News coverage, public comments, and private conversations indicate deep divisions between members of the Alabama House and Senate negotiating a compromise on the expansion and legalization of gambling in the state. House members claim resident authority on the issue, while senators are forced to defend their deliberations and actions.

A main point of contention seems to be on the appropriate level and types of legalized gambling in the state. House proponents are adamant about including unlimited sports betting licensing in the legislation, even as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and other states that have previously legalized gambling are curtailing the types of sports betting allowed and sounding the alarm at the rates of addiction that sports betting causes.

Recently, the NCAA president urged state lawmakers to ban prop betting on college athletes. “Sports betting issues are on the rise across the country with prop bets continuing to threaten the integrity of competition and leading to student-athletes getting harassed,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said. “The NCAA has been working with states to deal with these threats and many are responding by banning college prop bets.”

This past October, the NCAA announced it would advocate for state legislators to update laws to crack down on harassment of athletes, coaches, and game officials, while bolstering integrity protections. Coaches and sports administrators are warning that unfettered betting is causing unfettered harassment, which is creating mental health issues for collegiate athletes.

In West Virginia, NCAA officials worked with lawmakers to pass a bill allowing betting regulators to ban those found to have harassed players, coaches, or officials online or in person from wagering in the state online or at sports books, the Maryland Daily Record explained.

In response to NCAA guidance, Louisiana’s gaming control board signed an order last week to suspend prop bets on college athletes. Yes, this Louisiana, and this one. Lauren Capone of Playfly Sports (I did not make her name up, but sometimes the truth is just stranger than fiction) said LSU and Caesars Entertainment began discussing suspending the deal when legislation was filed in the Louisiana Legislature prohibiting colleges and universities in the state from signing advertising agreements with gambling entities. Colleges across America, and even the American Gaming Association, have updated their “responsible marketing” code of ethics to prohibit gambling companies from having partnerships with universities or promoting sports betting. Alabama’s bills have no such protections for college athletes.

There was also this issue in Alabama, and the situation where Nick Saban asked Pete Rose to come and speak about his highs and his lows as an athlete, both which raise the question of who really wants to legalize sports betting in our state. Despite clear messages from those dealing directly with college athletes and these issues, Alabama House members remain unapologetic and steadfast proponents of the legalization and unlimited expansion of sports betting, despite all the negative consequences for our college athletes, colleges, or the state.

On the flip side, multiple states that have legalized sports betting are now curtailing or regretting it due to the mental health consequences for adolescent men. “The more people gamble, the more activities they gamble on,” the New York Post explains, “and the younger they start, the more likely they are to develop problems with not only gambling itself but also mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and suicide.”

Males aged 18 to 24 were also most likely to develop gambling problems, according to Responsible Gambling Council. Additionally, players aged 18 to 20 “are significantly more likely” to chase their losses and bet beyond their affordability.

Those who want to prevent gambling addiction have called for changes in state sports betting laws including limits on promotions like free bets that companies use to lure new users, prohibiting the use of credit cards for gambling, creating a state-run support system for people affected by gambling problems, and adequate funding for problem gambling treatment services. None of those ideas are in either of the bills currently being considered by the Alabama Legislature. In fact, the House bill only calls for .01% of the money that might be left over from unclaimed prizes from the lottery to specifically help Alabama citizens who are intentionally ensnared by gambling profiteers and their governmental enablers.

“Technology is also used to keep people hooked once they place their bets,” an article from Route Fifty, a resource for state and local government leaders, explains. Data mining and artificial intelligence enables companies to customize communications to keep customers betting on everything from an NFL game to the outcome of “an obscure collegiate tennis match.” Furthermore, “Young men are the most likely to gamble and the most likely to experience problems with gambling addiction, Route Fifty said. Unfortunately, gambling proponents in the Alabama House of Representatives just don’t seem to care.

Stephanie Holden Smith is the president/CEO of Alabama Policy Institute.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to 

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