Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MY TURN: State Laws against Gambling Need Some Real Teeth

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MY TURN: State Laws against Gambling Need Some Real Teeth

Article excerpt

If you wonder how much difference there is in the Alabama Legislature between the old Democrat majority and the new Republican majority that was elected in 2010, take a look at the bills that are on the agenda.

From the early 1990s through the 2010 legislative session, gambling was the one issue that dominated the agenda of the Democrat- controlled Legislature. During that time, gambling bills to legalize everything from full-scale casinos to video gambling machines posing as electronic bingo dominated practically every legislative session. Gambling interests spent millions of dollars to beat down opponents in an effort to get their gambling operations legalized.

But according to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the days of the legislative session being held hostage by gambling interests are over.

While there were a number of issues and reasons why Alabama voters threw out the Democrat majority and replaced them with a Republican majority in 2010, the key reasons were that voters wanted to put a stop to gambling kingpins tying up the Legislature and they were tired of them making a mockery of our state laws.

Now, even though the legislative session is no longer hostage to gambling interests, gambling kingpins still violate state law with impunity.

The state Supreme Court has clarified that legal gambling in Alabama is limited to traditional bingo games that meet the six- point test established by the Court and that operate for the benefit of non-profit charitable organizations.

Despite the State Supreme Court's ruling and at least three circuit court rulings that make it clear that video slot machines are not legal, gambling interests continue to install the machines in cities and counties statewide.

As a result, state and local law enforcement expend manpower and resources to raid gambling joints and confiscate these slot machines only to have the same operators install more machines and reopen.

Because the penalties for violating the law are so weak -- mere misdemeanors -- and because they are making so much money, having law enforcement periodically raid their joints and confiscate their machines is just the cost of doing business for the gambling joint operators. …

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