MONTGOMERY – A public hearing in the Senate Tourism Committee was held on the House’s gambling package on Wednesday.

Senators heard from opponents of the legislation but didn’t take a vote on the two bills.

The House recently approved two bills that laid the basis for comprehensive gaming. House Bill 151 (HB151) repeals all constitutional amendments allowing gambling in certain parts of the state and removes the state's constitutional gambling prohibition. House Bill 152 (HB152) authorizes a series of provisions legalizing casino gaming in specific locations, a statewide lottery and online sports betting.

The public hearing was on the House bills, but some senators are working privately on substitute amendments that would alter the scope of the legislation that passed the House.

“All I know is yesterday they came forward with a sheet of paper with concepts. I never got the sub. Then last night I was informed at 8:20 p.m. that there was another sub being worked on. I have not seen any of the subs,” State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), the Senate sponsor of the House gambling package, told reporters after the public hearing. 

Albritton said he didn’t have a set date on when he’d like to see the Senate committee vote on some version of gambling or lottery legislation.

“As soon as we get a compromise nailed down where we would have a good vote count. I’m ready to do it,” Albritton said.

One of the substitute amendments possibly involves something closer to a standalone lottery bill mentioned by other State Senators who oppose the House gambling package.  

“I’ve heard that but from what I’ve seen that was written in these little things, it doesn’t do that completely. In fact, we can’t do that unless you just wipe out the economies of a good portion of the state,” Albritton said.

Albritton said he still thinks the House bill is good legislation.

“I’m willing to take what they have but we’ve got to make some compromises,” he added.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman spoke against the House bills at the public hearing due to how the Gaming Commission is established and how casinos are designated in certain spots in the legislation.

“I would advise the committee to try to stay as far from politics as possible to exclude any former or current appointed or elected official or their next of kin from serving on the gaming commission,” Siegelman said. “I’d ask you to put the people’s interests ahead of those special interests by not designating particular spots where these gaming facilities would be located. By designating particular spots, you’re going to be giving an advantage to people who we don’t even know who owns these places anymore. In addition to not knowing who actually owns these facilities but also you’ll be excluding some of the major people who know how to run casinos.”

Some Democrats on the tourism committee complained about their lack of involvement in the negotiations.

“Why would people think that we are supposed to support something that we didn’t have nothing to do with developing it?” State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) asked. 

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