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Debate over Gambling Issue Continues to Intensify in Alabama

Dec 20, 2011
Alabama Gambling USA

After Gov. Riley’s anti-gambling task force was deterred from action by a judge’s order in Alabama recently, the debate over gambling and its legality has escalated rapidly. The subject has the potential to split the states vote, and a scandalous resignation has fueled the fire.

WTVM 9: AL task force commander quits after gambling win

The commander of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s task force on illegal gambling has resigned due to a recent, $2,300 win at a brick-and-mortar casino in Mississippi. David Barber, the commander, resigned on behalf of his actions potential to be a “political distraction” for the task force.

The commander submitted a formal resignation in a letter to the governor on Friday. In the letter, Barber explained that he gambled at a casino in Mississippi and legally won the money in a game.

Both Riley and Barber, the former district attorney in Jefferson County, claim that the electronic bingo machines used in a new facility operated in Alabama are, in fact, slot machines, which are currently illegal in Alabama.

Barber’s resignation arrived on the same day that the Alabama Supreme Court lifted a judge’s order which had blocked the task force from raiding electronic bingo operations at Country Crossing in Dothan.

CBS 42: Jackpot! Gambling Task Force Commander Resigns

Bob Riley’s Commander of the Illegal Gambling Task Force, David Barber, struck a generous jackpot of $2300 on recent trip to Mississippi. Trying to remove himself from the politics circling around the issue, David Barber resigned from his position. Here are a few excerpts from the Commanders resignation and the Governors reply:

Commander David Barber
I hereby resign as Commander of your Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

While I remain committed to the Task Force’s goals, I have concluded that my continued participation will become a political distraction from the Task Force’s important work. On a recent visit to Mississippi, I visited a legal casino and won a $2,300 prize playing a legal game. While my actions were in full compliance with the law, I am convinced that the forces that operate illegal casinos in Alabama will focus on my actions as part of their continuing effort to smear you and your Task Force.

Governor Riley
With regret I accept your resignation as Commander of the Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

I want to commend you for your service to the State of Alabama as the Task Force’s leader. Adherence to the rule of law is the cornerstone of the free and fair society that we enjoy in our state and nation. Thank you for being willing to take a stand in support of that most fundamental principal.

WSFA 12 (NBC): Congressman Bright weighs in on gambling debate

Without a doubt, gambling is the hottest topic in Alabama. According to 2nd District Congressman, Bobby Bright, “This shouldn’t be an issue that divides our state.” Regardless, this is one such issue. The definition of gambling legality is creating tension between the state’s residents and leaders.

Congressman Bright thinks there’s a more suitable solution to the issue than ridding the state of electronic bingo machines according to the wishes of Gov. Riley.

“What we could all do is agree on a referendum and let the people decide. That way it eliminates the Governor having to go down into a community and raid and make it look like he’s fighting the local leadership.”

Should the situation lead to a referendum, there must be boundaries.

“It would need to be regulated. A commission should be set up and private individuals should not be profiting from the proceeds of a gambling initiative if it passed,” he adds.

While the congressman doesn’t agree with gambling, he knows the decision isn’t his to make.

“I also am a public servant speaking for my constituents. And whatever they choose to do, however they choose to live their life in their communities, I will honor that.”

Bright hopes that if a referendum were passed, education would be the recipient of the industry’s revenue.

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$87.5 Million Casino Raid Halted by Judge in the Middle of the Night

Dec 17, 2011
Gambling in Alabama, USA

The controversial issue of casino gambling in Alabama came to a peak when the state’s governor, Bob Riley, ordered a raid on a new $87.5 million casino in the middle of the night and the action was halted in its tracks by a judges blocking order.

LA Times: Judge halts state raid of $87M bingo casino in latest round of Alabama’s fight over gambling

Near 40 Alabama state troopers gathered before sunrise, Wednesday, for a Gov. Bob Riley approved raid. The target: bingo machines at a new, allegedly illegal, $87 million casino near Dothan.

Local officials moved quickly to defend the targeted site, going to a judge’s home after midnight to get an order blocking the raid. The order was given to police before they could seize the 1,700 electronic bingo machines at Country Crossing.

