This letter is to express my opposition to expanded legalized gambling in Alabama. Senate Bill 319, a comprehensive bill that would create a state lottery, add new state-regulated casinos, and legalize online betting in Alabama, passed the Senate on April 13, 2021, in a 23-9 vote. Then legislators in the House could not get enough support and did not bring it to a vote. So, on May 6, 2021, the Alabama House failed to pass this latest controversial gambling legislation.

One attorney stated, "SB 319 is not about revenue or regulating gambling. It is about whether elected officials will condone an immoral and destructive activity".

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey supported this bill that calls for a Constitutional Amendment on the 2022 General Election Ballot. Guy Rhodes, the Editor/Publisher of The Tuskegee News, wrote that the bill "could produce in taxes up to $200 to $300 million a year from the lottery and $300 to $400 million a year from casinos, including VictoryLand in Macon County."

These gambling taxes come from the pockets of those labeled "volunteer sinners." Gambling taxes hurt poor people who gamble more. Gambling money comes out of the pockets of real people who otherwise would spend it on something else.

It is said that gambling is the equivalent of taking a "drug." It produces a "high" generated by anticipation in not knowing the outcome. Losing and then more gambling to attempt to win back the lost money becomes a vicious cycle. It is said that gambling is an emotional problem that has financial consequences. 5.77 million in the United States had gambling disorders that needed treatment in 2012. Another disturbing statistic is that 6% of college students in the U.S. are classified as problem gamblers.

The millions of dollars for gambling taxes plus the money for employees' salaries, upkeep of the racing dogs and horses, maintenance of facilities, advertising costs, and some "winners" come from the pockets of real people. This means a total of betting from real people of a huge amount of money. The gambling world includes "recreational betting" on racing, bingo, card games, dice games, lottery, slots, and sports betting. Gambling is one of the most popular and addictive past-times worldwide. Because of its harmful consequences, gambling addiction has become a significant public health concern in many countries. Gambling addiction resembles "drug addiction," like a mind-altering drug. Gambling amounts are increased to obtain a higher level of excitement as illegal drug users do.

Some participate in forgery, fraud, or theft to finance the lure, the seduction, of gambling. Gambling debts impair abilities to support families. In many cases, there are suicide attempts. Costs for each compulsive gambler include treatment, lost productivity, criminal activity, and judicial costs.

Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, said, "Casinos have been identified as hubs for sex trafficking. The waves of women, men, and children who will be trafficked into the sex trade to meet the increasing demand that accompanies casinos must be met with decisive action".

ALREADY IN ALABAMA, THERE IS MUCH GAMBLING.

(1) Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Wetumpka (2,520 gaming machines)

(2) Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore (2,500 gaming machines)

(3) Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Montgomery (2,220 gaming machines) (4) Victoryland Casino & Hotel at Shorter (3,200 gaming machines and greyhound track).

Traditional bingo is legal in 18 of Alabama's 67 counties. Bingo centers at Gadsden (300 bingo seats), at Montgomery (595 Bingo seats). Online gambling is not prohibited.

Pari-mutuel betting became available in 1973, bingo in 1980, and daily fantasy sports betting in 2019). ALABAMA'S CONSTITUTION prevents the state from operating an official lottery. The minimum age for casino betting is 21. The minimum age is 18 for pari-mutuel betting (a system where winners SHARE the total stakes minus a percentage for the management). Pari-mutuel betting on horses and greyhound races is legal.

AND YET, HB 315 was introduced by Representative John W. Rogers to EXPAND gambling in Alabama that would probably increase crime, poverty, and sex trafficking.

-Faye Gaston

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