Legal Alabama Gambling Laws

Alabama Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Legal Gambling Laws in Alabama

Poker players in Alabama generally have a lot of questions when it comes to the gambling laws of their state, especially whether it's legal to play online poker in Alabama.  In this guide to gambling in Alabama, we're going to cover legal online poker options for Alabamians and then survey a host of interesting facts and resources related to gambling in the state of Alabama.

Update as of 2016

This section is an updated version of the original article. While the the information on this page is correct, some new legislation might be in effect since thie page was originally written. We've left the orginal article in tact below the new information.

Alabama State Lottery Bill

In May 2015, Alabama State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh pushed for a state lottery. Del Marsh and other proponents argued that a state lottery would be worth $400 million a year to the Alabama Treasury. The Tourism & Marketing Committee approved the bill by a 5-3 vote. The same bill would have allowed the state's 4 racetracks to have casino gaming. Sen. Bill Beasley, a Democrat from Clayton, called for a voice vote on the bill.

The next month, the State Senate killed the bill by Del Marsh in a wider vote. This led Former Auburn University football coach Pat Dye and former Alabama Power Co. President Charles McCrary to join the Alabama Jobs Coalition, which pushed for a state lottery and racino gambling. Pat Dye and Charles McCrary claimed not only that the bill would generate $400 million in state revenues each year, but it also would create 11,000 new permanent jobs.

Over the course of the summer of 2015, the Alabama Jobs Coalition continued to publicize the bill. In September 2015, Huntsville Sen. Paul Sanford asked the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee to consider a lottery bill which would approve a state lottery. Under terms of the bill, Alabama would join the Powerball and Mega Million multi-state lottery associations. Del Marsh declined to have the committee vote on the bill, effectively ending any chance of a lottery bill being passed in 2015.

In February 2016, the Alabama House Economic Development and Tourism Committee voted to approve a lottery bill which was supported by Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport. This bill would approve a state lottery and participation in the multi-state lottery associations. Funds would be shared between the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund. This stripped-down version of the bill is still being discussed. In Alabama's upper house, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he would need to see how the funds were allotted before he would say whether he would support the bill or not.

If passed, Alan Harper's bill would place a lottery referendum on the November 2016 ballot. The likelihood of a lottery passing in Alabama is small, because the state's leaders have been against such a bill traditionally. Politicians like Rich Wingo and Paul Hicks opposed the bill on social conservative grounds, saying God would not support the state, if gambling were passed. Arnold Mooney opposed the bill on economic conservative grounds, saying such a fundraising method is regressive and it would grow the size of government.

Recent Gambling Headlines

The 2012 greyhound racetrack raids led to years of litigation. Alabama has four greyhound racetracks which has housed gaming machines over the years: VictoryLand in the town of Shorter, the Birmingham Race Course, GreeneTrack in Eulaw, and the Mobile Greyhound Park. The raids led to VictoryLand's owner, Milton McGregor, to filing a lawsuit against the state, trying to retrieve the gaming machines and cash confiscated in the raid. He also wanted the right to equal protection under the law, which would have allowed him to re-open his racino.

Alabama District Judge William Shashy ruled in 2015 that the state could not keep the 1,615 electronic bingo machines and $263,105 it seized in the VictoryLand raid. Citing the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, Judge Shashy said that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange had "cherry-picked" the gaming venues he wanted to remain open. That is illegal under US law, so the judge order Luther Strange to either shut down his favored racinos or allow VictoryLand and the other operations to re-open.

Luther Strange simply ignored the judge's orders, leading to a showdown between Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. In 2015, Robert Bentley took the extraordinary move of directing Alabama State Troopers that they are under no obligation to follow Luther Strange's orders, if he orders them to raid gambling operations. Gov. Bentley also publicly criticized the attorney general he appointed, because Luther Strange had used his position as AG to play favorites and had defied the orders of a sitting judge.

Gov. Bentley might have been expected to fire his attorney general or call for his resignation under such circumstances, but Gov. Bentley was trying to remain in office himself. Bentley has since come under fire for having an extramarital affair with an aide. Luther Strange continued to defy his governor's wishes.

In April 2016, Luther Strange's appeal of the Judge Shashy decision was heard by the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Luther Strange did not have to return VictoryLand's gaming machines or money. In the same month, an electronic bingo machine bill in the Alabama State Legislature failed to pass, which seemed to be Milton McGregor's final chance to retrieve his gaming machines. Despite the loss of a key source of revenue, VictoryLand continues to operate as a racing venue.

Online Poker in Alabama

Let's start our guide by covering one of the hottest topics for gamblers from Alabama: Legal online poker for Alabamians. 

Top Legal Online Poker Sites for Alabama

With a number of sites to choose from, Alabamians have their pick of the litter when it comes to online poker rooms.  Based on bonus value and room conditions, we've selected the top rooms for Alabama online poker players and listed them below:

Can Poker Players From Alabama Play Poker Online?

