Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James announced on Friday that he opposes the expansion of gambling in Alabama, following Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) introducing his long-awaited gambling bill on Thursday.

“It is no secret that I am personally opposed to legalized gambling in Alabama,” James said in a statement. “It is my observation that gambling harms our small businesses and working families by creating economic blight in the communities where it exists.”

The proposed expansion comes after state legislators have been informed that revenues are coming in faster than projected and that the 2023 Education Trust Fund (ETF) and State General Fund budgets (SGF) will both be the largest (by far) in state history. Critics argue there is no need for additional revenue.

“We have a state government budget surplus of $1.5 billion, and our legislators continue to push for growing state government and increasing revenues,” James said. “If legislators want to grow revenue, they could simply donate their own salaries and this year’s fat pay raise back to the state.”

The Albritton gambling plan is based on the findings of Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) 2020 Task Force on Gaming. It is similar to a bill that was carried last year by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston). The Marsh bill passed the Senate, as previous gaming bills by Albritton and Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) had, but ultimately failed in the Alabama House of Representatives.

In his most recent campaign finance filing with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office in Feb., James reported raising more money from contributions than all of the other gubernatorial candidates combined, with $1,483,575. Incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey was second with $960,253.71, followed by Lew Burdette with $158,286.79, Lindy Blanchard with $43,727.22, and Dean Odle with $17,092.76. James suggested that allowing the casino operators - most of whom are operating in defiance of Alabama law - to donate in this election would be a corrupting element.

“This legislation also enables even more government corruption by eliminating the prohibition on campaign contributions from gambling operators,” James said. “Underhanded tactics like these infuriate voters who see the legislative process subordinated to the greed and advantage of Montgomery's insider elites.”

Many opponents of gambling expansion in the state cite statistics showing that it is often those citizens with the least ability to pay that are most prone to play lotteries and slot machines. They also point to the devastation that gambling addiction can have on marriages and consumer finances.

“As your next governor, I will do everything in my power to protect our citizens of every color, creed, and economic status from special interests that feed on their hard-earned taxpayer dollars."

To pass, the Albritton bill (SB294) must win super majorities of both houses of the legislature. It would then appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The Governor’s Task Force on Gaming estimated that casinos, a lottery, a compact with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) and a sports betting element would generate approximately $600 million in new revenues for state government. Legislators in the past have been heavily divided on how they would want to spend that new money.

James is a Greenville businessman and son of former Governor Fob James, is known for being one of the partners that built the toll bridge connecting the beach at Orange Beach with the mainland, the Foley Beach Express. He also ran for Governor in 2002 and again in 2010, failing to secure the GOP nomination in both previous attempts. He has never held any public office.

Lindy Blanchard, Lew Burdette, Stacy Lee George, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Donald Trent Jones, Dean Odle, Dave Thomas, and Dean Young, as well as Gov. Ivey, are all running in the Republican primary on May 24.

The winner of the GOP primary will then face the winner of the Alabama Democratic primary in the Nov. 8 general election.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email