MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With just one day remaining in the regular session of the Alabama legislature, the fate of a controversial electronic bingo bill looks grim.
Thirty minutes before the session got underway Wednesday the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Marcel Black (D-Tuscumbia), determined he still didn't have enough votes and asked for his bill to be pulled from consideration in the House. He said he didn't want to tie up the last two days on a bill that he knew he couldn't get passed.
Black said he thought the FBI investigation surrounding the Senate bingo bill "had a chilling effect early on..." though he never talked to anyone who said that was a reason for their not supporting it.
Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said "it was a tougher nut to crack here in the House than in the Senate," and the pending FBI investigation made it even tougher.
The fight is not over yet, however. The bill could come up for debate on the last day of the session Thursday, but people on both sides of the debate admit the bill does appear to be dead.
"The opposition is bipartisan," said Governor Bob Riley. "I believe enough Democrats and Republicans in the House became truly offended by the deceptive tactics of some on the pro-gambling side. This bill doesn't call for an 'up' or 'down' vote. Even if the people overwhelmingly voted no, nothing happens.
The governor says the bill is "rigged so the casinos win no matter what the people say."
Country Crossing, which closed voluntarily to keep from being raided, expressed its dismay with the governor. It released a statement saying:
"It is a sad day and a travesty for so many in this state when an incredible opportunity and the people's right to vote on the issue of electronic bingo was killed by a tyrannical, obsessed and corrupt Governor," said Jay Walker, spokesman for Country Crossing. "I hope when people go to the polls in June and November, they understand their voice has been silenced by him and Republican leaders that were scared to do the right thing. Alabama will never move forward with the kind of leadership it's currently under."
Walker said the concept for Country Crossing would work anywhere and that the center would not sit idle forever. "We will begin exploring doors that have already opened," he explained.
If passed, the measure would define, tax and regulate electronic bingo in Alabama. It would go before Alabama voters for consideration as a constitutional amendment in November.