HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - What are the odds that gambling will expand in the state of Alabama?
Senators are debating its chances right now, and critics are already picking it a part.
Five full service casinos and a lottery system is what lawmakers debated over in Montgomery on Thursday.
It’s all a part of Senate Bill 214.
“I think I could have passed the bill today. But what I tried to do is make sure the process is open and everybody say they’ve been included in.,” said Senator Del Marsh, who introduced the bill.
However, some say there’s too much packed into it.
“They try to get way too much and then they fight, next thing you know in the background they’ve killed their own legislation,” Phil Williams said.
The chief policy officer for the Alabama Policy Institute and a former State Senator, Phil Williams, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the bill doesn’t make it out of the legislature based on proposed sites for the new casinos.
“They have literally said certain communities, certain stakeholders, certain outside interests cannot play on this playing field, that legislation is going to choose who wins and that’s a dangerous precedent to set for any business,” Williams said.
Senate Bill 214 would establish casinos at four dog race tracks, Greenetrack in Greene County, the Birmingham Race Course, the Greyhound Racing Facility in Mobile and VictoryLand in Macon County.
A fifth location would open in either Jackson or Dekalb County, run by the Poarch Creek Indians.
Money generated from all five would be divvied up to expand broadband internet access, rural and mental health care, and to the state General Fund.
Money generated from the lottery would go solely to college scholarships. Which Williams says leaves out millions of students.
“The policy institute believes that we also have to work with the K-12 side, because if you don’t have a solid school education foundation at post 12, what good is a post secondary scholarship opportunity,” Williams said.
Another concern: the potential for corruption.
Senate Bill 214 would ban gaming license holders from contributing to political campaigns at the state level, but Williams believes that could open another door.
“We have seen in most recent years, all the way down to local races for sheriff to district attorney, mayors, all the way up to governors, corruption scandals and other things where gaming interests played heavily into issues that corrupted our state politics and local.”
The last time Alabamians were able to vote on a lottery bill was in 1999.
If this bill passes, you’ll get that chance again.
We will be sure to keep you updated on its progress.