Alabama Senate Redistricting Case Could Help Gambling Legalization Hopes In 2025

Erik Gibbs

alabama map

A seemingly unrelated legal battle playing out in a federal courtroom could have an impact on the future of gambling in Alabama. The case, centered on the potential redrawing of state Senate districts in Montgomery and Huntsville, may hold the key to whether the state legalizes casinos, sports betting, or lottery in 2025.

The backdrop for this potential shift lies in the narrow defeat of gambling legislation in the Alabama Senate in April. The bill fell short of passage by a single vote.

Proponents of the legislation, which included both Democrats and Republicans, argued that casinos would generate significant tax revenue for the state, create jobs, and boost tourism. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama previously reported analysis that showed that gambling could lead to $749 million in annual state revenue. Other reports put the total at as much as $1.2 billion.

On the other hand, opponents, primarily on moral grounds, expressed concerns about the potential social ills associated with gambling.

The redistricting case underway challenges the current state Senate district maps, alleging racial gerrymandering. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the Alabama legislature’s map violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This November, the subject will return to federal court, as AL.com reports. If the court finds the maps to be unconstitutional, it could order the legislature to redraw the districts.

This redistricting process could alter the makeup of the Senate, potentially creating a more gambling-friendly body. However, there’s still only a slim chance it would make a difference for casino hopes or for state-wide sports betting legalization. “I don’t think we’ll see gambling next year unless it’s lottery only,” Sen. Sam Givhan told AL.com.

Redistricting’s potential impact on gambling

That’s not to say it’s completely beyond the realm of possibility. The current Senate districts are drawn in a way that concentrates minority voters in specific districts. A court-ordered redrawing could dilute this concentration, creating more districts with a mix of voters.

Redistricting could lead to new faces being elected to the Senate, particularly in areas where the demographics have shifted. These new legislators may be more receptive to the idea of gambling legalization, especially if they see it as a potential source of revenue for their constituents.

With the previous legislation failing by just one vote, even a modest shift in the Senate’s composition could be enough to tip the scales in favor of at least some form of gambling.

More obstacles stand in gambling’s way

However, such an impact of redistricting is far from guaranteed. Here are some factors that could dampen its potential effect:

Incumbent Advantage

Even with redrawn districts, incumbents often have a significant advantage in re-election bids. If the current, more conservative-leaning senators manage to hold onto their seats, the overall composition of the Senate — where Republicans now have a 27-8 majority — may not change.

The Moral Argument

Opposition to gambling on moral grounds remains strong in Alabama. Even in districts with a more favorable demographic makeup, legislators may be hesitant to vote for legalization for fear of alienating their base.

Alternative Revenue Streams

If the state manages to identify alternative sources of revenue to address budget shortfalls, the pressure to legalize gambling could diminish, even with a more receptive Senate.

The legal case concerning redistricting is still in its early stages, and it remains to be seen how the court will rule. The stakes are potentially high, and the eyes of both gambling supporters and opponents will be fixed on the federal court’s decision.