State lawmakers may debate gambling again

By PAUL DEMARCO / Guest Columnist 

Note: This is an opinion column.

With the Alabama Legislative Session less than 60 days away, it appears a decades long issue in the state may be back up for debate.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s study group on gambling policy has now released a lengthy report for state leaders to review and determine how they want to proceed.

As expected, the study showed casinos and a lottery would bring in millions of dollars to the state budgets, but would require the legislature to send a constitutional amendment for state citizens to either approve or reject. The task force also addressed the many downfalls of gambling that the state could face if it was legalized.

In addition, for the existing Porch Creek Indian casinos to provide any revenue for the state, the governor would have to enter into a compact to move forward, which has always been a source of controversy.

Gambling bills have been filed every legislative session for decades, so some wonder if this report will make any difference. And there is still strong opposition from some quarters to any new gambling in the state.

Considering all of the issues facing lawmakers in the midst of the pandemic, there are no guarantees this issue will get addressed. Even with the results of the study commission, legislators may once again put gambling on the back burner if they cannot ever find consensus.

We will see come February, if gambling makes the list of priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.