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Alabama’s Flawed Gambling Laws Criminalize Children’s Charities

Alabama’s Flawed Gambling Laws Criminalize Children’s Charities

Alabama’s Flawed Gambling Laws Criminalize Children’s Charities

During the 2024 legislative session, the Alabama Legislature failed to pass a comprehensive gambling bill that would have clearly defined legal and illegal gambling and created an agency to enforce those regulations. This failure highlights a continuing trend of legislative gridlock and the influence of special interests over the will of the electorate.

Opponents of the legislation argued that Alabama does not need new gambling laws, but simply needs to enforce existing ones more effectively. This argument, however, overlooks the complexities and ambiguities in the current legal framework that have led to confusion and inconsistent enforcement across the state.

Case in point: Last week, Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office issued a cease-and-desist letter to an organization that plans to hold a raffle to raise funds for children with autism. According to the attorney general, such sweepstakes are considered illegal lotteries under Alabama law. The letter stated, “While we understand that you are a non-profit organization, the operation of a raffle, in which tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize of value, are illegal lotteries under Alabama law, cannot be operated or offered in this sense. the state without violating Code Ala. 1975 § 13A-12-20 et seq. and the prohibitions in our state constitution against illegal lotteries in our state.”

So who are these notorious players? A group of good individuals trying to raise money for a noble cause. The state’s convoluted gambling laws have criminalized an act of charity, highlighting the dire need for comprehensive legislative reform.

The failed Gambling Bill of 2024 would have provided clarity and structure, potentially preventing such situations. The bill, which had rare bipartisan support in the House but stalled in the Senate, would have created a state gambling commission and allowed for regulated casino gaming, sports betting and a state lottery. Proponents argued it would generate significant revenue, estimated to exceed $1 billion annually, that could be directed toward crucial public services such as health care and education.

Gov. Kay Ivey and other supporters emphasized that regulated gambling would help stop illegal operations and ensure that gambling activities are conducted responsibly. However, the Senate, influenced by lobbying efforts from ALFA, the Alabama Policy Institute, illegal gambling operators and domestic divisions, blocked the bill, denying Alabamians a chance to vote on the issue.

As it stands, the legal quagmire surrounding gambling in Alabama continues to criminalize well-intentioned initiatives without addressing the larger problems of illegal gambling. Until the legislature finds the courage to enact comprehensive reforms, we will continue to see charitable efforts hampered by outdated and unclear laws. It’s time for Alabama’s leaders to step up and provide the clarity and regulation the state desperately needs.

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