The Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange, told bingo operators that he would again be sending his investigators if they were not operating in accordance to Alabama state law. Under the law, bingo halls can only operate traditional charity regulations. Strange says he wants to give the operators a chance to remove bingo machines, go to court and receive a ruling to determine if they are traditional bingo machines. If operators choose not to do this, Strange said they will be subject to action by law enforcement.
Previous Bingo Raids
The debate about bingo has been going on in Alabama for quite some time. Gaming operators wish to add electronic slot and bingo machines to their halls to bring in more customers. However, Alabama state law only allows operators to use traditional bingo machines. In addition, the law states that these operators must conform to the guidelines of a charitable bingo operation and Strange believes these machines do not fall within those guidelines. Strange has recently authorized many raids to confiscate these illegal electronic machines.
Recent Bingo Raid Activity
Two weeks ago, investigators confiscated nearly 700 computers and other equipment that is used to operate bingo at the Center Stage Bingo Casino, formerly Country Crossing Bingo Casino, located in Houston County. Law enforcement also seized almost $284,000 from the casino. Sonny Reagan, Deputy Attorney General said that the casino is not challenging the seizure of the money. Strange says that the only legal form of gambling in Alabama is charity bingo and the electronic slot-based machines are not considered to be part of it. Strange also said that he wants every bingo operator in the state to be aware that more raids will be coming.
Pending Court Cases
Currently, there are two cases that are pending in the Greene County Circuit Court. One is based on the seizure of electronic bingo machines at Greenetrack and the other has to do with a state lien against Greenetrack of over $75 million for suspected non-payment of use and sales taxes on bingo revenue. A pretrial hearing on the lien case is scheduled for August 21st, 2012 in the Greene County Circuit Court and a bench trial for the bingo machine seizure has been set for January 13th, 2013. Strange said that his office did the best it could to cooperate with bingo operators to resolve the issues in court but the operators are not anxious to go to court and make a case to see if the machines are illegal.
Tightening Enforcement of Charitable Bingo Laws
In 2012, Greenetrack closed temporarily after investigators confiscated around 825 machines. The bingo operations at Greenetrack started again in 2011 but investigators went back and seized 376 more machines during the summer. Greenetrack then filed to get their machines back. Strange stated that these bingo raids will end when the bingo operators decide to go to court to get a ruling on the legality of the machines. He also said that he wants a final court ruling so his task force can move on to other operations. In addition, Strange advised the Alabama Legislature to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for running illegal bingo operations.
The Attorney General’s office is also continuing its investigation into Indian bingo casinos. These casinos have been accused of running the same bingo operations that have been deemed illegal at non-Indian venues. Strange said that only the Department of the Interior can act because they have jurisdiction over Indian gambling operations. Finally, Strange told reporters that as long as his office could resolve the issue of illegal bingo operations in Alabama then the federal government would not get involved.