Alabama residents have always overall shown an aversion towards gambling. There only exist a couple of options in the state. Moreover, the Constitution of Alabama from 1901 clearly states that all games of chance and lotteries are illegal. mutuel betting was legalized first, and it was followed by the regulation of bingo in some counties where the residents supported the idea of bingo legalization with their votes. Nowadays, there are several casinos and racetracks in Alabama where you can place bets on horse races or enjoy bingo, and some of them are owned by a Native American tribe. The latest form of gambling to be legalized is daily fantasy sports. However, most of the popular options and their online versions remain illegal in Alabama.
Alabama is one of the several American states where most gambling options are prohibited. The authorities make sure that there are no ongoing illegal gambling events in the state, and fines for hosting such an event could be big. Simply put, Alabama’s constitution clearly states that gambling is prohibited, so it’s safe to think of Alabama as one of the least gambler- friendly. That said, the state does feature some kinds of gambling options.
There’s limited pari-mutuel betting which was legalized in 1973. It’s considered “light” gambling, and Alabamans are free to place wagers under very controlled conditions. There are several horse racing facilities throughout AL, and it’s still the only available betting option in the state. Even though greyhound races were legal for a long time, they were outlawed last year.
Bingo was introduced in some counties in 1980. Bingo is still played, especially among senior citizens. Bingo sparked many controversies, especially when electronic bingo was introduced and considered equal to slots by the government. We’ll cover that part in the history section below. What matters is that this type of gambling is still legal and available in some counties.
Alabama has five land-based casinos. All are restricted to Class II games. Therefore if you’re not happy with playing video bingo, you’ll have to travel outside Alabama. Bordering Mississippi on the other hand, has a thriving land-based gambling industry. This means players can travel to this neighbouring State in order to play slots or table games.
All kinds of poker are also illegal in Alabama. Even though games of skill are not prohibited by the Constitution, poker isn’t considered a game of skill but rather a game of chance, much like in many other US regions where this game is prohibited. Online poker isn’t legal in Alabama either, meaning joining an offshore poker site is considered a Class C misdemeanor.
Pari-mutuel for horse races and greyhound races are legal. Live betting is only available in the Birmingham Racecourse. There are also several off-track betting options in Greenetrack, Victoryland, Mobile Greyhound Park, and Birmingham. In 2019, Alabama approved a legislative piece that legalized daily fantasy sports contests, which is the latest form of gambling that’s completely regulated in the southern state.
The three big casinos present in Alabama are all owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a federally recognized Native American tribe in the state. Their casinos are:
The two non-tribe gambling facilities are Greentetrack Racino and Quincy’s 777 Casino at Victory land. Both of them are limited to Class II gambling games. There are currently no online casinos licensed and regulated in Alabama. In other words, the only way for Alabamans to play casino games on the web is by joining an offshore gambling site. However, the Alabaman law recognized that as a Class C misdemeanor, so you’ll have to think twice before joining such a site and make sure to be well updated on the law.
There were not many talks about legalizing gambling before the second part of the 20th century. Here is an outline of how things evolved.
1971 : The first officially recognized and regulated gambling options were allowed in 1971 when the Supreme Court ruled that pari-mutuel wagering is constitutional. Shortly after that, Alabamans received an opportunity to bet on greyhound racing, as racetracks were opened in Eutaw, Mobile, and Shorter. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the year 1971 was the official year when Alabama started opening up to gambling activities.
1985: Fourteen years after pari-mutuel legislation, Bank Creek of Indians opened their first high-stakes bingo hall in Atmore. The tribe started operating successfully and even expanded its business to Montgomery and Wetumpka.
1987: The Birmingham Turf Club horse race track opened. However, it did not operate successfully and eventually had to file for bankruptcy. The place soon became a greyhound racetrack.
1998: Nothing happened in terms of gambling legalization for the next 10+ years. There was an attempt to establish a state lottery back in 1998 when Gov. Don Siegelman openly supported the idea. However, the public didn’t like it and voted against this activity. Alabama is one of the six states that do not have an official state lottery.
2003: The VictoryLand track installed electronic bingo machines. The venue in Shorter started a sort of war with the state that lasted for almost a decade. Namely, the state recognized the bingo machines like slots and considered them illegal, while the gambling operators thought of them as bingo, which was legal at that moment in Macon County. As soon as the track brought the machines, government officials would knock on the door, confiscating them as illegal. This lasted comically long, but it seems it stopped in 2016, as no raids took place after that, and Macon County residents can now play bingo freely.
2019: The year 2019 was particularly interesting as it was the first time a sports gambling legislation was introduced. However, it didn’t advance beyond the committee. What matters is that there was an attempt, meaning such attempts are probably going to become more common in the future and, hopefully, more successful. After all, sports play a big part in the daily life of Alabaman residents, and their support for sports betting could grow stronger in time.
2020: The next attempt took place the very next year, but it failed to advance once again. Moreover, 2020 was the year when dog racing ended, meaning the only betting option in Alabama was horse racing. Moreover, Poarch Band of Creek Indians were allowed to expand their gambling options if they agree to pay tax to the state.
Let’s look at things as objectively as possible — Alabama’s stance on gambling probably isn’t going to change in the near future. We might see some forms get legalized in the future, but they will probably still be heavily regulated and controlled by the authorities. Casinos and online casinos are probably still out of the question. This also applies to poker. However, we could see some forms of sports betting getting a green light by both the public and the legislators very soon. After all, several other states that also don’t have a favorable view on gambling decided to legalize sports betting up to an extent.
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