MONTGOMERY — Negotiations between the Alabama House and Senate on gambling legislation are expected to continue as the second half of the 2024 legislative session begins on Tuesday.

The constitutional amendment, HB 151, passed in the Senate on March 8 with one vote to spare over the necessary 21-vote threshold by a margin of 22-11. Accompanying enabling legislation, HB 152 passed by the same margin. State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) carried both bills in the Senate.

The substitute amendments under the amended Senate plan include a statewide lottery and a requirement that the governor negotiate a gambling compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI). Sports betting, online gambling or other non-PCI new casinos aren't included in the Senate's amendment like the House's version. The constitutional amendment would be voted on in the Senate plan on September 10 in a special election. The House version was estimated to raise annual revenue to the state by around $900 million. The Senate version is estimated to raise around $300 million annually.

Gov. Kay Ivey has previously said she prefers the House's gambling legislation passed in February.

Charles Murry, a spokesman for House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), told 1819 News on Friday that "conversations are ongoing," but he didn't have any updates to share on how negotiations were going so far.

"I can't speak to where the House is on its decision-making process. The Senate maintains strong confidence in the legislation it passed to crack down on illegal gambling operations and put a statewide paper lottery on the ballot for Alabamians to vote on," Harrison Adams, a spokesman for State Senate Pro-Tem Greg Reed (R- Jasper), told 1819 News on Friday.

Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey, told 1819 News on Friday, "Governor Ivey remains committed to ensuring whatever the Legislature presents to the voters is a good deal for the state."

"She will continue to be engaged in those discussions," Maiola said.

Negotiations could end soon if the House concurs with the Senate's changes. However, the amended bills would likely need more support from House Republicans due to the Senate's changes probably not getting universal support from House Democrats. The House could also choose to non-concur and send the gambling bills to a conference committee where three members of the House and three Senators would attempt to thread the needle between the House and Senate versions. 

Any new compromise legislation that included sports betting or additional Class III gaming would likely face an uphill battle in the Senate since its scaled-back version only passed with one vote to spare above the 60 percent threshold for constitutional amendments.

State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said in an interview on Monday, "Overall, part of me says I don't care if the bill dies, but the other part of me says I kind of want it to pass because I really think it's got some real tight controls in there and I don't know that we're going to be able to get it that tight again."

"I think there have been some behind-the-scenes conversations going on. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but if there are significant changes to what the Senate passed, it's going to have a tough ride when it comes back. The easiest way, I think, to handle this at this point is for the House to understand that any significant changes will probably kill the bill, and they're just going to have to decide what that means that they want to do. Do they want to concur? Do they want to try to go to conference?

"If you try to go to conference, it's going to take a whole lot longer and we're going to have a whole lot more of these conversations and the end result is likely going to be nothing. As I've explained to some folks before, they said, 'Well, if this bill dies, you don't care.' I was like, 'Yep, that is true.' I mean, I don't," Elliott said. "I do think there's some important controls in this bill that are advantageous. Looking at everything that is existing, that's going on right now, that's authorized by either a current constitutional amendment or pari-mutuel general law, just freezing it where it is and saying you can only do what you're doing now and you can't move and go do it anywhere else. I mean, it's already there. Whatever ill effects we're having, we are already seeing. You've constrained PCI to what they're doing. Yeah, the Governor can go negotiate a contract, but the Governor can go negotiate a contract right now and she hasn't done that. All the language in there really tightens that up a whole lot. I think frankly reducing the revenue streams is a really good thing because it keeps government from growing too much."

Tuesday will be the 16th legislative day of the 30-day session.

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