MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives voted on Thursday to non-concur with changes made to the two comprehensive gambling bills after the Senate substantially changed both pieces of legislation.

House Bill 151 (HB151) would repeal all constitutional amendments allowing gambling in certain parts of the state and remove the state's constitutional gambling prohibition. The other, House Bill 152 (HB152), initially authorized a series of provisions legalizing casino gaming in specific locations, a statewide lottery, and online sports betting. Both bills are sponsored by State Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) in the House.

The House passed both bills in February with a comfortable margin.

After weeks of deliberation, the Senate passed both bills on March 8, this time with amendments, significantly changing the original legislation.

The substitute amendments under the 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 Senate's revised constitutional amendment also includes authorizing pari-mutuel wagering, including historical horse racing at the racetracks in Greene, Jefferson, Macon and Mobile Counties and an additional location in Greene County, at the existing bingo halls in Houston County, and the town of White Hall in Lowndes County.

Blackshear told the House body that his main reason for deciding to non-concur was that the lottery income was separated between three sources instead of all going to the Education Trust Fund (ETF).

"Also, I think that we're leaving approximately $400-500 million annually on the table; we need to figure out how we can grab some of that," Blackshear explained. "And if you look at a licensing perspective, you're leaving about a billion-and-a-half dollars on the floor as well.

Blackshear will join State Reps. Andy Whitt (R-Madison) and Sam Jones (D-Mobile) on the conference committee to attempt to thread the needle between the two versions.

"From the very beginning, we had three key goals with the House's comprehensive legislation," said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). "Those included eliminating illegal gaming operations in the state of Alabama, developing a framework for the taxation and regulation of facilities that obtain licenses through an open-bid process and establishing a lottery that benefits education and education only. If one thing has been made clear throughout this process, it's that the people of Alabama want and deserve an opportunity to vote on this issue. I am hopeful that members of the House and Senate are successful in finding a compromise that positions them to do just that."

Whitt stated that they believed the Senate versions of the bills left a significant amount of money on the table.

"At an estimated $1.2 billion annually, the House's legislation creates so many opportunities for our state," said Whitt. "The lottery revenue alone would make attending community college for thousands of Alabama's students possible and bolster school safety in our K-12 schools. Simply put, the Senate plan leaves some $800 million on the table, and I hope to find a solution to this in conference."

Blackshear reiterated the time and effort that went into crafting the legislation and the perceived benefits of cracking down on illegal gambling in the state.

After the Senate receives the House's motion, it will appoint three members to attend the conference committee. However, the Senate adjourned on Thursday without appointing conference members.

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