What you aren’t hearing about Alabama’s Newest Lottery Bill

What you aren’t hearing about Alabama’s Newest Lottery Bill

What you aren’t hearing about Alabama’s Newest Lottery Bill

  • Posted by Heather Davis
  • On February 16, 2021
  • 0 Comments

The Latest Gaming Bill — This is Not a Good Deal for Alabama
by Heather Coleman Davis

The Alabama Senate Tourism Committee on Thursday released a bill that would legalize casino gaming, sports wagering, and a lottery in Alabama. The bill would permit each of the four greyhound tracks in the state to offer casino-style games and sports wagering. It would also give the Poarch Band of Creek Indians the right to build a casino in Jackson or DeKalb County, near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The bill as currently structured would effectively divide the Alabama gaming market between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the McGregor family (Lewis Benefield of Montgomery) that controls the Birmingham Race Course and VictoryLand, which lies just east of Montgomery. The Poarch Band also has three Class II bingo facilities in Alabama—one in Atmore, one in Wetumpka and one in Montgomery. Although it has not been confirmed, there are reports that VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course will be sold to the Poarch Band upon passage of the legislation.

The bill would permit up to three providers to be licensed to provide sports wagering services through the brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as via mobile devices. It appears that sports wagering providers must team up with one of the brick-and-mortar casinos to provide any sports wagering services, including any online or mobile services.

Alabama is selling 5 casinos and the right to a monopoly on all gaming in Alabama to a select chosen few.

Let me make this a little clearer.

The legislature has chosen four properties for casinos:

1. VictoryLand owned by the McGregor Family
2. The Birmingham Race Course owned by the McGregor Family
3. Mobile Grey Hound Park owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians
4. Greene Track – in Greene County (a small bingo hall in Greene County that will not survive if it can’t become a destination location because it is completely off the beaten path).

These are the terms:

Mobile Grey Hound Park: $500k for 10 years
Greenetrack: $500k for 10 years
Birmingham Race Course: $10MM a year for 10 years, for a 30-year license
VictoryLand: $5MM a year for 10 years for a 25-year license

The legislature has designated an additional 5th location in north Alabama that will be owned by the Poarch Band.

It is no secret that Lewis Benefield has wanted to sell VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course and now they have a buyer – The Poarch Band.

To Summarize: The Board Band would pay $16MM a year for ten years to have a monopoly on our state. And, there isn’t any license fee specified for the new location in north east Alabama.

Remember that not too long ago the Poarch Band paid $1.4 billion to buy one facility, the Sands Casino Resort, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The bill would also authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band. Once the compact is signed by the Governor the Poarch Bank will also have casino style gaming in Wetumpka and Atmore. This will solidify their monopoly.

This bill is on an extremely fast track. In the span of three days, the bill was introduced, passed out of committee, and brought up on the Senate floor. It appears that its sponsors want to pass it before opposition has a chance to organize. The senate is expected to vote on the package when it returns from recess on Tuesday, February 23.

If this bill should pass it must be ratified in a state-wide referendum. Once adopted, any changes to it would require amendments to the constitution, meaning that they would have to be approved by a three-fifths vote in both houses and a statewide referendum, making any future amendments extremely difficult. This process would be even more difficult because the one with the monopoly will make certain that the legislature never has enough votes to take away their monopoly.

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