MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) – The 2021 Legislative Session in Alabama has come and gone, and with it, another failed attempt of getting a lottery or gambling bill to the people of Alabama to vote on.
A comprehensive gambling bill that includes the creation of six casinos, sports betting and a lottery passed the Senate. However, it never even came up for a vote in the House.
“We did not have enough Republicans to pass the gaming issue on our own,” said Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia.
Since the gambling bill was a constitutional amendment it needed a 3/5 majority to pass in the House, which was 63 votes. McCutcheon said the most votes his caucus could ever muster from Republicans alone was about 55 votes.
Support from Democrats was needed to get the bill passed.
“There were issues in the bill that the Democrats had, and when we got the bill ready to come to the floor, they just said we don’t have a single vote to bring,” McCutcheon said.
Democrats say that’s because they want to use part of the projected $750 million revenue from gambling and a lottery to fund Medicaid expansion for the rural healthcare initiative.
“They are going back to that matching when it started. So we’re missing out on, and how we missed out on, all those millions and millions of dollars and thousands and thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile.
While Democrats say Medicaid expansion is key to their support of a gambling bill, Republican leaders in the Senate say that would be a problem for them.
“When the economy dips, Medicaid rolls go up, those costs go up, there’s less revenue. We need to be very smart about how we approach that,” said Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville.
With a vote by Alabamians on any gambling plans not taking place until November of 2022, lawmakers say there’s room to make a deal.
“I think time will be on our side to really make it right and make it a perfect bill,” said House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville.
There’s also a chance Governor Ivey could call a special session for lawmakers to address the gambling situation, but there’s no word yet on if she plans to do so.