King to Florala: No dice

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The sights and sounds of electronic bingo may take a little longer to get to the city of Florala.

Though the City Council and mayor approved a measure to make it legal, Alabama Attorney General Troy King says 'no dice.'

Thursday morning, King's office sent a letter to the city, telling them their ordinance is unconstitutional.

"We contact them just as quickly as we can and say, 'Hey, what you're doing is not allowed,'" said Chris Bence, King's Chief of Staff.

It all comes down to a constitutional amendment on which the city of Florala based their ordinance: a 1994 move by state legislators to legalize bingo in Covington County.

"They defined bingo as played on a card," Bence explained.

"A card is paper."

Mayor Robert Williamson argues it's all about interpretation.

"That's why people like lawyers, which I am not, are hired to get involved," Williamson said in a phone interview.

The letter also mentions the amendment doesn't give the city the power to approve or regulate bingo.  Williamson says that's a 'catch 22' since Covington County wants nothing to do with the ordinance.

"We feel there needs to be a clarification when the county does opt not to regulate," Williamson said.

All in all, King's letter is merely a reminder, and both sides are playing nice--for now.

"Our goal is to explore all economic opportunities and development for this city, and we certainly will continue to do that," Williamson said.

"We're here to help them stay on the right side of what is allowed and to avoid the perils that go with straying from the right side," Bence explained.

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