquiring a license can not hold the issue up in the courts. The award of a gaming license by the AGC shall be deemed final and conclusive by the courts of Alabama. The bill states that no action, claim, counterclaim, defense, or other legal argument challenging the validity of the license shall be brought or maintained in a court of Alabama by an unsuccessful gaming establishment. Further, it says that the court shall be powerless and without jurisdiction to issue an injunction preventing the AGC from issuing a license. Any appeal made that would prevent a license from being issued would be appealed directly from the Court of Civil Appeals to the State Supreme Court.

Speaking with lawmakers, it seems this bill will pass the House. However, the uphill battle will be in the Senate, where there is not as much appetite for the legislation. However, after initially speaking to people who previously voted no on gaming issues, some have come to the middle of the road on this issue.

A major hurdle, and one that many members have told 1819 News, is that Democrat support for this bill will be contingent upon it being on the November ballot. They believe that is the best chance they have to help drive turnout and beat the Republican nominee.

SEE ALSO: Lawmakers have mixed feelings on gaming

For the bill and constitutional amendment to pass, there must be 63 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate. If that occurs, the vote will go to the people of Alabama to decide if they would like gaming. The last time this issue was voted on was in 1999, and proponents argue that it is time to give the people the right to vote. No bill of this magnitude makes it through the process unscathed, and amendments and backchanneling for votes will most certainly occur as legislators try to get what they need for their districts.

Read the proposed constitutional amendment here and the proposed bill here.

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