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Time may be running out for Alabama gambling proposal

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Gambling legislation remains stalled in the Alabama Senate with members expressing doubt that it will get another vote in the closing hours of the legislative session.

The session ends soon and supporters have been unable to break a stalemate in the state Senate after the measure initially failed by one vote last week. Supporters had hoped to get the bill back for another vote but said that seems increasingly unlikely to happen as the session winds down.

"I think it's dead, probably," Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said. Singleton was a member of the conference committee that had worked on the legislation. "They don't have the appetite for bringing it up. Can't get anybody to talk about it," he said.

Republican House member Chris Blackshear, the bill sponsor, said it looks like it would take a "miracle of Biblical proportion" to get the bill taken up in the Senate.

"I just hope the senators that voted no and couldn't get on board take time to drive around the state and see for themselves, the problems we have in all 67 counties," Blackshear said Wednesday.

The stalled conference committee proposal would authorize a state lottery and allow "electronic games of chance" including slot machines and video poker, but not table games, at seven locations. The Alabama House of Representatives voted 72-29 for the conference committee proposal, exceeding the 63 votes required to win approval in the 105-member chamber. The measure failed by one vote in the Senate, where 21 votes were required.

Republican Senator Garlan Gudger, a member of the conference committee, said Tuesday evening that the outlook is increasingly "gloomy."

"I don't think it's coming back up," Gudger said.

However, Republican House member Andy Whitt, who led a group of legislators who worked on the legislation, said he remains optimistic.

"I always remain hopeful until the last day," Whitt said. "It's up to the Senate."

The conference committee proposed the compromise after the House and Senate approved different versions of the bill. The sweeping House-passed plan would have allowed a lottery, sports betting and up to 10 casinos in the state. The state Senate scaled back that proposal.

Supporters were aiming for the first public vote on gambling in 25 years. Voters in 1999 rejected a lottery proposed by then-Governor Don Siegelman.

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