Among US states, Alabama’s gambling laws are among the strictest. The state begrudgingly allows tribal casinos, because the 1988 Indiana Gaming Regulatory Act requires states to allow casinos for federally-recognized Native American tribes. A former Alabama Attorney General successfully campaigned to stop pari-mutuel dog tracks from turning their venues into slots casinos (racinos). Those venues now work as OTBs.

Alabama bans most other forms of gambling: sports betting, daily fantasy sports, online gambling, and even lottery betting. If you play at charitable bingo halls, you can gamble on bingo in some counties. Other AL counties have fought to shut down charitable bingo halls.

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Alabama Gambling Laws

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Alabama Land-Based Casinos

Alabama has 3 land-based tribal casinos. These are the Wind Creek Casinos — one each found in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians own all three Wind Creek Casinos. You might know the Poarch Band from its casinos in Mississippi and Pennsylvania, including the Wind Creek Bethlehem (formerly the Sands Bethlehem) in Pennsylvania.

A few years ago, several commercial race tracks opened slots parlors on the grounds: VictoryLand, Mobile Greyhound Park, and Birmingham Racecourse. From 2010 to 2012, the race tracks were involved in court battles with the State of Alabama over legality.

This led to the early 2013 raids on the slot casinos, mounted by former Alabama AG Luther Strange. Strange confiscated hundreds of slot machines from the race tracks, who sued him for possession of the gaming machines. Eventually, Judge William Shashy ruled that the Alabama AG must return the gaming machines, but Luther Strange defied the order.

In 2017, Gov. Bentley chose Luther Strange to serve out the remaining time on Jeff Sessions’ term as Alabama Senator. The next year, Milton McGregor of VictoryLand died suddenly. McGregor’s successors dropped the case and reopened VictoryLand as an OTB and charitable bingo hall.

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Alabama Legal Betting Tracks

Birmingham Racecourse, Mobile Greyhound Park, and VictoryLand all three once operators as dog tracks with pari-mutuel betting. These days, all three operate as off-track betting facilities with simulcasting.

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Alabama Off-Track Betting

Birmingham Racecourse, Mobile Greyhound Park, and VictoryLand act as OTBs at this point. Also, Greenetrack in Eutaw acts as an OTB. All four simulcast races from over 200 race tracks across the United States.

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Alabama Charitable Gambling

Alabama has legal charitable gambling in select counties across the state. Individual counties have the right to license bingo gaming — an authority passed in 1980.

Amendment 743 gave the specific right for bingo gaming in Greene County, while Amendment 744 gave the right to Macon County to oversee charitable bingo.

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Alabama Social Gaming

Alabama doesn’t specifically ban social gaming sites like Zynga Poker, Zynga Slots, Slotomania, Double Down Casino, and Big Fish Gaming. At the same time, Alabama is particularly strict on gaming enforcement, so Alabama players are not encouraged to play at social gaming websites.

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Alabama Home Poker Games

Social gambling among friends at a private residence isn’t safe. Poker games held in a private home have been raided by Alabama law enforcement.

Most US states allow private citizens to host home poker games, if the organizer doesn’t collect a rake. Again, in most states, if the organizer collects a rake, then it’s considered gambling-for-profit and illegal.

In Alabama, though, even private poker games with no rake taken are considered illegal. Enforcement likely depends on local authorities, but a precedent has been set. We recommend that you avoid playing poker for real money in Alabama, even in the privacy of your own home.

Alabama Gambling Law Timeline: A History of Alabama Gambling

Many of the statutes that govern Alabama gambling laws were written in 1901. Naturally, many Alabama gambling statutes sound like they were written by a Victorian era author.

  • November 28, 1901: Alabama Constitution Goes Into Effect

    Alabama Constitution

    On November 21, 1901, Alabama ratified a new state constitution. It went into effect on November 28 and remains in effect until this day. The 1901 constitution is the 6th in Alabama’s history — and by far the largest (44x the size of the US Constitution).

    Most of Alabama’s gambling statutes came about through the 1901 Constitution. Only a few changes have occurred since.

  • October 13, 1999: Alabama Voters Reject State Lottery

    Colorado State Lottery

    The people of Alabama voted down a proposed state lottery in October 1999. With 96% of the votes reported, 54% voted against the lottery and 46% voted in favor. Gov. Donald Siegelman (D) vowed that the lottery would generate $150 million a year for college scholarships, a prekindergarten program, and computers in school.

    After the defeat, Alabama lawmakers did not propose a state lottery for more than a decade.

  • 2016: Alabama Senate Approves Lottery Vote

    Alabama Lottery Vote

    The Alabama Senate approved a statewide lottery referendum by a 21-12 margin. Two Alabama senators were not present for the vote. Later in 2016, the Alabama House of Representatives failed to pass the bill, so the lottery initiative died in the Alabama House.

  • April 8, 2021: Alabama Senate Debates Lottery Bill

    Alabama Senate

    The Alabama Senate debated whether to vote on a 2021 lottery bill. After the debate, Alabama Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), the bill’s sponsor, decided to postpone the vote. Sen. McClendon said the vote was “cutting it too close” and he wanted to postpone until a time that he knew the bill would pass.

  • Alabama Constitution: Section 13A-12-20

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    Alabama residents engage “in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence.”

    That’s a broad definition of gambling. Essentially, if it’s a game of chance, you can’t bet on it. Alabama doesn’t define a game of skill as something that has elements of chance, so poker, daily fantasy sports, and other skill-based gaming types are still considered illegal gambling.

  • Alabama Bans Simple Gambling

    Online Poker Bill 2016

    Alabama defines “the crime of simple gambling” as someone who “knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player.”

    Simple gambling is defined as a Class C misdemeanor. Also, if people support a gambling operation in any ways, they are treated like organizers. This suggests that players at a land-based poker game might be charged with a misdemeanor. If you serve drinks at such a game, you might be charged.

  • Amendment 743: Bingo Games in Greene County

    Bingo Hall Raids

    Definition of Nonprofit Organizations: “A bona fide religious, education, civic, senior citizens’, fraternal, or veterans’ organization which operates without profit to its members” can be accredited as a nonprofit charitable organization.

    Furthermore, the organization must have “been in existence continuously as such an organization for a period of three years or (be) exempt from taxation by virtue of having been classified as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization by the Internal Revenue Service.”

    Alabama allows nonprofit organizations to host charitable gambling, but has a specific definition of “nonprofit” that the organization must fulfill. If the IRS views an Alabama charitable organization as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization for 3 years, then it can host charitable gambling in Alabama. Volunteer fire departments and rescue squads qualify.

  • Amendment 744: Bingo Games in Macon County

    Mass Produced Bingo Games

    Like Greene County, Macon County organizations receive special dispensation to host bingo games. The law states:

    “The operation of bingo games for prizes or money by nonprofit organizations for charitable, educational, or other lawful purposes shall be legal in Macon County. The sheriff shall promulgate rules and regulations for the licensing and operation of bingo games within the county.”

    Amendment 744 goes on to say that the sheriff is in charge of compliance, while a person must be 19 or older to gamble on bingo. Like the Greene County amendment, an organization must have been in existence for three years before it can receive a license.