There is little in the way of legal gambling in Alabama. The lack of a lottery, commercial casinos and sports betting all derive from a longstanding opposition to gambling in general.
Charity groups may offer bingo in counties that permit the game, and two racetracks primarily owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians offer video gambling machines that closely resemble slots. These operations have been the subject of a long-running debate over the legality of such games.
The Poarch Band also operates three casinos on tribal land that offer Class II gaming (bingo, video bingo and non-banked card games). Outside of casinos, Alabama permits daily fantasy sports and mobile racing betting.
Legal forms of gambling in Alabama now include:
- Horse racing betting: Mobile racing betting
- Live Bingo: Offered by charities with county or municipal approval
- Video Bingo Machines: At three tribal casinos and two former greyhound tracks
Online Gambling in Alabama
The full extent of legal online gambling in Alabama consists of horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports (if you consider DFS to be gambling).
Online racing betting is permitted in Alabama and a number of US-based advance deposit wagering operators serve the state. Three of the most trusted include:
Daily fantasy sports sites have been legal in Alabama since 2019. The passage of that legislation ended a multi-year stretch during which the major DFS sites were restricted from offering their services to customers from Alabama.
The biggest and most trusted DFS sites in Alabama are:
Tribal Casinos in Alabama
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate three casinos in Alabama. Each offers a minimum of 1,7000 gaming machines plus dining options, entertainment and a hotel.
All are located on tribal territory and operate as Class II gaming facilities, which means their “slots” are actually based on bingo to comply with state and federal law. None offer table games or poker.
|Wind Creek Atmore
303 Poarch Road
|Wind Creek Montgomery
1801 Eddie L. Tullis Road
|Wind Creek Wetumpka
100 River Oaks Drive
Tribal Casino Law
Alabama’s near total lack of gambling hampers the types of games tribal groups may operate within their casinos. However, tribal groups gained the right to offer Class I and Class II gaming options on tribal land even in states that do not regulate gambling with the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Class I games cover social games played for minimal prizes and traditional forms of Indian gaming but do not play a major role in the modern gambling industry.
Class II games, which are offered in Alabama casinos, cover bingo and non-banked card games such as poker. The “slots” you’ll find within any Alabama casino are actually just high-tech bingo games at heart but feature all the standard accoutrements of slots “for entertainment purposes only.”
Class III gaming covers everything not included in the previous two classifications. Currently, Class III gaming is not offered anywhere in Alabama.
Under the IGRA, tribal groups may only offer Class II games if those games are authorized anywhere else within the state “for any purpose by any person, organization or entity.” Because Alabama allows charity bingo in certain counties, the Poarch Band by default has the authority to offer Class II gaming on its land.
Class III games such as blackjack, roulette and even sports betting remain off limits for now. For that to change, Alabama would have to authorize such games elsewhere (such as at commercial casinos) and the tribe would have to form a gaming compact with the state.
Two former greyhound racetracks offer the same games as the tribal casinos. These are located at the former VictoryLand and Greenetrack racetracks. Each also hosts an off-track betting parlor (OTB) for wagering on horse and greyhound races held elsewhere.
Both casinos have been the subject of considerable controversy due to offering Class II gaming. Both are majority-owned by the Poarch Band but are not located on tribal land. State officials contend electronic bingo games are prohibited by state law while the casinos contend their games are legal because they are located in counties that allow real money bingo.
Law enforcement actually raided VictoryLand back in 2013 in an operation that saw the seizure of more than 1,600 gaming machines and $260,000 in cash. VictoryLand reopened in 2016, but the controversy continues to this day.
All bingo games, live or video, must benefit charities. There has been some controversy about how much money goes to these nonprofits when compared to gaming revenues. In 2010, it was reported that Victoryland contributed less than 1% to charities. A 2012 lawsuit awarded these groups $64 million from VictoryLand.
Sports Betting in Alabama
Sports betting is prohibited in Alabama and it seems there is little appetite to change that. The closest thing to legal sports betting is daily fantasy sports, which were finally given formal legal protection in 2019.
In a state reluctant to authorize commercial casinos or even a state lottery, the prospects for legal sports betting are dim over the near term.
Comments from Representative Rich Wingo in 2018 shortly after the Supreme Court overturned the federal sports betting prohibition exemplify the attitudes of many regarding legalization:
“When a kid misses a field goal, instead of feeling bad for him now you are going to have people that are probably going to send him death threats because they lost a bunch of money,” he said. “College sports are going to eventually be compromised and people are going to wonder if that kid missed that field goal on purpose or dropped that catch on purpose.”
Not all hope is lost, though. There are some signs attitudes are beginning to change. The state’s decision to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports indicates some level of comfort with combining gaming and sports.
Additionally, the Poarch Creek Indians submitted a proposal in late 2019 to authorize tribal casinos to offer Class III gaming (including sports betting) in return for paying hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees plus giving the state 25% of gaming revenues.
Alabama may be home to a strong anti-gambling contingent, but when billions of dollars in new tax revenue are put on the table, it is not unheard of for attitudes to change quite dramatically.
