Bingo is legal in Alabama. Gambling machines, such as slots, are not. Alabama Attorney General Strange has decided that the electronic games at Center Stage casino’s Bingo Pavilion are illegal gambling equipment. With that determination, Strange has raided Center Stage and seized all 691 machines and accessories. He also seized $283,657.
The Legal Process
Strange has asked Houston County Circuit Judge Larry Anderson to issue a finding that the items seized were illegal. In his paperwork to the court, Strange has requested that the money be tendered to the Alabama Treasury and the machines be destroyed. The legal ball now shifts to Attorney Ernie Hornsby, representing Houston Economic Development Association, which operates Center Stage. Hornsby has stated that he intends to file a request in court, asking the judge to enter an Order requiring Strange to show the cause of the seizure.
Thus the Attorney General will have to present the legal reasoning behind the determination that the equipment is something other than that which the casino perceives to be electronic bingo. There is an added litigation element. That element concerns the cash that was taken in the raid. Hornsby commented that not only does the casino understand its equipment to constitute legal bingo games, they are also asserting that a portion of the cash seized was accumulated through the unquestionably legal paper bingo operation, bar and restaurant. According to Hornsby, the money seized was used in part for the purpose of paying bingo winners.
Word from the AGs Office
Sonny Reagan, the Assistant Attorney General, has acknowledged that a two-pronged proof must be made by Strange in order to maintain control of the money and machines. First of all, the Attorney General has to prove that the devices confiscated are actually prohibited gambling equipment. Secondly, Strange is required to prove unlawful gambling was the source of the entirety of the cash seized.
Center Stage and Casino Profits
Center Stage is housed in the former Country Crossing structure. In 2010, then-Gov. Bob Riley terminated Country Crossings in his focus on illegal gambling. No arrests were made at Center Stage during the raid. The current law defines the possession of gambling equipment as a misdemeanor. Strange wants the legislature to make that crime a felony. Subsequent to the raid on Center Stage, Strange commented that casinos have the ability to earn profits in the millions.
It appears that the Attorney General believes that there is something wrong with enterprises that have the potential to gain large revenues. In fact America is built on the free enterprise system. Corporations that take in millions, pay a substantial portion of the taxes utilized by governments to pay the salaries of employees such as the Attorney General. There is certainly nothing negative about companies that earn millions of dollars.
There is also nothing wrong with bingo games that provide evenings of entertainment to millions of people. Electronic bingo is the source of charitable funds that are the pillars of the financial structure of many non-profit organizations. The work of those charitable organizations contributes in turn to the well-being of the community.