Alabama's Gulf Coast boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in America. What makes our shores unique, however, is the decision by those communities and their leaders to be intentionally family-friendly.

You won't find MTV there.

You won't find springbreakers testing the law or the limits.

But, depending on the actions of the Alabama Legislature, you could find casinos there one day.

House Bill 152 designates specific places where casinos can be located — incidentally, in places where illegal establishments have operated for years in violation of Alabama law.

Baldwin County is not included in the initial list but if the voters pass a Constitutional Amendment, the un-elected, un-accountable, politically-appointed Gaming Commission will have the ability to transfer casino licenses to other locations. Locations provided in the corrupt casino bills are simply the starting point for the expansion of gambling in Alabama, not the end. There was initially a provision for local input, but that protection was taken out on the House floor. Family-friendly coastal towns are in jeopardy and will forever be a target of the gambling industry.

Tourism dollars generated from Gulf Coast communities will make Alabama beaches a perpetual object of desire for casino operators. State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) agrees. He recently posted his concerns on social media: "The House gambling legislation provides scant protection from casinos in Baldwin County," Elliott tweeted. "A simple subsequent change in the law would allow casinos on Alabama's beaches with only a majority vote of the legislature. We have 8.5 million visitors here each year. They'll be coming. $$$.”

"All we do all day long when we’re up there is change the law," he added. "There are 1,000 attempts to change the law and 300 of them make it through and that's not enough for me by a long shot. All it would take is a change in the enabling legislation."

"You have to watch for that but it's true with any legislation," Elliott said. "You have to look at the words on paper and the motive behind that. It's a wise thing to do in the legislature to look at the reasoning behind something instead of just what it says in front of you because there may be some motive."

In Baldwin County, there have been persistent concerns that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) would bring a casino to OWA Parks & Resort in Foley. Although the Tribe has maintained they have no plans for a casino at that location, they do not deny that it is possible. "As we have said consistently, we do not have plans to build a casino at OWA," PCI said in a statement to 1819 News. "That said, we also know the proposed gaming legislation is obviously the product of hard work. However, we have well-founded concerns about how it will affect our Tribe and our businesses in its current form."

The House passed bills that left a door open to the Biloxification of Baldwin County. Though some legislators voted for the House legislation with the aim of keeping casinos out of Baldwin County, there is still a pathway to having casinos on the coast.  House Bill 152 states that the Gaming Commission may approve a license transfer, including changes to the owner or investors. It is possible that transfers can be made to a different county or municipality with only approval from the Gaming Commission and the Legislature.

Even though OWA is not located on the beach, societal costs wouldn’t be limited to Foley. It will be the beach communities where most people will stay. Domestic violence, human trafficking, prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse, financial ruin, and suicide won’t be confined to the city limits of Foley. Rather, the devastating effects of gambling addiction will follow each customer home, to the beach, to the Wharf, and to the family-friendly resorts that visitors from all over the country flock to.  Don’t let our family-friendly beaches become the casino coast.

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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