County Commissioner Mark Culver denounced the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling’s attempt to shut down the bingo and entertainment complex, which created 1,300 jobs in the struggling community.

Bill Eadington, a University of Nevada at Reno gambling expert, said Alabama casino investors relied on questionable laws to build, but casinos are hard to close when restaurants and hotels, that produce lots of jobs, are added.

ABC News: Judge Halts State Raid of Big Alabama Bingo Center

A rural Alabama county hungry for economic development staved off a state raid on a new bingo and entertainment center despite Bob Riley’s wishes to close it. The county won a middle-of-the-night court order barring the raid as agents from the governor’s anti-gambling task force massed near Country Crossing, an $87 million complex near Dothan.

Houston County Commissioner Mark Culver got the order from a judge’s home at 1:30 a.m. delivered it to the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling assembling for a pre-dawn raid. He was trying to save 1,300 jobs in a county with 8.7 percent unemployment.

The Houston County Commission approved the construction of Country Crossing in 2008 and created a method for it to issue up to $70 million in bonds for construction. Country Crossing sought to stop the raid, claiming it would harm the bond issue that’s supposed to be paid off with bingo revenue.

Alabama gambling centers have been expanding with restaurants and other attractions and portraying themselves as economic development projects providing needed jobs in a recession.

AP News: Midnight order halts Ala. raid of $87M casino

A Gov. Riley approved raid on bingo machines at a new, $87 million casino by himself was stopped before dawn on Wednesday by judge’s order blocking it. Houston County Commissioner Mark Culver secured the judge’s approval and signature.

It was a blow for the governor in Alabama’s odd, ongoing struggle for control over the state’s mushrooming gambling industry. Culver said, “We are going to do everything we can to protect the jobs of the people of Houston County,” in reference to the incident. The governor claims the machines are illegal and simply an attempt to compete with Mississippi’s coastal casinos.

Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin agreed that seizing the machines “would do irreparable harm” to the bond transaction and blocked any raid pending a court hearing Jan. 20.

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Gubernatorial Heat: Gambling a Pivotal Issue in Alabama Elections

Apr 28, 2010
Alabama Elections

Elections are a necessary part of democratic politics and mean changes that reflect on the wishes of those who are governed. In the great state of Alabama, the upcoming elections may be decided based on whether or not residents would like the controversial gambling industry to be legalized.

ABC News: Political Minute : April 27th

The two Democrats vying for a spot in November’s gubernatorial election are giving voters more information on some hot button issues.

One of the main issues of the election is gambling. At his news conference, Sparks said that as governor, he’d immediately call a special session of the legislature. He’d propose a constitutional amendment to tax, regulate and expand gambling. Davis said he’d prefer to let the people vote on the issue, instead of law-makers.

NBC News: Davis, Sparks show differences for Alabama governor

Democratic candidates for Alabama governor, Artur Davis and Ron Sparks, are drawing sharp differences on the issues of gambling and Alabama’s constitution.

At news conferences Tuesday in Montgomery, Davis said he’s the only candidate in the governor’s race who favors a constitutional convention to rewrite Alabama’s 1901 Constitution. Sparks says he favors doing it article by article in the Legislature.

Sparks says that if elected, he will call a special session immediately after the inauguration to get the Legislature to propose a constitutional amendment to tax, regulate and expand gambling. Davis says he favors a straight up or down referendum on whether voters want electronic bingo.

Al.com: Gambling, constitutional reform divide Artur Davis, Ron Sparks

The Democratic candidates for governor in Alabama, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, have sharp differences for voters to examine about gambling and Alabama’s constitution.

At news conferences Tuesday in the Capitol complex, Davis said he favors a constitutional convention to rewrite Alabama’s 1901 constitution. If elected, he’d form a commission to recommend ways the Legislature should rewrite the constitution article by article.

Sparks said that if elected, he would immediately get started on legislation to tax, regulate and expand gambling in Alabama. Sparks said he’s open to a referendum either on electronic bingo or on full-fledged casinos like those that can be found in Mississippi.

Davis said he would support the Legislature approving a straight up or down referendum on whether Alabama voters want electronic bingo. He favors a proposed constitutional amendment that would not ensure electronic bingo casinos for anyone if it passes.