Legal poker games in Alabama do not exist outside of private home games in which no rake is taken. Aside from games played privately among friends, there are no legal avenues to play poker. Neither the state’s tribal casinos nor other venues offer poker in any format.
Home Poker Games
Alabama law provides an exemption from anti-gambling statutes for social games played in private as long as nobody profits from the game other than as a player.
A friendly game played at home among friends would most likely be found lawful as long as no one was charging a rake, entry fee or otherwise finding a way to profit off the game in any way other than competing as a player under the same rules as everyone else.
Alabama Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports are legal and regulated in Alabama.
Under AL law, fantasy sites must apply for a license, adhere to standard consumer protection regulations and pay a 10.5% tax on revenue.
AL Fantasy Sports Law
Up until 2016, fantasy sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings operated in Alabama on the assumption their contests constituted games of skill and were therefore exempt from anti-gambling laws. The industry was completely unregulated in Alabama, but mainstream fantasy sites operated in good faith and earned the trust of customers across the country.
That came to a screeching halt in 2016 when then Attorney General Luther Strange declared fantasy sports contests to be a form of illegal gambling. He sent cease-and-desist letters to FanDuel and DraftKings ordering both companies to stop hosting contests for Alabama residents by May 1st, 2016.
Both companies complied with the order and would not return to Alabama for three years. In 2019, the legislature passed HB 361 to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports. Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 31st. FanDuel and DraftKings quickly applied for licenses and are now back in business in Alabama.
Alabama is one of just a handful of states without a lottery.
An attempt to establish a state lottery via statewide referendum failed in 1999 by a 54-46 vote. Lawmakers have discussed the issue nearly every year since, but progress has been frustrated by competing interests in the state.
As Representative Mike Ball explained in November 2019, lawmakers who support Alabama’s racetracks refuse to vote for a bill that would initiate another referendum if the bill does not also include provisions allowing the tracks to expand their gambling options.
Meanwhile, the Poarch Creek Indians are still pushing for new legislation that would give them exclusive control over Class III gaming. Any bill that also expands gaming at racetracks is likely to be voted down by lawmakers loyal to the Poarch Creek band.
Alabama Horse Racing
Live greyhound and horse racing are legal in Alabama, but no tracks hold greyhound races today. However, all tracks do offer simulcasting and wagering on horse and greyhound races held around the country.
Mobile Greyhound Park ended live racing in 2017 but is still open seven days a week with a restaurant and simulcast wagering on greyhound and horse races.
|Birmingham Race Course
1000 John Rogers Dr
|Mobile Greyhound Park
7101 Old Pascagoula Rd
Unlike most states, Alabama does not regulate greyhound racing at the state level. Instead, it is regulated at the county level by the Birmingham Racing Commission.
Under AL Code § 11-65-1, racetracks and parimutuel wagering are only legal within Class I municipalities (cities with a population of at least 300,000).
Alabama Gambling Laws
Alabama gambling laws are quite restrictive, partially due to the state’s definition of “gambling” and how that term has been interpreted over the years.
Alabama Code § 13A-12-20 defines gambling as follows:
“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…”
The code does make exceptions for private gambling games that are not conducted for a profit. If a game is played in private among friends, nobody earns a profit off the game other than as a player and all players have an equal chance of winning, that game is likely legal.
AL Code § 13A-12-21 states that it is a defense to a prosecution for gambling if a person can prove they were engaged in a social game in a private place. Additionally, AL Code § 13A-12-22 explains nobody may profit from a game other than as a player or else they may be charged with promoting gambling, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
Games of Skill
As noted above, Alabama gambling laws cover activities that include an element of chance even if those activities are primarily determined by skill.
Traditional Online Skill Games
Pure contests of skill are presumably legal, although the legality of any particular game is open to the interpretation of law enforcement and courts. That being said, traditional skill games sites such as WorldWinner have accepted customers from Alabama for years with no trouble from law enforcement.
Esports betting sites such as PlayersLounge and GamerSaloon, at which players pay money to compete against other players, are likely legal under Alabama law. Both sites accept customers from Alabama under the assumption their contests are games of skill
Sites in which spectators bet on other peoples’ esports matches are not legal in Alabama. This would be more akin to sports betting, which is not permitted under current law.
Skill-based Gaming Machines
Skill-based gaming machines are not legal at the state’s video bingo casinos or anywhere else. However, AL Code § 13A-12-76 (the “Chuck E. Cheese” law) permits some games of skill that may involve a small level of luck if cash is not awarded as a prize.
Alabama Charitable Gaming
Charitable bingo games are authorized at the county/city level in Alabama via constitutional amendment. To date, 18 jurisdictions have authorized charitable bingo and charitable electronic bingo machines (as seen at VictoryLand and Greenetrack).
Jurisdictions that have authorized charitable bingo in Alabama include:
|Jefferson County||Madison County||Montgomery County||Mobile County|
|Etowah County||Calhoun County||St. Clair County||Walker County|
|City of Jasper||Covington County||Houston County||Morgan County|
|Russell County||Lowndes County||Limestone County||Town of White Hall|
|Greene County||Macon County|
Charities may not hold raffles. These are considered lotteries under the state constitution.