Alabama Online Poker Law
Like many states, Alabama’s gambling laws were written when punch cards, strip tickets, and counter-top slot machines were considered rogue problems, and by people who thought playing cards on Sundays was so offensive they needed to fine people who played.
That law, incidentally, is still on the books.
Given such examples, it should surprise no one that Alabama’s core values keep gambling from its more than 4.8 million residents. The residents there are so anti-gaming that Alabama is one of seven states that does not have a state lottery. In 1999, voters rejected allowing a state lottery that would help fund education. Churches united, and USA Today reported its defeat came “at the hands of voters unwilling to cross their ministers.”
Alabama State Rep. Spencer Bachus has pledged to do everything in his power to keep a federal online poker bill from passing.
“Internet gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling,” Bachus told ABCNews.com in 2010. “Young people are particularly vulnerable — we don't want to put a casino in every dorm room in the country. Compulsive gambling, by many accounts, is a very serious, growing problem.”
Poker is not directly addressed within the state’s criminal code, but the code does place a deck of cards in the same category as roulette wheels and dice “in any place built or constructed in such manner as to make it difficult of access or ingress to police officers or other officers, or protected, furnished or equipped with speaking tubes, dumbwaiters, electric wires or bells, or other apparatus for giving alarm from the outside or from the inside of such house.”
Fines for players start at $50, while operators start at $1,000 and jail time.
Established Casino Industry
The state is home to three Indian casinos run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI Gaming). These venues are bingo halls with floors filled with slot machines, and they contain no poker or table games. PCI Gaming has faced lawsuits from state officials. In fact, the state’s Attorney General has tried to get the slot machines removed because they violate Alabama state laws, even though Indian casinos operate under federal laws, since they are considered to be on the land of a sovereign nation.
Will Online Poker Become Legal in Alabama?
There is zero interest from Alabama’s politicians or citizens to expand gambling in the state. The chance that its residents will ever be allowed to access online poker sites within its borders is about the same as the aforementioned Rep. Bachus entering the World Series of Poker main event.
Fortunately for at least some of Alabama’s more southern residents, Mississippi is right next door. Biloxi, with its handful of card rooms, is a poker beacon on the water. Also, the poker craze still is strong at the state’s universities, thanks in part to Alabamian Shannon Shorr’s poker success, which came at very young age. Recent WSOP Circuit winner Cory Harrison is also from Alabama.
For many conservative politicians, taking an anti-gambling stance acts as a way to increase their moral value with their base, and Alabama is a case study. Gambling, online poker included, is toxic waste to even the most liberal members of the electorate in Alabama, and no matter how many millions of potential tax dollars could be collected through taxing and regulating online poker, the debate would likely end in the instant death of a political career.