Victoryland

Former Victoryland owner Milton McGregor, left, shakes the hand of Donna Tidwell of Columbus, Georgia five years ago as McGregor reopened the games at Victoryland. Tidwell was happy to see McGregor again. “I was here the first day they opened the dog track, I was here the first day they opened the games, when they reopened and I am happy to be here again today.” (Cliff Williams /The Outlook)

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the operators of Victoryland and Greenetrack would be the only groups allowed to operate full-gaming casinos and sports betting if proposed legislation is approved by legislators and voters.

State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) stepped down from his role as president pro tem of the state senate this year but has authored a state constitutional amendment authorizing charitable bingo, casinos and sports wagering to accompany a proposed state lottery. For gambling and betting operations, the bill lays out everything from the establishment of a state commission to taxing and licensing of bingo, gambling and sports betting. In all cases, only current gaming and track operators in Alabama would be allowed to operate slot machines, table games and other gambling.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operations in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka are federally protected, but the legislation would allow the Poarch to continue to operate the Mobile Greyhound Park and add a casino and sports wagering. The legislation would allow the Poarch to open a casino in the Huntsville area. Victoryland in Macon County and the Birmingham Race Course share the same ownership and would be allowed to legally open casinos too. Greenetrack in west Alabama would be allowed to do the same.

Net gaming revenues would be taxed at a rate of 20% but not on gambling at the Poarch’s operations in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Poarch Band of Creek Indians director of government relations Miriam Fry said the Poarch would still contribute funds to the state.

“A portion of revenue, as determined by a compact negotiated with the Tribe and governor, would be shared with the state from our table games, if this bill went into effect,” Fry said in a statement.

The lottery is estimated to generate more than $200 million for education. An estimated $260 - $393 million would be generated annually from gaming and the legislation earmarks much of the revenue. The gaming trust fund would retain 20%, 3% would go to counties with a gaming operation, 2% would go to municipalities with a game operation. If a municipality has no gaming operation, the 2% would go to the county in which it operates. The state’s general fund would get the remaining 75% but the bill spells out how the funds would be distributed.

Statewide development and expansion of broadband would receive 65%, 25% would go to rural health services and 10% to mental health services.

After $1 billion goes to broadband, the distribution changes to 25% remaining in the general fund, 25% to rural healthcare services, 25% to develop and maintain IT infrastructure, 15% for mental health services and 10% for grants to be awarded for infrastructure improvements to counties and municipalities without the casinos.

The bill would put all bingo under control of the gaming commission. It would prohibit electronic bingo except at the five casinos and the three now operated by the Poarch, which are on tribal lands and not under state control.

License fees for charitable bingo are determined by the market they are located in. Jefferson County Race Track would pay $100 million over 10 years to be licensed for 30 years. Victoryland would pay $50 million over 10 years to be licensed for 25 years. Greenetrack would pay $5 million over 10 years to be licensed for 10 years.

The last time any form of public referendum on the lottery or gambling was presented to voters was in 1999 with a statewide lottery. It failed.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.