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Alabama Casinos & Gambling Laws

Alabama

Alabama has never been a major gambling destination in the United States, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. At the moment, there isn’t so much as a lottery available to residents, with many traveling to play games in neighboring states. Only a handful of Indian casino venues provide some form of gaming in the Heart of Dixie, along with some controversial electronic bingo halls.

However, this could be changing, as many lawmakers think it is about time that the state expands its options with a lottery, and perhaps much more. And there is always the opportunity to play games online, even if they aren’t available in any brick-and-mortar venues.

Loads of Online Options

While you can definitely play at online casinos in Alabama, you shouldn’t expect the state to expressly regulate them any time soon. There has been absolutely no movement on the Internet gaming issue in the state, and considering that gambling in general has been treated very conservatively here, we don’t expect to see the government go into the business of licensing and regulating sites in the foreseeable future.

That said, this doesn’t mean that you can’t play your favorite games online. Many trustworthy Internet casinos allow Alabamians to play on their sites, even if the state isn’t inviting them to do so. That’s because the state is seen as a grey market in the gaming industry: while there are no regulations for these sites, there are also no laws criminalizing playing on them, meaning that individuals are free to sign up and play for real money if they want to. Most gambling sites that accept Alabamians are licensed in reputable jurisdictions such as the Netherlands Antilles and offer safe and secure services to the majority of the USA.

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Conservative State

Alabama has largely resisted the lure of gambling revenue that most other states have sought. In fact, the state’s stance has been so conservative that to this day, Alabama remains one of the few states that does not even have a lottery.

However, there are some land-based gaming options here. Most notably, the state is home to three Native American casinos: the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, and two Creek Casinos (in Wetumpka and Montgomery). These venues may be seen more like “slot parlors” to some, as they do not include table games: only slots and other electronic machines are available. However, the tribes have tried to make the venues well-rounded by providing a range of entertainment and dining options as well.

Other venues have also made their mark. In particular, Alabama has had an interesting history when it comes to “electronic bingo” halls, which have been the subject of a number of legal battles over the years. At one time, electronic bingo parlors were quite common, usually in cities and towns that had specifically authorized them. The games are similar to slot machines, but work in a different way, setting up debates similar to those held about “sweepstakes cafés” in other states.

But in 2010, Governor Bob Riley organized an anti-gambling task force that attempted to close most of these businesses. While the state’s Supreme Court ultimately said that the task force was invalid, allowing many of those halls to reopen. But the debate was set, and several more closures would occur in the years to come, sometimes with county sheriffs performing raids after determining the games to be illegal.

The highest-profile battle took place at the VictoryLand greyhound track in Shorter, which played host to Quincy’s 777, the largest electronic bingo venue in the state. In October 2010, federal prosecutors filed charges against several lawmakers and the VictoryLand owner in relation to a corruption investigation surrounding both the bingo hall and the investigations into the industry.

Future Developments

Like many states, Alabama has been suffering from budget shortfalls, particularly in the years since the 2008 recession. During the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers considered several solutions to this problem, and one of the major considerations was whether the state should finally embrace at least some form of gaming.

The most notable proposal came from State Senator Del Marsh, which would have put a proposal to allow for both a state lottery and commercial casinos to a statewide vote. For Marsh and some other legislators, gambling seemed like the best possible solution for helping to solve the state’s budget shortfalls: both the prospect of reducing government services and an alternate plan to raise taxes had little support among the populace.

But according to polling, many people were in favor of at least the lottery, if not also the expansion of casino gaming. And even more thought that it was fair to at least let the subject come to a vote.

Unfortunately for supporters of the bill, it never received enough support in the state legislature for it to get much traction. While it was pitched as a way to provide long term revenue, opponents pointed out that it did nothing to deal with the shortfalls in the 2016 budget: something that required a more immediate solution.

Still, the measure might come up for another vote when the legislature reconvenes in 2016. An alternate proposal that would allow for only a lottery is also likely to be introduced. That bill might have even more support, as it wouldn’t cost much for the state to implement: the idea would be for Alabama to join in on interstate lottery games like Powerball or Mega Millions, thus reducing the need for the state to spend a lot of money on promotions or game development and oversight.

Of course, none of this applies to igaming, but that is probably to be expected. Given that even land-based gaming has been so difficult to implement in the state, it is unlikely that online gambling is coming anytime soon. Should a more basic expansion occur in Alabama first, perhaps online options could follow – but for now, it’s likely that only land-based gaming is set for regulation in the state, and even that is far from certain in the next few years.

Citations and Sources

  • Alabama.gov
  • Alabama Policy Institute
  • Al.com
  • Findlaw.com
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