Alabama Senate Approves Gaming Bill With Mobile Sports Betting And 20% Tax

A revamped gaming bill that will allow for statewide mobile sports betting in Alabama passed the state senate Tuesday night, and now heads to the House for approval. The constitutional amendment, which is similar to one that narrowly failed to pass the Senate earlier this session, would allow for nine casinos and sportsbooks, including three operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Casinos would be located in Greene, Houston, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile counties. An additional casino could be located in either DeKalb or Jackson counties.

Should the House pass the bill, a referendum would go before voters.

The bill, which passed, 23-9, would also legalize a state lottery. Alabama is currently one of six states that does not have a lottery.  The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass.

In March, Sen. Del Marsh was two votes shy of getting his initial referendum bill passed. The key difference between the first go-round and the most recent is that SB 319 requires a bid process for casinos but SB 214 did not. When SB 214 failed, Marsh said he’d try to bring it back for a second look this session, which ends May 30.

Operators will have three skins

The latest proposal would allow each operator to have three mobile skins or platforms, and sets the tax rate at 20%. The bill names the Alabama Gaming Commission as the regulator and would create an advisory board to work with the gaming commission. The advisory board would be comprised of political appointees selected by the governor and other leadership.

In addition, the bill explicitly allows for the commission to license operators who are licensed by “another jurisdiction that has similar licensing requirements,” which could speed up the licensing process. The bill does not name what those other jurisdictions would be, but sports wagering is legal and live in two of Alabama’s border states — Mississippi and Tennessee.

Among the proposed sites for casinos are named in the bill: Birmingham Race Course (Jefferson), Mobile Greyhound Racing (Mobile), Victoryland (Macon).

Licensing fee: $100,000

Other key elements of the bill:

  • A minority participation section that tasks the commission with creating a “plan that achieves to the greatest extent possible a level of participation by minority businesses taking into account the total number of all covered operators”;
  • Casino licensing fees of: $35 million fee for the Jefferson County casino location, $20 million for the Victoryland location, $5 million for the Greenetrack, Houston, and Mobile locations, and a to-be-determined licensing fee between $5-$35 million each depending on locations selected by the Poarch Creek Band of Indians. Each fee can be paid in equal installments over 10 years;
  • A sports betting licensing fee of $100,000 with an annual renewal to be determined by the commission;
  • The legal age for wagering would be set at 21; and
  • 95% of proceeds from sports betting revenue are earmarked for the Gaming Trust Fund, while the remaining 5% of tax revenue will be split between two local government bodies.