Posted on: February 10, 2021, 09:19h.
Last updated on: February 10, 2021, 10:57h.
Alabama is one of the smallest gaming markets in the United States. State Sen. Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Talladega) wants to change that reality.
Alabama Sen. Del Marsh, seen here last year inside the Alabama Capitol Senate chamber, will not seek reelection in 2022. Before he departs, he hopes to lead a successful effort to bring slot machines, table games, sports betting, and lottery to the state. (Image: AP)Marsh introduced a gaming expansion package this week that would legalize a state lottery, as well as five new casino properties. The statute would also call on the governor to negotiate a Class III gaming compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. That would allow them to operate slot machines and table games.Any change to Alabama’s gaming law requires voter support through a ballot referendum. If Marsh’s gaming bundle is passed by the Alabama Legislature, the gaming matters would go before Alabamans for approval.I think the people of the state are ready to address this issue and want to,” Marsh declared.“Polling data shows they want to make a vote on this. My job is to put together a piece of legislation that serves the needs of the state, controls gaming, and provides revenue to accomplish things that people of Alabama want to see accomplished,” he added.Alabama Gaming Expansion SpecificsThe Poarch Band of Creek Indians currently operates three Class II casinos. These include Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Wind Creek Wetumpka. Located on sovereign land, the Native American casinos can only offer bingo-based gaming machines, since the state has refused to enter into a gaming compact for slots and table games.Marsh’s bill would do just that, and additionally, authorize the tribe to build a new Class III gaming casino in either Jackson or DeKalb County. The four other casinos would be allocated for the state’s former greyhound racetracks in Birmingham, Mobile, Shorter, and Eutaw.Slot machines, table games, and sports betting would be permitted at each of the five new casinos, plus the three Wind Creek properties. Gross gaming revenue would be taxed at 20 percent at the new casinos. Revenue sharing from Class III operations at the Wind Creek casinos would be determined through the compact.The four commercial casinos would face upfront licensing fees. Tax revenue from commercial gaming and Class III operations would be used to expand broadband internet access, health care, mental health services, and the state’s General Fund.Governor Comments on GamingMarsh’s lottery component would be used to generate revenue to fund scholarships to community colleges. Alabama is one of only five states that still does not have a lottery. The others are Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) says she will hold off on voicing her support for gaming expansion until the voter’s opinion is determined. That includes initiating gaming compact negotiations with the Poarch Indians, Alabama’s only federally recognized tribe.“Governor Ivey fully expects the Legislature will be thoughtful and deliberate as they debate this issue,” a statement from the governor’s office read.