Alabama Attorney General making push to end illegal electronic bingo halls

AG’s office gets fourteen bingo halls temporarily shut down in an effort to crack down on illegal gambling
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 12:04 AM CDT
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - This week is the newest chapter in a decades long war on gambling bingo halls in our state. The Attorney General’s Office working with the FBI, ALEA and DEA to shut down 14 illegal bingo facilities.

Federal and state law enforcement carried out the raids on Tuesday and the Attorney General Steve Marshall has got temporary restraining orders against each establishment. That means their doors will remain shut until at least April 21.

That is when a circuit court hearing will occur and Marshall says the final order will be entered.

He also says that law enforcement found more than 2,400 illegal slot machines inside the establishments. Still, at Wednesday’s press conference, a handful of community members spoke out. Some questioned the state’s intent, and others asked why the crackdown was necessary at all.

“Now I am familiar with the chatter and narrative that arrives anytime my office cracks down on illegal gambling. People say that gambling is not hurting anybody, or that somehow or another there are other real problems for us to solve. But y’all, we don’t get to pick and choose the laws we enforce.”

Now important to note that paper bingo is allowed in the state, but the Attorney General says electronic bingo or slot machines is gambling.

The Alabama Supreme Court has previously ruled against electronic bingo at VictoryLand, White Hall and Southern Star casinos.

As for why the state had to take action and not a local law enforcement entity, the Attorney General had this to say.

“I can’t speak for local officials on why they have allowed it to continue but what I can tell you is there is no question that what I saw inside this room is illegal in the state of Alabama. We cannot authorize, and in fact it undermines the legitimacy of law enforcement to be able to allow that to continue.”

We caught up with Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens at the Birmingham Northern Beltline project announcement. He stresses that he has asked the Sheriff’s office to tackle the issue before.

“We did ask the County Sheriff’s office for help. They said they wanted to focus on more violent type crimes and not to enforce these bingo laws. I asked the Sheriff personally, ‘Please do not discriminate. You are supposed to enforce all laws indiscriminately. There is a lot of bad things happening around these bingo halls.’ As evidenced by a multi-task force with the FBI, I believe ABI, ALEA and the Attorney General.”

There have been no arrests made so far and so far the only action taken is the injunction placed against the fourteen bingo halls. We reached out to the Sheriff’s Office for comment, but they declined.

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