MONTGOMERY — Members of the Senate Tourism Committee passed an amended gambling package Tuesday night after a three-hour delay.

The committee initially met at 2 p.m. and recessed without voting. It reconvened around 5 p.m. and passed two amended House gambling bills.

The House passed comprehensive gambling legislation, including a bill and a constitutional amendment that would create a statewide lottery and sports betting, and set up a process for the state to issue up to seven casino licenses. The constitutional amendment would be voted on in the November general election if passed by the Legislature.

The substitute amendments under the amended Senate plan include a statewide lottery and a requirement that the governor negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Sports betting or other new casino licenses aren't included in the Senate's draft amendment. The amendment would be voted on in the revised Senate plan on September 10 in a special election.

"The last two or three bills we've had the compact. That's something that I know the governor and her staff will take a very close look at and work very diligently to do the right thing," State Sen. Randy Price (R-Opelika) told reporters after the meeting on Tuesday night.

Price continued, "I think the biggest thing that is important to me is: what’s in the best interest of the state of Alabama? We’re losing millions of dollars every year that are going across the state line as far as lottery tickets."

"In my district alone it borders the state of Georgia, and so I’ve heard from quite a few of my Mayors that they’re losing a lot of revenue because a lot of times when people go across that state line not only do they while they’re there buy groceries and do other things but what drove them across that state line? And that was to buy that lottery ticket," Price said.

Eric Johnston, president and general counsel of the conservative Southeast Law Institute in Birmingham, said language in the Senate amendment for HB151 would “allow unlimited PCI gambling, including all casino style games.”

“The referenced 25 U.S.C. §2701, et seq., begins the federal law of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. “Et seq.” is an abbreviation for what follows. In this case, 25 U.S.C.§2703 follows and defines Classes I, II, and III of all permitted Indian “gaming”, from simple home games to unlimited casino games. So, when the bill says, “any and all activities allowable under the Act”, it means the Governor may agree with the PCI to have casinos on tribal lands,” Johnston said in a statement. “Additionally, retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock provided insight into what may include tribal lands. The Secretary of the Interior may add land into a Tribal trust land status if he determines it is in the tribe’s interest. Therefore, it is anticipated the PCI may have added lands in Birmingham, Huntsville, Baldwin County, or other places in which to operate casinos. It was stated in committee this bill did not include Class III gaming. Quite the contrary! It permits PCI to have every type of gambling at more places than its existing three. The charade to deceive Alabama citizens continues.”

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) said during the committee meeting the Senate wouldn't have had the votes to pass the two bills with sports betting included in the package.

Albritton told reporters he'd heard estimates the bills with the Senate amendments increased revenue to the state by $350 million annually.

The full Senate could vote on the bills this week, but it's unclear if the chamber has the needed 21 votes to pass the constitutional amendment. If passed by the Senate, the gambling package would go back to the House for their consideration since the Senate amended their legislation.

"No one got everything that they wanted in the bills. I guess that is the definition of a good compromise," State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) told 1819 News on Tuesday night.

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