Alabama's Resistance to Gambling is Fading, Say Experts
The political influence of evangelical Christians is fading in Alabama, say, experts, which could lead to new legal forms of gambling. For decades, evangelical Christians have successfully blocked efforts to add commercial casinos, table games, or a lottery in the state.
Attitudes towards gambling are changing. No longer the moral issue it once was, gaming is increasingly part of conversations about how to increase tax revenue without raising taxes.
The most notable change in state attitudes towards gambling was apparent on Tuesday when the nominees for governor of both major parties expressed an interest in establishing a state lottery.
Alabama does allow some forms of gambling, but it is constrained. The state has bingo, horse and dog racing, and tribal casinos which are more aptly called slots parlors because they lack table games and poker.
Back in 1999, Alabama Governor Don Siegelman proposed a state lottery, but the evangelicals rose up in opposition. Voters were swayed and turned down the ballot proposal. Siegelman thinks attitudes have changed significantly since his failed attempt at legalizing the lottery. He believes a similar effort could be successful this year.
Although Alabama is still very cinched in with the rest of the Bible Belt, politicians in the state say they see a creeping secularization throughout the state. Lobbyists for state churches say they have lost the Republicans – the one side they could count on to oppose gambling, in recent years.
New Christain leaders in the state are also taking a different direction. They say people have heard enough about what Christians should be against and not enough of what they should be in favor of.