Reportedly gambling will once again be up in the Alabama Legislature in 2024.

A committee empaneled by House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and chaired by State Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) has been at work studying gambling with a goal of legislation during the 2024 legislative session slated to begin in February.

During an appearance on Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal," Ledbetter previewed some of the committee's findings.

According to the DeKalb County lawmaker, so-called "illegal gambling" operations are way more prevalent than anticipated.

"I think [the committee members] have done a tremendous job," Ledbetter said. "Chairman [Andy] Whitt has really worked hard at it. His committee has worked hard. I haven't gotten the final report. He has given me updates. I think the most shocking thing to me — you know, we talked about this last time when there were like 30 illegal operations, maybe. By the time we got through, somebody said, 'Well, maybe there is 70 now."

"Some of them are behind shop-and-gos or quick marts, stuff like that," he continued. "Come to find out, one county has got more than 67. One county had more than what we thought was in the state. What we're finding is every county has got some illegal gaming in operation. You know, he has worked really hard. He went with the sheriffs and said, 'Can you show me something? Can you tell me?' And he has had a pretty good response from some of the sheriffs around the state."

Ledbetter speculated that without a regulatory framework in place, the problem would continue to grow and could result in something akin to organized crime.

"But the problem with it is now, where we're at today is if we don't do something about it and regulate it, then all we are doing is enabling illegal gambling," he said. "And it has gotten so rampant until we do something about it, it is a little scary because it's almost an organization that's going to be — an illegal organization, like a crime organization that is running these operations. Without the true regulations, without a commission to try to support it and try to stop them, it's going to continue to grow. And listen, let's be honest — there is more out there than what the Attorney General can address. I do think with regulations, there has got to be an enforcement piece with that."

"It's not easy to try to control," Ledbetter added. "With no stiffer than what the penalties are, they can shut down, take their machines out — two weeks later, they'll be running again in the same stores because the penalties just aren't stiff enough. So, I think regulation is a big key to it. And let's face it, we've got gambling already in our state. We have had it for a number of years. I think it is time that we regulate it, quit giving the illegals really the opportunity to take money from more and more citizens in Alabama because that's what's happening."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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