Alabama legislative session adjourned without final vote on gambling bill: ‘Frustrated’

Alabamians won't have a chance to vote on gambling within the state this year after lawmakers failed to come to an agreement during the latest legislative session before it adjourned.

Some Alabama lawmakers, and even Gov. Kay Ivey, expressed disappointment and frustration on Thursday as the legislative session ended without a final vote on a gambling bill.

Though the bill passed in the House earlier in the session, a scaled-back version of the measure failed by one vote in the Senate and supporters were unable to break the impasse.  

Because the bill wasn’t approved during this session, voters will not have the opportunity to vote on gambling within the state later this year – continuing a 25-year stalemate on the issue.

“There was a lot of effort to try to make it work. I think the people want a chance to vote. I hear that everywhere I go,” Republican House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said, according to The Associated Press.


The bill approved by the House would have allowed a lottery, sports betting and up to 10 casinos with slot machines and table games, but the Senate approved a stricter version that only included a lottery and allowing dog tracks and other sites to have machines where players can bet on replays of horse races.

Senators were more reluctant to approve the idea of slot machines or video poker.

A conference committee proposed a compromise that would have authorized a statewide lottery and slot machines at seven locations in the state, but that also did not win approval in the Senate despite approval in the House.

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“It was something that there weren’t votes in the Senate to approve,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed said of the conference committee proposal. “So that’s where we are.”


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told reporters Thursday she was disappointed in the outcome because she “wanted people to have a chance to vote on the issue.” 

When asked if she would call a special session for the subject, the governor said it would be pointless without lawmakers reaching an agreement.

Republican Rep. Chris Blackshear, the sponsor of the legislation, said the passing of the bill would have provided the state with more money for education, roads and other needs.

“We had it as close as it’s been before. We had a chance,” Blackshear said of the chamber’s effort.

Rep. Barbara Drummond, a Democrat, noted that Alabamians are traveling to neighboring states to purchase lottery tickets, which benefits residents elsewhere.

“I’m frustrated today,” she said. “The House stood up like it should, but it hit a wall upstairs. It’s time we stop playing these games of special interest and look out for the people who send us here.”

Alabamians have not voted on gambling since 1999, which is when a lottery proposal by then-Gov. Don Siegelman was rejected by voters.

Multiple efforts have been made in the years since then to establish gambling opportunities in the state, but debate over casinos and electronic gambling machines has largely caused the bills to stall.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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