Throughout the last century, Alabama has been the inspiration for books, poems, songs and even movies. This agricultural state is affectionately known as ‘Heart of Dixie’, the ‘Cotton State’ and ‘Yellowhammer State’ and is flanked by other southern states: Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. Drenched in history, it’s a sweet home to a population of over 4 million inhabitants, driving an economy via a range of interests, including finance, automotive, retail, mineral extraction and aerospace. And while it might not make it to the top of the list for tourist activities, its natural beauty, warm climate and welcoming locals, certainly make it worth a visit. But can inhabitants and visitors alike enjoy any form of gambling in the state of Alabama? We explore how the state’s gambling legislation affects the operations of bricks and mortar casinos, mobile social casinos, social casino apps, Facebook casinos, free play online casinos as well as alternative gambling activities.
Alabama’s Gambling Laws
The state’s gambling laws are viewed by many as archaic and not in line with international developments. Illegal gambling within Alabama also carries some of the harshest penalties in the whole of the United States of America. For example, under state law, you are not allowed to take part in any form of social gambling. Should you be found guilty, you could be found guilty of a Class C Misdemeanour. The penalty? Up to three months in jail and a fine of $500 for each charge – the same punishment you’d get for stalking and harassment. Also, if found in possession of a gambling device, you could face a prison sentence of up to ten years along with a $15,000 fine per device, plus your gun ownership and voting rights revoked. Lawyers have speculated in blogs that virtual chips and online software could be seen as a gambling device of sorts, but this remains to be seen. So far, no such charge has been laid.
The question remains… what exactly constitutes gambling in this southern state? And do the rules that apply for the state override that of municipal and county laws? Do the same laws apply to real money online gambling destinations and fun play online casinos as with land-based casinos? And does it matter what games or sports are being gambled on? It seems that there are some grey areas where answers are concerned, as is the case in many other American states. If you plan to gamble in Alabama, you should keep the following facts in mind.
County vs State Gambling Laws
The state’s constitution defines illegal gambling in section 13A-12-20, deeming all types of wagering in Alabama illegal. However, the state allows four gambling facilities to host e-bingo along with three operational Native American ‘casinos’ within state lines with restricted game access. Plus, thanks to a few municipal and county laws allowing certain bet types, patrons can place wagers on bingo games, pull-tabs, horseracing, dog racing and slot machines. This of course, takes place in defiance of the state laws, that haven’t changed since the 19th century. A total of seven cities throughout Alabama have followed this path of action, without any legal recourse.
Legal vs Illegal Gambling Activities
Alabama’s legislation makes certain gambling practices legal, while others are a definite no-no. Laws around online practices still remain unclear though:
- Land-based casinos. Bingo games and limited class 2 slots are allowed at tribal casinos but no table games are allowed.
- Online casinos. There is no gambling law in Alabama that specifically states that using the Internet for gambling activities is considered illegal. Prosecutors however could put a spin on the law pertaining to gambling devices, to include PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones as it gives you access to sportsbooks, online casinos and mobile social casinos.
- Live poker. Seen in the same light as table games, it is not legal in Alabama. Social games between friends however, where nobody takes a profit or rake, are accepted.
- Online poker. While there is no law specifically banning online poker, it can be seen as a game of chance and that is considered gambling by the state.
- Lotteries. Alabama doesn’t offer a state lottery.
- Bingo. Bingo games can be played at Native American Casinos, though electronic bingo machines are still a legal battlefield. Plus, under the state’s charitable gambling laws, raffle games and bingo qualify as legal.
- Sports betting. Alabama does allow its residents to partake in betting on greyhound racing and horseracing as it was exempted as a game of skill in 1971.
Online Gambling Options in Alabama
With no clear online gambling legislation in place, residents from Alabama continue to sign up and place bets at a number of online casinos, operating from offshore destinations. While nothing is cut in stone by state legislators yet, players can continue to make deposits and withdrawals – keeping in mind that legislation could change the legal status of their online acitivities overnight. Recommended online gambling sites for players from Alabama include Bovada Casino, BetOnline and Slots.lv Online Casino. If purely looking for the gambling experience without the financial perks, players can also search for free play online casinos, offering free fun online slots. Since there’s no money involved, it can’t be deemed illegal.
Alabama’s Casino Regulatory Body
Since online gaming is neither legal, nor proven to be illegal yet, there is no licencing authority to control and keep tabs on the industry. The Alabama Department of Revenue however acts as the casino regulatory body for the state where its legal casino practices are concerned – these include the aforementioned Native American establishments.
Tips for US Players in Alabama
If you wish to take part in any gambling practices in Alabama, ensure you follow these basic guidelines:
- Make sure you are of legal age – 18 at the tribal venues and 19 at the animal race betting tracks.
- Only play at online gambling destinations that operate from offshore sites.
- Make sure these sites are trustworthy to safeguard your bankroll.
- Find out if other players from Alabama are playing at this site.
- Free play online casinos would be a safe bet as they carry no legal implications.
The safest form of gambling in Alabama would of course be to stick to activities that have been legalised.