MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey gave her support behind a gambling and lottery legislative package that passed the House easily on Tuesday.

However, the constitutional amendment in the package was carried over in the Senate late Tuesday night after a vote came up one vote short of meeting the 60% threshold for passage.

“My position has remained unchanged. It’s time for the voters of Alabama to have their say. Legislators have had their say all along. Now, it’s time for the Alabama voters to vote and let’s get this done,” Ivey told reporters on Wednesday.

The constitutional amendment lost votes on Tuesday from some in the Senate who had previously voted in favor of a different lottery and gambling proposal in March. State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) said he voted against the constitutional amendment on Tuesday over the restrictions the package places on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI).

Two other Senators changed their yes votes in March to no votes on Tuesday over the new plan allowing for “electronic games of chance” meaning any kind of electronic gambling machine seen at casinos like slot machines, video poker, electronic blackjack, etc.

The constitutional amendment and enabling legislation would legalize seven “electronic gaming facilities” across the state, establish a lottery, and require the Governor to enter into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI).

The constitutional amendment prohibits all forms of gambling besides a state education lottery, electronic games of chance, traditional raffles, and traditional paper bingos. It would also have to be approved by a vote of the people on August 20, 2024, if the Senate ends up passing the package.

The constitutional amendment would legalize so-called “electronic games of chance” at racetracks in Greene, Jefferson, Macon and Mobile Counties and bingo hall locations in Greene, Houston and Lowndes Counties.

“It just got to a place that it changed to me and I just could not support that. To me, it expanded the current seven we have now on what they could do and that’s just where I couldn’t get there,” State Sen. Lance Bell (R-Pell City), who voted no on Tuesday, told 1819 News on Wednesday. “What we passed in the Senate (in March) I thought was clean. It basically kept them where they were and did that. This expanded what they could do and basically they could become full casinos and I just could not support that. I appreciate the hard work they did because they have worked their tails off working on this and I appreciate everything they did to get to here.”

Bell said he had “no idea” if or when the proposal would come up for a vote again in the Senate this session.

State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine), another yes vote in March who voted no on Tuesday, called the new proposal “expansive.”

“The Alabama Senate passed legislation that would have ended illegal gambling and allowed the people to vote on a paper lottery, but nonconcurrence by the House forced the bill to conference committee,” Elliott said in a statement on social media on Wednesday. “The resulting compromise vastly expanded electronic casinos throughout our state and contained significant permissive language that further grew government. While I have repeatedly voted for a referendum on a paper lottery, I could not support the conference committee’s expansive legislation.”

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said on Tuesday, “I'm proud that the House and Senate conferees were successful in finding a compromise on this very important issue," 

The legislation passed in the House today cracks down on illegal gambling by implementing strong, clear and enforceable laws. It ensures all lottery proceeds, which are projected to exceed $300 million annually, benefit education and education only. Most importantly, it allows the people of Alabama to vote on this issue for the first time in 25 years,” he added. “The bottom line is there's no telling how many roads Alabama has paved or how many children Alabama has sent to college in neighboring states. I'm hopeful that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and send this legislation to the governor.”

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