- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A push for casino gambling in Alabama has lost its highest profile champion in the Alabama Legislature.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says he won’t sponsor casino legislation in the upcoming session as he had originally planned. Marsh said he doesn’t believe the votes were there to pass the bill.

“I thought the appetite was there, but I just don’t see it. I think it is something we should have looked at but they chose not to so we’ll move on,” Marsh, R-Anniston, said.

The Republican Senate leader said he hoped that lawmakers would consider casinos because of the potential revenue for the state.

Marsh in the 2015 session sponsored legislation that would hold a public vote on the idea of creating a state lottery and Las Vegas-style casinos at four existing state dog tracks. The proposal cleared committee, but never got a floor vote because of opposition from lawmakers opposed to legalized gambling.

The battle was expected to begin anew in the 2016 session that begins in February.

However, Marsh’s decision to back away from the casino push leaves the proposal without its most prominent champion.

Chip Hill, executive director of the Alabama Jobs Foundation - an organization that was backing the combined lottery and casino - said there will be decisions at the first of the year, “about the future of this proposal, its sponsor, and our role.”

“The Alabama Jobs Foundation continues to believe that the Senator Marsh’s plan, regardless of who sponsors it, remains the only viable option for providing sustainable long term revenue for the state,” Hill said in a statement.

Budget projections are “dismal,” Hill said, and yet the Legislature seems “content” to leave $400 million in yearly revenue and 11,000 jobs on the table.

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