Attorney General Steve Marshall has “serious concerns” about the proposed gambling legislation currently being deliberated by the Alabama House of Representatives.
Last week, lawmakers unveiled plans to legalize casino gaming, sports betting and a state lottery in Alabama. The endeavor will require two bills: one constitutional amendment and another to establish the parameters of legalized gambling. Both bills are sponsored by State Reps. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) and Andy Whitt (R-Harvest).
SEE: First Look: Gaming legislation to be introduced in the Alabama House
The bill would create the Alabama Gaming Commission (AGC), which would handle deploying provisions, distributing licenses, and appointing a Gaming Enforcement Officer who would function as a law enforcement officer and have arrest powers.
The licensing will be limited to specific counties in the state, including three already-existing locations operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) on their federal tribal lands.
The locations are Birmingham and Macon, Greene, Lowndes, Houston, and Mobile Counties, all of which already have high-profile gambling establishments.
Marshall’s office has prosecuted several gambling operations in recent years, including those in the counties included in the gaming legislation. Marshall himself has pushed for increased criminal penalties for illegal gambling.
RELATED: AG Marshall pushes increasing penalties on illegal gambling over legalization — ‘Create a deterrent for those who would engage in this behavior and I think we would see a difference’
In a statement to 1819 News, Marshall expressed extreme skepticism of the legislation, saying that it rewarded those who have operated gambling facilities illegally in the state for years, as well as rewarding “special interests” in the state.
“I have serious concerns about the gambling legislation introduced last week,” Marshall said. “As the chief law enforcement officer of our state, I find it unconscionable that we would reward those who have flagrantly defied our criminal and civil laws, as well as the judgments entered against them by our state’s highest court. While this bill will clearly benefit a handful of special interests, it is difficult for me to see how it is a solution to any of our state’s most pressing problems.”
Last week, Blackshear said even though the legislation provisionally allows gambling in counties with long-standing operations, those facilities are not guaranteed to receive a license from the AGC.
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