MONTGOMERY — State Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) challenged the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) during a debate at the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee hearing on proposed comprehensive gambling legislation.

The Alabama House of Representatives is almost singularly focused on the hotly debated legislation to legalize a state lottery, casino gaming and sports betting.

State Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) presented the two bills before the packed committee meeting. One bill will repeal all constitutional amendments allowing gambling in certain parts of the state and remove the state's constitutional gambling prohibition. The other authorizes a series of provisions legalizing casino gaming in specific locations, a statewide lottery, and online sports betting.

During the public comment portion, ALFA director of agricultural legislation Preston Roberts approached and spoke in opposition to the legislation.

"The Alabama Farmers Federation is opposed to gambling in all forms," Roberts said. This has been the Alabama Farmers Federation for decades and is rooted in our members' belief that gambling is bad public policy that weakens communities, targets the vulnerable and fuels crime."

Roberts spoke for a few minutes, detailing particular issues with the bill outside ALFA's general opposition to gambling.

As he left the podium, Whitt called him back to the podium and asked about ALFA's previous position on gaming legislation in 2021, when the legislation included agricultural scholarships. Roberts responded that ALFA has "always been opposed."

Whitt followed up with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek question based on ALFA hosting a retreat in Las Vegas in 2023.  

"If Alabama is successful in passing this legislation and there is a resort built in Alabama, and [ALFA] decides to reward its members or its agents [with] an annual trip, will you look at staying in Alabama as opposed to Las Vegas, and having that conference here in Alabama?"

Dull murmuring was heard throughout the room while Roberts responded, "I don't make those decisions for my organization."

"I just find it a little hypocritical on my side when you're in opposition to gambling legislation, and yet you have a conference in Las Vegas," Whitt concluded before Roberts returned to his seat.

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