New Bill Could Result In An Alabama Lottery Referendum This Fall

Posted on March 13, 2020 - Last Updated on April 16, 2020

Lottery retailers in Tennessee towns that hug the Alabama border probably hope a new bill in that state dies soon. The bill could create an Alabama lottery.

The bill has quite a few hurdles to clear before that would happen, however. Tennessee Lottery retailers hope that one of those hurdles proves too big to get over.

What’s going on with the Alabama lottery bill?

A new bill has emerged in the AL House of Representatives. If the AL legislature enacts it, the state’s voters would have the final say on this matter this fall.

The measure would amend Alabama’s constitution to allow the state to hold a lottery. It seems to have a good amount of support in the legislature right now.

If that translates into broad support among the state’s electorate, the party that could decry it the most doesn’t reside in AL. TN residents, especially those who operate businesses that sell lottery tickets, could see diminishing returns.

Some of those businesses contend that half of their customers are Alabamans. While those people might cross the border to buy lottery tickets, they often make other purchases while they are in the stores.

If AL retailers can sell lottery tickets then the incentive to travel to TN fades. Tennessee retailers can only hope that the force of habit is strong enough to keep their out-of-state customers coming.

Even if AL does implement a lottery, TN stores may still see some Alabamans cross the border for another reason. As with the possibility of an AL lottery, however, there’s a lot that’s up in the air right now.

The cavalry might be coming for Tennessee border towns

As there is no legal gambling of any kind in AL right now, Tennessee sports betting law creates another potential to draw Alabamans across the border. Retailers in border towns may benefit indirectly.

While Alabamans are in TN to place their legal wagers, they may make other purchases. That could include Tennessee Lottery tickets.

Right now there is no timeline for when legal sportsbooks may actually start accepting wagers in TN, however. The TN Lottery may finalize regulations for sportsbooks soon, but there’s no guarantee.

When that happens, the state could start accepting license applications within days. The Lottery may approve those applications within a matter of weeks.

If TN sportsbooks are up and running before the start of the next college football/NFL seasons, that could help strengthen Alabamans’ habits of crossing the border to gamble. It’s also possible that TN could create a model for AL to follow, however.

How AL could follow TN’s lead within a year’s time

If AL’s voters approve a referendum for the lottery, maybe they could do the same for sports betting? There’s already a bill that would create a county-by-county vote on sports betting in the Alabama legislature.

That bill is unlikely to pass this year because the state is currently studying the effects of legalizing gambling right now. Next year that study would likely be completed, however.

Alabama could replicate Tennessee’s framework for legal wagering as both states do not have casinos. In that way, TN could become the victim of its own success.

All that’s up in the air right now and TN Lottery retailers hope that the status quo remains intact. If voters in AL approve a lottery, TN retailers’ luck may have run out.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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