MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The House Tourism and Travel Committee this morning approved a bill to legalize video bingo on a voice vote, making no changes to the legislation.
Senate Bill 380, which has already passed the Senate, is slated for debate before the full House on Wednesday, according to Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, who is handling the bill in the House.
It will need a super majority -- at least 63 votes from the 105-member House -- to pass the Legislature and be put on a statewide referendum for final approval later this year.
"Let the people vote. Let them decide the issue," said Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, the bill's sponsor.
Federal officials told top lawmakers in recent weeks that they are investigating lobbying activities related to passage of the gambling bill through the Senate. Both supporters and opponents of SB 380 have said that the investigation could hurt the bill's chance of passing.
"It is a corrupt bill. It was made in the back room," said Bryan Taylor, policy director for Republican Gov. Bob Riley, a staunch gambling opponent. Taylor added that he believes there are not enough votes to pass the bill.
Most representatives contacted by the Press-Register in recent days have also said they think the bill doesn't have enough votes to pass the full House and could be between six and 10 votes short.
Several similar gambling bills have been introduced this session, but SB 380 is the only one to pass either the full Senate or full House. Unlike some earlier bills, it does not specify how many sites in Alabama can host video bingo machines and leaves many of the details of gambling restrictions to be decided by lawmakers later.
Some Republicans who currently oppose the bill said they could vote for it if restrictions were added, but Bedford has said he doesn't plan to change the legislation.
"I think the bill is well written as it is," Bedford said.
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