Ala. Gov and AG trade words over bingo raids

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The battle over electronic bingo is straining an already tense relationship between Alabama Governor Bob Riley and the man he appointed as Attorney General, Troy King.

Governor Riley's attempted double raids on Houston County's Country Crossing and Macon County's Victoryland early Friday morning put King's office on edge. King wasted no time responding, delivering a letter of caution to the governor.

It was met with a heated response a short time later.


The governor and attorney general have long held different opinions on electronic bingo and its legality. While both are conservative Republicans, the issue is a sticking point.


King reminded Riley in his two page letter that, while he considered the governor a friend, the AG was very concerned about the escalating developments in Riley's bingo raids.

"I write and, once again, advice caution in your approach," King said, pointing out that the governor chose to raid Victoryland and Country Crossing after weeks of public feuds between Riley's office and the gaming centers' operators.

The resignation of David Barber, the previous Task Force Commander, after his admission to winning $2,300 at a Mississippi casino and current Task Force Commander John Tyson's gambling contributions have not helped matters.

"Now, apparently, you have sent hundreds of Alabama State Troopers, without a search warrant, onto private property at multiple locations," King wrote.

King advised that such an action, which differs from other raids by the governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling where a warrant was filed, shifts the burden of providing probable cause to Riley's office.

King added that he was "deeply concerned" that the governor's actions would expose Alabama's taxpayers as well as the Task Force Commander, the Director of Public Safety, the Director of the Alabama Beverage Control Board and even Governor Riley himself to liability.

"While your personal exposure is not my professional responsibility," King said of Riley, "you do remain my friend. However, the protection of the state treasury is my responsibility."

King ended his letter by advising the governor to "take the most civil and orderly way to proceed while respecting the legal process." King said he believes the proper way to resolve the situation is to put it to a vote of the people.

"By taking either of these actions, you can still reassure our citizens of your commitment to the rule of law," he explained.


Governor Riley's response letter to Attorney General King was blunt, starting " I am deeply disappointed that you continue to show more concern for the casino bosses in Alabama than for the enforcement of the law...".

The letter took aim at King's urging of caution saying, "If we exhibit the "caution" that you suggest, then we will continue to allow the rule of law to be flouted in this State."

Responding to King's claims that taxpayers and government officials could be exposed to liability, Riley added, "I do not share your opinion..." adding he holds confidence in those officials involved in the cases.

And King's opinion that the people of Alabama should ultimately vote on the issue was met by shock from the governor's office. "Mr. Attorney General, as your friend, I remind you that the people have already expressed their will in the Constitution of Alabama that this type of gambling is illegal."

Riley concluded his letter by suggesting the attorney general spend more time enforcing laws on the books instead of trying to change them.

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