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Some in Senate push ‘demonstrably’ different gambling plan

Alabama’s Republican state senators don’t all agree yet on what gambling legislation the 35-member body might approve, but several concur it should get to the Senate floor this week.

“We need to get this accomplished in the next week,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, told Alabama Daily News Friday about the bills approved by the House more than two weeks ago. “It’s like fish,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better with age.”

He’s sponsoring in the Senate the sweeping proposal to allow for the sale of lottery tickets, 10 casinos with table games and in-person and online sports betting.

The majority of House Republicans voted for the bill, but it has run into trouble in the Senate, as indicated by a chaotic Senate Tourism Committee meeting last week.

Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, has been one of the Senators against the House-passed version. Among his reasons are concerns the bill would allow a large casino to eventually land on the Baldwin County beaches he represents. He’s said he and his colleagues want a more scaled-back bill that focuses on a lottery.

“There are a number of people who are working collaboratively to come up with a solution,” Elliott said Friday afternoon.

Elliott said he’d like to see something “demonstrably less” than what the House passed and agreed that it could happen this week.

Albritton said there’d been about four versions of the legislation in the last three days. They have not been publicly available.

Albritton said there’s been a lot of “cutting and pasting” from various drafts of legislation that’s become a near perennial issue in the Senate.

“Someone doesn’t like that, we move it; someone doesn’t like this, we move it …” Albritton said. “The problem is, we have a Whack-a-Mole game. As soon as you get a few votes over here, you lose three or four over there.”

Albritton said he still believes the House-passed legislation is the best in terms of options for Alabamians, regulations on gambling and revenue for the state.

“I’m trying to get votes; I will get a vote on (these bills),” he said.

The Legislature will take a week-long break starting March 10 and there is an effort to get a vote sooner rather than later.

“The Senate is intently looking at the gaming legislation passed by the House of Representatives,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told ADN. “The topic is a complex issue, but the question of whether something needs to be done about it is not. I think members are interested in moving legislation forward, and we are going to continue listening to every voice to give Alabamians the best product possible.”

A tourism committee meeting had not been set as of Sunday morning, but chairman Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, said he’ll be talking to members early this week.

Gambling is outlawed in the Alabama Constitution and one of the bills is a constitutional amendment that would need approval by voters. Price said he’s heard from constituents on both sides who want to vote.

“We want to put something out there that they would be voting on that would be in the best interest of this state, otherwise, what have we accomplished?” Price said.

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