In February this year the Governor and Attorney General of Alabama proposed a constitutional amendment to abolish electronic gaming machines at state dog tracks and return to bingo played with cards. On Monday it was reported that the Attorney General is continuing his fight against the expansion of gaming in Alabama by opposing plans by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to add pari-mutuel wagering on dog and horse races, poker tournaments and sweepstakes to its operation in Atmore.
Alabama has three tribal casinos and two racetrack casinos (racinos), both with Class II machines only. It will be the US Department of the Interior that will make the decision on the tribe’s request to offer Class III gaming but the Attorney General has submitted a letter of opposition. However, as Alabama permits pari-mutuel wagering at its racetracks, it is likely that the Indian casino will be allowed to follow suit.
In another move to curb gambling, video machine owners in the city of Decatur have been given a 30-day period of grace to cease operating the illegal machines that are presently widespread in the state. There is a certain ambiguity in Alabama laws on video machines. A judge has ruled that 300 sweepstake machines confiscated last December from the Birmingham Racecourse can be used and that all money seized should be returned. In February the Attorney General’s office announced a comprehensive package to close the loopholes and give the gambling laws ‘teeth’.
A crackdown on gambling is not considered to be the best way forward by some, arguing that law enforcement is spending valuable resources trying to enforce confusing laws. From a practical viewpoint it has been suggested that it is time for the Legislature to consider legalizing electronic gambling, ensuring standards and consumer protection through regulation. The proposition by the Governor and Attorney General to ban the electronic machines would have to be approved by the Legislature and a statewide referendum. (E-08.04.06)
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