The Alabama Senate Tourism Committee has approved a bill to expand gambling in the state, but in the process, stripped most of the features out of a constitutional amendment and companion bill that the state House passed overwhelmingly in February.

The constitutional amendment authorized a state lottery, up to seven new casinos, and sports betting. The new version removed casinos and sports betting, leaving only the lottery in place. It also moved up a statewide vote to a special election on September 10 instead of the usual general election in November.

The legislation now needs a three-fifths vote in the Senate. If it passes, it will go back to the House for approval. If the House does not agree with the drastic changes, it would move to a conference committee, in which members from both the House and Senate would try to hammer out a compromise.

While gambling is limited in Alabama, there would still be some options for people who want to wager a couple bucks now and then. Gambling would be permitted at racetracks in Greene, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile Counties and at current bingo halls in Houston County and the town of White Hall. They can offer pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog races, but no electronic bingo or casino games.

The governor would be permitted to enter into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to allow them to spread casino games at their tribal casinos, which only have electronic bingo at the moment.

New casinos, widespread casino gaming, and sports betting, though, are all off the table.

Republican Senator Greg Albritton, the sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, told that sports betting was taken out of the package to protect young people.

“The most common one [concern] was the fear that this would draw in youth too rapidly and too egregiously and too openly,” Albritton said.

He also said that the statewide vote was moved to a September special election because “That’s what I had to do to get the votes.”

It does not sound like Albritton specified why he had to do that to get the votes. Typically, more people turn out to vote for a November general election than they do for an earlier special election, partly because of awareness and partly because of convenience, as often, people don’t want to take the time to vote for just one or two things.

And with this being a presidential election year, the turnout in November should be extremely high. Perhaps those in the Senate willing to support the legislation believe that those who will vote in the special election will be more apt to support gambling expansion, even if it is just the lottery.

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