John Rogers, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, proposed a unique sports betting bill Thursday. There’s been opposition to legalizing sports betting in the state in the past, and Rogers doesn’t want to authorize it statewide. Instead, HB 405 would legalize retail and mobile sports betting only in Jefferson County.
Under the bill, the Jefferson County Sports Wagering Commission would be created to regulate sports betting in the county. Jefferson County is the most populous county in the state and contains Birmingham, one of Alabama’s largest cities. Neighboring Tuscaloosa County is home to the University of Alabama.
If the bill becomes law, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where die-hard Alabama fans from Tuscaloosa would drive across the county border to place wagers on the Crimson Tide’s various athletic programs, especially the football team. Rogers’ bill would allow for betting on both professional and collegiate sports, including competition involving Alabama colleges and universities.
The situation, if it arises, would be fascinating from the perspective of sportsbook operators. Given the regional love of the Crimson Tide, there could be a massive influx of futures and game-by-game bets on Alabama. Would operators have to adjust odds in Alabama to account for a surge of local backing by bettors?
There’s precedent in other states
The proposal is somewhat similar to the situation in Louisiana, which launched legal mobile sports betting on Jan. 28. Sports betting isn’t legal in all of Louisiana, as nine of the state’s 64 parishes — similar to what are called counties elsewhere — rejected it in a statewide referendum. Plenty of residents of those parishes, however, travel across county lines to put down wagers. Rather than the majority of jurisdictions allowing betting, as is the case in Louisiana, Rogers’ bill would permit it in only one of Alabama’s 67 counties.
South Dakota similarly passed legislation in 2021 to allow sports betting only in the city of Deadwood, which is where the rest of the state’s commercial gaming is concentrated.
They can point to Deadwood as a municipal example. And to the parishes in Louisiana. And even retail on tribal property. I think it’s a good idea. “Restricted use license”. Go get it Alabama.
— Steve Brubaker (@SteveBrubaker) February 25, 2022
According to the bill introduced by Rogers, the commission could issue up to seven sports wagering licenses in Jefferson County, and each license would require a $100,000 application fee. The license would last five years and could be renewed for another five-year period for an additional $100,000. Language in the bill calls for taxing adjusted gross sports wagering receipts at 10%.
Given the state’s heavy interest in sports, specifically the Crimson Tide, Rogers’ bill would certainly generate revenue for Jefferson County, but it remains to be seen if it can overcome the longtime pushback against legalization of sports betting and other commercial gambling in Alabama.