Alabama has several electronic bingo casinos now, with some operating and some closed. The Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling is trying to shut them all.

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Bingo Bill Makes Headway in the Alabama State Senate

Mar 31, 2010
Alabama Bingo

After months of both debate and action with accents of public discontent, a bill regarding the current bingo situation has finally made a bit of headway in the Alabama legislative system. The bill was passed, by the skin of its teeth in the state Senate on Tuesday.

Andalusia State-News: Bingo narrowly passes Senate

Late yesterday, the Alabama Senate passed a bingo bill with a vote of 21-13. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, and would allow Alabama residents to decide if they want to tax and regulate electronic bingo in November.

This bill would create a gaming commission and tax gambling in the state by at least 25%. Bedford said that this rate is already 3 times higher than in New Jersey and Nevada, but could be increased.

The 5 members of the gaming commission couldn’t work for gambling interests for 5 years before or after serving on the commission; and gambling interests couldn’t contribute to the campaigns of the elected officials who appoint commission members. The commission would have subpoena power and would be subject to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

If the Legislature and voters approve the bill, lawmakers will have a special session next year and determine more of the details. The measure must also pass the Alabama House of Representatives.

CBS News: Senate Approves Bingo Bill

A once thought dead bingo bill has new life in what the bill’s author calls a shorter, simpler form. In a surprise move on Tuesday, Senate Bill 330 was re-introduced by Senator Roger Bedford. Senate Republicans tried to defeat the measure but failed and it passed with 21 votes to 13.

The bill now needs to be passed in the state House. There are still 3 weeks left in the session, and bingo supporters say they’ll have plenty of time to get it passed so Alabama residents will get the chance to vote on it in November.

The Associated Press: Alabama Senate Passes Electronic Bingo Bill

Alabama voters may get to vote in referendum on whether they want electronic gaming in the state after the senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday night.

The senate mustered 21 votes, just enough to pass the bill, which protects games from raids, at the same time as taxing and regulating them. Before this bill is subjected to referendum, it must be passed in the state’s House of Representatives.

In the meantime, the Alabama Supreme Court has left a judge’s order in place which blocks the Governor’s Anti-Gambling Task Force from raiding VictoryLand in Macon County.

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Alabama’s Bingo Battle Verging on All-Out War

Mar 24, 2010
Bingo Peace

Alabama state governor Bob Riley has become famous for his Task Force on Illegal Gambling, which he sends around to raid what he calls “illegal” electronic bingo halls. In a surprising move, Attorney General Troy King has just taken control of the task force, insisting that the raids stop until the legal status of the bingo machines is determined by the courts. The state of Alabama has already paid half a million dollars in legal fees supporting the Task Force in the 18 lawsuits that have been filed against it. Task Force Commander John Tyson, says King does not have the authority to take over or stop raids.

Bloomberg Business Week: Alabama AG to take over antigambling task force

Two casinos in the US state of Alabama intend to reopen next week after Attorney General Troy King announced that he is taking over the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling, King intends to put an end to the ongoing raids of electronic bingo casinos until a final court ruling regarding the legality of machines.

The two casinos, Country Crossing at Dothan and White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County, both closed down a month ago to avoid being raided by the governor’s task force.

The legal battle over electronic bingo in Alabama’s boils down to a simple disagreement. Alabama Governor Bob Riley and Task Force Commander Tyson argue that electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines, while King insists that the final determination must be made by the court.

King intends to use his authority as Alabama’s top law officer to take control, remove Tyson from power, and secure all evidence collected by the Task Force. King will also put an end to the pre-dawn raids of casinos that the Task Force has been conducting – without search warrants.

Task Force Commander Tyson, who is also a district attorney in Mobile, says King does not have the authority to take over or stop raids.

“If the attorney general gets his way, then the only thing that will be assured is that the illegal slot machines casinos will get to stay open for months and months as the gambling bosses drag out the litigation that the attorney general says he is going to bring,” Tyson said.

Fox News Alabama: Tyson Fires Back at Troy King over Gambling

John Tyson said yesterday that he has no intentions of stepping down from his position as the Commander of Alabama Governor Riley’s anti-gambling task force.

Tyson he argues that the issue is greater than just a battle against illegal gambling, noting that casinos have a tendency to breed corruption.

