Published: January 12, 2024

Alabama Rep. Andy Whitt: Lottery, gambling will be debated in the House

There will be a lottery and gambling bill debated in the Alabama House this year, one of its likely sponsors said Thursday. Exactly what the bill looks like — and how that debate goes — is still being determined.

Supporters, including Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest, discussed some high points of a possible bill with the House GOP caucus on Wednesday in Montgomery.

“We are working and moving forward with the legislation this year,” Whitt on Thursday told Alabama Daily News.

No draft bill has been made public yet and caucus meetings are not open to the public.

While the House is usually where lottery bills go to die, last year Whitt and others, including Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, began discussing what could be palatable to a majority of members.

Whitt has focused on the regulatory side of gambling and last summer traveled to illegal casinos across the state, some of them, he said, running out of storefronts such as second-hand retail shops.

“Now more than ever, I believe that it’s time to address these illegal problems in the state,” Whitt said. “As I’ve said in the past, this is simply the wild west. There’s no doubt about that. Every day and every year that goes by without action on our part, the problems only grow.

“A gaming bill will be introduced and debated this session in the House.”

The lottery issue has long been tied to other forms of gambling, including those at the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ three federally approved casinos, and more recently, sports betting. The conventional wisdom in the State House has been that casino and sports betting interests don’t want to be left out of a standalone lottery proposal, lest that be the only legislative bite at the apple on gambling.

Whitt has previously told Alabama Daily News that work on a proposed bill was being done without the assistance or influence of outside groups, including any existing gaming interests in the state.

The legislative session begins Feb. 6.

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