Alabama has a long and complicated history with gambling.
The state Constitution prohibits lotteries and most forms of gambling; simultaneously, a drive across the state offers a chance to pull into gambling establishments.
This begs the question: If gambling is prohibited by Alabama’s Constitution, why does gambling exist within the state’s borders?
There are two primary reasons.
The first is the adoption of local constitutional amendments. Local amendments have passed in 18 counties and allow certain gambling activities to occur at specific locations within those counties.
Most of these amendments limit the type of gambling allowed to bingo or parimutuel betting on dog and horse races. Bingo is the traditional game where numbers are called randomly, and players mark the numbers on a card until a certain pattern is achieved. Parimutuel betting is a style of gambling where all bets are placed into one pool; the winner splits that pool after the house takes its cut.
The second reason gambling exists in Alabama is the federal Indian Gambling Regulatory Act (IGRA). Under the IGRA, Indian nations are allowed to operate gambling facilities on eligible tribal lands up to the same level of gambling a state has authorized. Because Alabama has authorized bingo and parimutuel betting in some places through local constitutional amendments, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is allowed to engage in bingo and parimutuel betting on tribal properties in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.
In September 2022, the Alabama Supreme Court held that electronic bingo games in Lowndes and Macon counties were illegal gambling devices. This bingo closely resembles Las Vegas-style slot machines. The game fell outside the parameters of the traditional game of bingo where some degree of player skill is involved. Therefore, it violated the Alabama Constitution.
Upholding Alabama’s gambling laws requires cooperation of state and local law enforcement. At times, a lack of coordinated efforts has allowed illegal gambling operations to flourish in some areas. Despite these isolated activities, Alabama’s overarching public policy prohibits gambling.
Compiled by the Alabama Farmers Federation External Affairs Department
The material presented above is for educational purposes only. The content does not constitute legal advice. If readers require specific advice or services, a lawyer or other professional should be consulted.