MONTGOMERY — The State Senate will likely consider a gambling constitutional amendment and bill package on Thursday.

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 or other non-PCI new casinos aren't included in the Senate's amendment. The amendment would be voted on in the revised 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, Mobile, an additional location in Greene County, at the existing bingo halls in Houston County, and the town of White Hall in Lowndes County.

A close vote is expected in the Senate on the constitutional amendment, which requires 21 votes. 

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock wrote in a memo for the Alabama Policy Institute about the Senate's revised gambling constitutional amendment that it still brings "full, Vegas-style, Class III casinos" to current PCI casinos at Atmore, Montgomery, Wetumpka and possibly other locations.

"The proposed constitutional amendment partially closes the gap between what is legal in Alabama and full, Vegas-style, Class III casinos, making the jump to a compact for full-on Vegas-style gambling more defensible to the public," Murdock said. "Moreover, the proposed CA effectively eliminates any restraint on the Governor's exercise of both the Concurring Power and the Compacting Power. In fact, the new Section 65 affirmatively – expressly – obligates the Governor of Alabama to exercise the Compacting Power to negotiate to allow Indians to have full, Class III casinos (including "any and all activities allowable under [the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act]"). And by necessary implication, the Governor will be obligated to "concur" in that which he or she has been obligated to negotiate."

Murdock continued, "The proposed CA suggests protection for Birmingham, Huntsville and Baldwin County because it limits the compact to lands held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for an Indian tribe." 

"This is an illusory protection. Approval of any application for new lands to be taken into trust in these areas, especially land like the OWA Park in Baldwin County already owned (but not only that land), is a virtual certainty. Because of the lax criteria used by the Secretary of Interior, approval of a fee-to-trust application has been described as a "rubberstamping" process," Murdock said.

Kristin Hellmich, director of external communications for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, told 1819 News, "Ultimately, this legislation, and everything proposed in the 10+ years, states the Governor has the ability to negotiate a compact. As she should be able to under federal law."

"I am sure you've reviewed the current proposed Senate legislation and see that it states the "Governor may not grant authority for any activity to be conducted outside of lands held in trust by the United States for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians." Under federal law for any lands taken into trust both state and local input must be weighed. Like everyone else in Alabama, we are watching the legislative action in the Senate and hoping that lawmakers will give Alabamians a chance to vote on what they want gaming to look like in the state," Hellmich said.

The amendment would require the Legislature to establish a law enforcement division within the Alabama Gambling Commission to police lottery games and other gambling activities and eliminate unlawful gambling activities. It would also repeal all local bingo amendments and prohibit the enactment of any future local amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 2022, providing for gambling activities.

Gov. Kay Ivey has said previously she prefers the more comprehensive gambling package passed by the House in February.

"As the governor has said previously, she supports the House-passed version of the gaming legislation. We will need to fully review the new proposal passed by the Senate committee last night before commenting further," Gina Maiola, Ivey's communications director, said on Wednesday.

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