MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Hours after Circuit Judge Robert Vance ordered the closure of all casinos operating "electronic bingo" machines in Walker County, a move that could have state-wide implications, the only gubernatorial candidate running on a gambling platform responded.
Ron Sparks (D) issued the following statement:
"Judge Vance's ruling that bingo operations of Walker County are illegal, underscores the urgent need for a statewide approach to address the fastest growing industry in the state, gambling.
I am the only candidate, Democrat or Republican, who has pledged to fight for a statewide gaming commission, statewide licensing and regulation, and taxing casinos to fund education and Medicaid. I would allow the voters of each individual county the right to decide if gaming is allowed in their county.
Casino gaming is an economic development opportunity for Alabama. Neighboring states collect hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local taxes, much of it coming from Alabama residents. We can bring thousands of new jobs in casino and related business to our state, but we must stop the hodge podge of local gaming laws that are allowing cinder block bingo halls to spring up like kudzu."
Governor Bob Riley, who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election, had a different take on the judge's order. "All across the state, our Task Force is assisting local law enforcement in cracking down on organized gambling, and we'll continue to do so until we finally rid our state of these seedy operations."
Governor Riley went on to say, "One by one, court rulings reconfirm what the law is and say there is no ambiguity...The judge wrote, 'To simply drop money in an electronic machine, push a button to start the game, and passively stare at the machine for six seconds to see if you've won anything is not 'the game commonly known as bingo'.' The only people who could possibly disagree with that statement are those supporting the gambling interests."