Yes.  There are a number of legal online poker sites that accept players from Alabama.  In fact, poker players from the state of Alabama have more or less the full range of choices when it comes to playing poker for real money at licensed and regulated online poker sites.  Unlike some states, there are no online poker laws in Alabama that directly deal with the issue of playing for real money via the Internet. Check out this list of real money poker sites in Alabama.

Online Poker Legal in Alabama

Alabama's gambling laws are very old and very broad.  Technically, just about any type of gambling is against Alabama law, but the reality of the situation is that there have never been any charges brought against a player for engaging in online poker from Alabama - and there probably won't ever be. 

Here a a few relevant aspects of Alabama code that could pertain to online gambling:

  1. What is gambling in Alabama? According to Section 13A-12-20: "A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."  Most agree that poker falls under this definition.
  2. Section 13A-12-21 makes it a Class C misdemeanor to engage in "simple gambling," defined as when someone "knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player."
  3. Players could also potentially run afoul of Section 13A-12-27, which prohibits "possession of a gambling device."  Gambling device has a very broad definition under Alabama law and could include things like virtual chips or possibly the computer used to play online poker.

Knowing the gambling laws of your state is something we always encourage online poker players to do, and you can review the Alabama state code [1].  If you have any questions about the law (and before you take any actions based on your understanding of the law) you should contact a qualified attorney - especially if you're considering running a business that involves online gambling.

Will Alabama Regulate Online Poker?

While several states - including Nevada and Delaware - are moving to regulate online gambling, we wouldn't expect any similar movement from Alabama at any point in the near future.  That's not to say that you won't find poker players in Alabama - in fact, there's a strong poker scene across much of the state.  The problem isn't the players - it's the general approach of legislators in Alabama, which has been to restrict gambling wherever possible.  That continuing attitude on the part of the government in Alabama makes expansion into online gambling an especially unlikely bet for the state.

Alabama Gambling Facts

History of Gambling in Alabama

If you were writing a book about the history of gambling in Alabama, you wouldn't need to set aside much time for doing so.  The state has long outlawed most forms of gambling, and is one of the few in the US that has yet to embrace a state lottery.  One pivotal date in the relatively brief history of Alabama gambling: 1973, when the state opened its first legal commercial gambling option in the form of the Mobile Greyhound Park [2] (which, interestingly, is not actually located in Mobile).

Regulated Gambling Options in Alabama

If you find yourself in Alabama and seeking some gambling fun, you're not totally out of luck.  In addition to the handful of pari-mutuel wagering options at the state's racetracks, you can also take part in charitable gambling like bingo and a litany of games at tribal gambling facilities in Alabama.

Popular Gambling Options in Alabama
It's easy to pick the winner in Alabama's gambling industry: The Poarch Creek Indian tribe.  Industry reports peg the PCI offerings in Alabama as one of the fastest-growing gambling properties in all of the country, let alone Alabama.  To learn more about the Poarch Creek and other useful pages that will help further your understanding of gambling in Alabama, refer to our Alabama Gambling Resources below.

Does Alabama Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

As of the writing of this article, there were no regulated opportunities for online gambling in the state of Alabama.  That is not the same thing as saying there are no legal options for gambling online, just that the state itself has yet to get into the business of providing licenses and administering regulations for any online gambling operators.

Recent Alabama Gambling Headlines

The state has continued its long-running crackdown on illegal gambling operations in 2012, with large raids including an action that netted some 60 machines [3] and this shutdown of an unlicensed gambling hall [4].

Alabama is also drawing close to a legal conclusion of alleged wide-reaching political corruption related to gambling in the state.

Alabama Gambling Resources

For players looking to learn a little more about gambling in Alabama, here are some useful resources that will aid in your search.

Problem Gambling Resources for Alabamians [5].  Resources provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling.  The page provides links to sites specifically addressing the issue of problem gambling in Alabama, as well as links offering national resources on the matter.

Poarch Creek Indians [6].  Official website for the Poarch Creek Indian tribe (PCI).  The PCI is the sole federally recognized tribe in AL, meaning the tribe is behind the bulk of regulated gambling choices for Alabama poker players and bettors.  Learn more about the casino options offered by the PCI, along with the history and background of the tribe.

Gaming Law Masters Alabama Fact Sheet [7].  Comprehensive look at the facts concerning gambling law in the state of Alabama, including analysis of key provisions and references to additional case law and relevant sources.  An excellent continuation point for learning more about the law regarding poker and gambling in Alabama.

Alabama's Place in Poker History

While the state itself doesn't have much to do with the history of poker, several notable poker professionals hail from Alabama - certainly enough to lead one to conclude that the game of poker is alive and well in the state, despite whatever outdated laws the state may have on its books.  For example, well-known tournament pro Shannon Shorr hails from Alabama, as does Herman Tapscott, winner of the largest Omaha Hi-Lo tournament in the history of poker tournaments.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Alabama Online Poker