History of Gambling in Alabama
The history of Alabama’s relationship with gambling goes back more than 120 years. During this time, almost nothing has changed, as gambling remains illegal for residents. In 1901, the state constitution officially declared that all gambling was illegal, and therefore participants in such activities could be punished according to the authorities. A year later, in 1902, the Supreme Court of Alabama decided to legalize some kinds of gambling. These included horse and dog racing, or the so-called sweepstakes.
Soon after this news, four dog-racing tracks were opened in the state (Mobile, Birmingham, Shorter, Utah). In 1980 an amendment to the state constitution is passed. It directly affects the status of social casinos in Jefferson County. Now, social bingo raffles could be held, but the prize money could not exceed $7,500 per week. The rest of the funds used for payouts were to go to charity. The number of such raffles was also limited to only two events per week, and they were not to exceed five hours in length.
As early as 1984, another racetrack received permission to hold races (Birmingham). 1988 was a productive year for members of the Indian tribes. They had the right to open casinos on their lands. However, the industry continued to be illegal in over 98% of the state. In 1993, locals began to raise the issue of legalizing local and state lotteries on racetracks used for dog racing. A rather interesting event occurred in 1998. In a campaign speech, former state Governor Don Siegelman proposed legalizing the state lottery.
However, such a proposal was rejected in a referendum by residents. In 2003, another amendment to the Alabama state constitution allowed VictoryLand casinos to conduct electronic bingo raffles. In 2009, one of the biggest gambling scandals ever took place. State authorities charged one of the dog racing tracks with more than $70 million in tax liens.
This was related to evidence of bingo game rigging in the area. In 2010, VictoryLand, mentioned above, was shut down by federal agents, but the establishment was reopened two years later. However, it lasted less than a year. In 2013, the Attorney General of Alabama set his sights on closing down three land-based casinos run by the Creek Porch Band of Indians.
However, he was unsuccessful because the legislation noted that Indian tribes retain the right to conduct gambling as long as their lands are involved. In 2016, new Governor Robert Bentley is in the process of organizing a council aimed at gambling issues. As a result, VictoryLand reopens to residents. In 2020, new Governor Kay Ivey reconvenes the group to study the impact of gambling in the state.
Overall, we can say that the gambling industry has come a hard way in the state of Alabama. During that time, gambling has never been fully legalized.