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Bible Belt Opening Up to Gambling

20 October 2003

ALABAMA – As reported by the Sun Herald: "One of the biggest stories in the South over the past 13 years is the transformation of the conservative Bible Belt into a hotbed of legalized gambling.

"Mississippi and Louisiana opened dockside and land-based casinos. Lotteries sprang up in Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina and Louisiana, joining Florida, which established its lottery in 1986.

"Alabama remains the lone holdout for state-regulated gambling, although the state does have Indian casinos and wagering at dog tracks. Plans for a state lottery were defeated in 1999 and some political observers blamed the lottery push for causing Gov. Don Siegelman to fail in his re-election bid last year.

"With the recent defeat of a $1.2 billion tax plan pushed by Gov. Bob Riley and a looming deficit of more than $500 million, some legislators say it's time for Alabama to pass a gambling bill.

"…But Natalie Davis, a political science professor at Birmingham-Southern College, said it will be difficult for gambling legislation to pick up widespread public support.

"`There's something of a culture war going on here,' Davis said. `Those who have fundamentalist Christian views are not going to come close to supporting gambling.'

"Race also plays a factor. Davis said there is a good deal of support for casino gambling in the Black Caucus, while most of the strongest gambling opponents are white.

"…Sen. Larry Dixon, a Republican from Montgomery, said he expects gambling legislation to take up an inappropriate amount of time in the Legislature.

"…Dixon had been an opponent of gambling but now that the Creek Indians have two video gambling halls in his district, his stance has changed…"

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