In 2021, the State Senate passed a so-called comprehensive gambling legislation that would have established a state education lottery and permitted casino gambling at locations around Alabama.
The bill, tied to a constitutional amendment removing its prohibition on games of chance, would have green-lit casino-style games at facilities for then-existing operators in Macon, Greene Jefferson, Mobile and Houston Counties. It also would have allowed for the expansion of gaming at the existing Poarch Creek facilities in Elmore, Montgomery and Escambia Counties and allowed for an additional Poarch Creek facility in either Jackson or DeKalb County.
Although the State House of Representatives never fully considered the legislation, it was panned for creating a system that did not open it up to the free market to determine the casino operators.
During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 last week, State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger's Island) said while an effort to bring legislation to a vote in 2024 was underway, he supported a "free-market approach" that would open the casino licensing up for bidders.
"My understanding is legislation is still being worked on but there will be legislation this time," Brown said. "I support a free-market approach. I support opening it up. Let's bid on that. Let the best person come in and do it. But first and foremost, if you really look at what we're considering is letting the people vote on it."
"People have this idea at the end of the day, we're voting for gaming," he continued. "No, we're voting to create the best potential system that we could for the people of the state of Alabama, and that we're voting to let the people vote on that. We haven't had a vote on gaming vote since Don Siegelman was governor. That's crazy."
The Mobile County lawmaker said he anticipated having the opportunity to vote on a bill that included the free-market proposal.
"Right now, your push for a free-market situation — do you think you'll see a bill and get to vote on a bill like that?" FM Talk 106.5's "Midday Mobile" host Sean Sullivan asked.
"I do," he replied. "That's the idea. You would have a lottery inside a comprehensive bill, but it would create what the lottery would do, where the payouts are, but you need a separate lottery commission to oversee the lottery. Then you would have the gaming commission that oversees the actual gaming — table games, that sort of thing at facilities. And then you have sports betting, the other component of it."
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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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