Alabama Lottery Legalization Effort Clears House, Only To Fall One Vote Short — For Now — In Senate

Eric Raskin

alabama state capitol

Alabama, one of just five states that has yet to legalize lottery play, seemed on the precipice of getting off that list late Tuesday night, only to stall out by the narrowest of margins.

House Bill 151 and House Bill 152, which would introduce a statewide lottery and also allow for slot machines at seven racetracks and bingo halls in the state, passed comfortably out of a House conference committee. Soon after, however, a “test vote” in the Senate, as Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed described it, fell one vote short, needing 21 of 35 votes in favor of the measures and ending up with a 20-15 split.

Alabama came into the year considering legalizing sports betting and full casino gaming, but in early March the legislature narrowed its focus to improve chances of passage, revising the bills and making lottery the central piece.

Despite falling one vote short in the Senate, the 2024 effort is not dead yet, as some careful maneuvering allows the legislature to continue working on it until the session ends on May 14.

Inside the legislation

HB 151 and 152 would introduce a lottery in Alabama, with all proceeds going toward an appropriation for an Education Trust Fund. Though sports betting, full casinos, and table games were excised, the bills would permit electronic gaming machines at racetracks in the counties of Greene, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile and at bingo halls in Greene, Houston, and Lowndes counties.

That inclusion of limited slot machine legalization may prove critical to whether Alabama passes the bills, as one representative who voted against them, Rep. Arnold Mooney, was quoted by the Associated Press saying, “I feel like the bill basically allows full-scale Las Vegas-style casino gambling statewide.”

The House passed HB 151, a constitutional amendment, by a 72-29 vote, and HB 152, the enabling legislation, 70-29. Both bills needed 63 or more votes to advance.

The legislation moved on to the Senate, where the vote to adopt the conference committee report failed by a single vote. However, rather than taking the required second vote after that, the Senate delayed that action, buying some time for supporters to try to swing one more vote in favor.

“The bills are carried over, so the legislation is still available to us to continue to debate it,” Reed told reporters.

What may await …

If the Senate does ultimately get to 21 votes and approve the legislation with a three-fifths majority, lottery can be legalized in Alabama with a statewide vote on Aug. 20. The state has not voted on new gambling legislation in a quarter-century, since citizens rejected a lottery proposal in 1999.

If passed the legislation would establish an Alabama Lottery Corporation, with proceeds to benefit education through scholarships to two- and four-year higher education institutions. House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said annual lottery proceeds would be projected to cross $300 million.

According to iGaming Business, if passed, the lottery would likely launch sometime in 2026.