With more states legalizing, when will Alabama join the party?
There are currently 33 states who have legalized sports betting in some capacity. The legalized states stretch from coast to coast: from the Louisiana bayou to the Oregon shore.
Alabama, however, still classifies sports betting as illegal.
There are many pros and cons for a state to legalize sports betting. But how can sports betting affect the state of Alabama as a whole?
Well, for starters, sports betting has the ability to create a massive amount of revenue for a state.
Just one state over, Mississippi legalized sports betting in August of 2018. According to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the state has generated $166 million in revenue from sports since being legalized.
Mississippi’s revenue is only a fraction of what could be generated from sports betting. Mississippi only allows sports betting at retail locations, mainly casinos. States that allow sports betting in both retail and online settings top the charts of sports betting revenue statistics.
The state of Connecticut, whose population is only 3.5 million compared to Alabama’s 4.9 million, legalized both retail and online sports betting on Oct. 12, 2021. From October 2021 to January 2022, the state recognized $40.9 million in gross gaming revenue in just four months.
Dr. Nathan Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of sports business at the Brock School of Business, believes that legalizing sports betting in Alabama would certainly have an impact on both large and small scale economics.
“In terms of economic impact models and projections, often these state and local projections can be exaggerated or overblown, but it seems reasonable to think that the financial and economic impacts would show itself most in the personal distribution of funds,” he said.
Kirkpatrick went on to explain what that might look like in Alabama.
“For instance, Alabama citizens and consumers now may spend more money eating out, or at the movies, or on streaming platforms, or other forms of exercise, fitness, and entertainment,” he said. These funds being spent on these items and activities could be redirected towards live sports betting.”
The economic and entertainment pros of sports betting are in plain sight, but some lawmakers in Alabama and across the country find that the cons of sports betting outweigh the benefits.
There are an estimated 2 million Americans with serious gambling addictions, with some estimates reporting closer to 10 million. According to Psycom, nearly 80% of Americans with gambling addictions do not seek help or treatment for their disorder.
Alabama currently ranks No. 21 in the country for gambling addictions, based on a study by WalletHub. The state’s ranking would likely climb significantly if sports betting is legalized.
Considering the pros and cons of sports betting, along with recent legislation from nearby states, where does Alabama stand on the pathway to legalized sports betting?
Though Alabama is in the minority for sports betting legalization, there have been multiple recent attempts at making it legal.
In 2021, AL SB319 was introduced to the Alabama State Senate, which would have legalized sports betting in a select number of counties such as Jefferson County. The bill passed through the Senate, but did not make it through the Alabama House of Representatives.
According to a study by the Governor’s Study Group, the bill would have created $710 million in annual revenue for the state.
Recently, a similar bill has started to follow in the footsteps of SB319.
The bill, referred to as SB294, was approved by the Alabama Senate Tourism Committee on March 9, 2022. The Bill must now be approved by at least three-fifths of the Alabama House and Senate to be passed.
Though the bill would only allow sports betting within six counties at “casino-style gambling sites,” it would be the first form of legalized sports betting in the state. Sports betting legislation does not have a great track record in the state, however. SB294 could be the bill that changes history.
“If Alabama legalized live, or daily sports betting, the largest impact to the casual or avid sports fan would be the ability to use mobile and digital technology to bet on live sporting events,” Kirkpatrick added. “Companies and apps such as BetMGM, Caesars, FoxBet, Draftkings, FanDuel, etc. would now have access to the state of Alabama and its citizens and would be able to technologically offer live sports betting via mobile and digital technology.”
In summary, Alabama may be closer than ever to passing sports betting legislation.
If SB294 fails to pass through state legislation, a new bill will likely follow within the next few years. It may be one, two, or 20 years, but it appears that sports betting is slowly making its way across the country, making sports a little more interesting for those who want to try their luck.