“I fought corruption because it’s the right thing to do and yeah, I’ve taken some heat for it,” Tyson said. “Governor Riley and I talked about the price of fighting corruption. We both agree, it’s worth the heat.”

Tyson also said he would comply with King’s demands turn over the evidence the Task Force has collected.

When asked if he intends to execute raids on any casinos that dare to re-open in light of King’s announcement, Tyson replied: “The Governor of the state of Alabama as recently as this morning again says ‘John, you’re the commander of the task force on illegal gambling, go get ’em, ‘. I will see to it to see that the laws of the state are enforced. I will not disclose how we might choose to do that.”

Mongomery Advisor: Several lawsuits have been filed against the task force

The state of Alabama has paid $536,115 in legal expenses since December 2008 to support Governor Bob Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

The state has also has seized about $1.3 million during raids on electronic bingo parlors. After each of the raids or in to stop anticipated raids, organizations have filed lawsuits against the Task Force, its Commander John Tyson., Governor Riley, and other officials.

According to the Governor’s office, the Task Force is currently involved in 18 lawsuits related to gambling. The court battles involve operators trying to get back gambling machines and monies seized during the raids. Some lawsuits even involve attempts by bingo establishments to file restraining orders against the Task Force to prevent future raids.

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Debate of Gambling in Alabama Continues to Escalate

Feb 24, 2010
Alabama bingo

Governor Bob Riley of Alabama continues to go on an escapade claiming that Bingo machines in a new local entertainment center are actually illegal slot machines. Rallies are being held over the issue and in a recent rally against the facility, Riley was drowned out by cries of “Let us Vote.”

Bloomberg Business Week: Bingo proponents drown out Ala. governor at rally

Gov. Bob Riley attempted to address casino opponents gathered in front of Alabama’s Statehouse, Monday, but was drowned out by the shouts of casino supporters. Shouts of “Let us vote” made hearing Riley say electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines difficult.

Inside the Statehouse, proponents of pro-electronic bingo casino legislation decided not to seek a vote in the Senate. They didn’t have the required 21 out of the 35 senators’ votes. If passed by the Senate, legislation won’t take effect unless approved by the House and then by Alabama voters in a statewide referendum.

The legislation would tax, regulate and protect 3 facilities that were shut down under the threat of raids by the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. It would also allow 2 dog tracks, additional casinos and 4 new casinos.

More than 1,000 people overflowed the Statehouse lawn and spilled over onto the Capitol lawn during the Governors speech. Riley and his wife were surrounded by a dozen uniformed and plainclothes officers as they tried to speak over the shouting of casino proponents.

CBS News: Bingo Rallies

It was a spirited and tense day in front of the Alabama State House as 2 rallies ran – 1 for and 1 against bingo. The pro bingo crowd’s cries delayed an appearance by Gov. Riley. After the crowd calmed the governor addressed his loyal supporters.

Many Alabama residents believe that if gambling is allowed, crime, poverty, unemployment will increase. Others believe allowing gambling in any form will destroy Alabama families. Others turn to the Bible for their beliefs on gambling.

The pro bingo rally message is simple, they just want a chance to vote on the matter. One of the main reasons supporters want to see electronic bingo facilities stay open is because for many, it’s their livelihood. The gambling facilities provide communities with hundreds of jobs, if nothing else. A lack of support in the Senate kept the Bill from reaching the floor.

AL.com: Bingo forces clash in competing rallies on the State House steps

More than 1,000 protesters for and against bingo are amassed on the steps of the Alabama State House trying to out-shout each other. Bingo supporters chant “Let the people vote,” while opponents chant, “Enforce the law.”

Gov. Bob Riley was supposed to speak at 12:30, but it’s unclear whether he will appear as hundreds of protestors swamp the steps and both sides try to shout each out other in a chaotic clash.

Employees of the state’s major bingo casinos went to the State House to show support for bingo legislation being considered this session. They began arriving at 10 a.m. and have a rally set for 2 p.m. Anti-bingo protestors arrived for their rally simultaneously.

Many people are proponents to the many gambling facilities because they depend on it. The different gambling centers throughout Alabama provide hundreds of jobs to local residents and are a financial staple to society.

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