Alabama is home to some of the strictest gaming laws in the United States. Parimutuel wagering and bingo slot machines are legal under certain circumstances, but nearly everything else except daily fantasy sports is illegal. The population doesn’t seem very interested in gambling either. In 1999, 54% of voters rejected the state’s last initiative to institute a state lottery.
A few tribal casinos operate throughout the state although they may only host electronic bingo games. Table games such as blackjack and poker are banned across the state. Most gamblers either travel to other states or play at unlicensed offshore casinos and poker sites. Fortunately, the state of Alabama does allow online horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports.
It is doubtful the state will expand its gambling options any time soon. State authorities routinely raid businesses suspected of hosting electronic bingo games that don’t perfectly conform to state regulations and newspapers regularly publish anti-gambling pieces. Currently there are no initiatives to bring legal online betting to Alabama residents.
Horse Racing Betting Sites in Alabama:
Fantasy Sports Sites in Alabama:
Alabama Sports Betting Law
Sports betting is illegal in Alabama and that is not expected to change any time soon. Simply introducing legislation to authorize a state lottery has proved troublesome for lawmakers. Every year, someone introduces a bill to legalize the lottery, and every year that proposal is easily shot down. In a state that does not even permit a lottery, actual sports betting remains a long shot.
A statement made by Rep. Mac McCutheon in early 2018 sets the stage in describing how far away Alabama is from sports betting (emphasis mine):
“It goes deeper than just a religious belief of gambling one way or the other. It goes into the bingo machines, the counties that have local legislation that allow those to be there. The dog track issue. All of this plays in. It’s more complicated than taking a simple vote on the lottery. I would like to see us get back to a lottery issue first, before we muddy the water if you will with all these other things out there.”
Although McCutcheon was addressing the lottery issue in particular, it goes to show that sports betting has a long road ahead of it if they are having that much trouble legalizing the lottery without even getting into other forms of gaming.
On the other hand, a report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC naming the 32 states most likely to legalize sports betting within 7 years included Alabama. Alabama was placed near the bottom of the list, but at least it was on the list. Until major changes are made to Alabama gambling law, sports betting will remain prohibited.
After the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the federal prohibition is unconstitutional, Attorney General Steve Marshall said this:
“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is not about whether sports gambling should be legal, but whether States should have the right to decide that question for themselves. In Alabama, sports gambling is already against the law and the Court ruling does not alter that fact.”
Alabama did make some progress in 2019 by legalizing daily fantasy sports contests. Although daily fantasy is a far cry from full-on sports betting, even that much is a step in that direction. As people grow more comfortable with the idea of intertwining gaming with real-world sports, the likelihood of legalizing sports betting increases.
Daily Fantasy Sports are Legal in Alabama
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are legal in Alabama thanks to a law passed in 2019 that instituted a licensing regime, regulations and 10.5% tax on operators.
Fantasy sites must now register with the Office of the Attorney General and adhere to a basic set of regulations such as enforcing a minimum age of 19 to play, preventing athletes from participating in contests based on sports in which they play and allowing customers to request self-exclusion.
The passage of HB 361 in May 2019 ended a multi-year drought for daily fantasy in Alabama dating back to 2016.
Prior to 2016, the major fantasy sites operated openly in Alabama as one of the few forms of legal online gaming available in the state. That changed in 2016 after Attorney General Luther Strange issued an opinion that DFS contests constitute illegal gambling under state law. He then sent cease-and-desist letters to FanDuel and DraftKings.
The AG’s decision to send fantasy sites packing came as a surprise because the Alabama Supreme Court had previously ruled that fantasy sports are legal because they are based on skill. The decision issued in that case said fantasy sports are no different than trying to win a stuffed animal in one of those crane machines you might find at the local fair. That ruling kept the industry afloat until AG Strange stepped in and decided otherwise.
The AG opinion was annoying for daily fantasy players, but it did align with state law. Alabama has always had tough gambling laws. In any case, that’s all in the past as DFS operators now have legal footing to offer their wares to Alabamans 19 and older.
Alabama Horse Racing Betting Sites
Two racetracks exist in Alabama but both are restricted to greyhound racing. Live horse races last ran at the Birmingham Race Course in 1995. There was a push to bring horse races back to Birmingham in 2011 but nothing has come of that development since. Both courses now hosts greyhound races year-round in addition to simulcast events and wagering on races that take place in other states.
Online racing betting is legal in Alabama and represents a great option for anyone not near a track. All the largest racing websites simulcast live events on your computer and accept all the same wagers that you could place if you were at the actual course. Whenever you bet at a licensed racing site, your wager is comingled with the track’s betting pool and your winning bets are paid at full track odds.
There are currently three major horse and greyhound racing sites that operate in Alabama:
1. BetAmerica.com accepts customers from Alabama
BetAmerica offers both greyhound and horse racing betting. The website is easy to use and includes a variety of handicapping tools that can be used to assist in researching wagers and making smart wagers. BetAmerica is headquartered in the USA and covers more than 200 tracks around the world.
TwinSpires is owned by Churchill Downs and is a respected name in the racing industry. This site also simulcasts live events hosted around the world. Fans of horse racing in Alabama that sign up for an account and place at least $500 worth of wagers in your first 30 days as a member, they’ll give you a $100 bonus.
Internet Poker and Online Gambling in Alabama
Alabama gambling law is strict and won’t be changing any time soon. I do believe online poker and casinos are inevitable across the nation, but it’s going to happen sooner in some states than others. Alabama definitely isn’t on the cutting edge when it comes to internet gaming.
There are several laws in the Code of Alabama that pertain to gambling. First of all, all gambling contracts are considered void and unenforceable in the state. Section 8-1-150 states:
(a) All contracts founded in whole or in part on a gambling consideration are void. Any person who has paid any money or delivered any thing of value lost upon any game or wager may recover such money, thing, or its value by an action commenced within six months from the time of such payment or delivery.
(b) Any other person may also recover the amount of such money, thing, or its value by an action commenced within 12 months after the payment or delivery thereof for the use of the wife or, if no wife, the children or, if no children, the next of kin of the loser.
This alone effectively nullifies the gambling industry in the state. Even aside from the criminal aspect of operating a casino, no business could ever enforce gambling debts or expect to be paid. In fact, people can bring action against operators to recover all losses.
Section 13A-12-20 of the Criminal Code explains the state’s definition of gambling and what it means to “advance” gambling activity. Gambling is defined with the following text:
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.
People who participate in gambling are subject to a Class C misdemeanor which is punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of $500 or double the amount lost by the “victim.” This law could easily be applied to online gambling but it has never been enforced on that front.
It’s probably a low-risk activity to play online poker in Alabama or gamble at online casino sites. State authorities have so far displayed no appetite for chasing down those in Alabama that do bet online. What would get you in trouble would be to start your own online casino or poker site. In that case, the state would most likely find and prosecute you.
In summary, Alabama’s betting laws are effective at deterring the business of gambling but are mostly ineffective at preventing people from placing bets.
The state has no plans to amend the laws so it will most likely be a few years before there is any real progress in that regard. As always, the safest bet for players is to stick with the forms of gambling that are 100% legal in the state, all of which are listed on this page.