Bingo halls in Jefferson County urged to close

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The clock is ticking on bingo halls in the western area of Jefferson County, who were told Friday they should close their doors or face raids by the governor's anti-gambling task force.

At court hearing in Bessemer Friday, Jefferson Co. Circuit Judge Eugene Verin told a crowded courtroom of attorneys and bingo operators he would not stop any law enforcement investigation into their facilities. Verin said after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Thursday night that a judge could not stop raids by the governor's Illegal Gambling Task Force against Victoryland, Judge Verin said he would obey the court.

After Judge Verin's announcement, Arthur Green, the Jefferson County District Attorney for the Bessemer division, told the bingo operators to shut down by by 6 p.m. Friday.

"I'm not morally opposed to gambling," said Green. "That is a decision someone else has to make, but I am and do have the duty to enforce the law and the law right now is these machines are illegal."

Green said he spoke with the commander of the task force, John Tyson, before the hearing, who agreed with Green's offer to let bingo halls remove their machines instead of the task force.

"Meaning you padlock their businesses so the machines can't be used," Green said. "Then they can take them out as they can in some reasonable period of time."

The district attorney said Tyson will seize their machines if the bingo halls do not shut down Friday night. He said a raid could be possible as early as this weekend.

The city of Fairfield stands to lose millions of possible dollars if the bingo halls are closed.  The city attorney, Michael Trucks, said the decision by the district attorney would have an impact on the city.

"I think the city will have to go into really tough decisions as to their services, as to their personnel," said Trucks. "It's unfortunate but it's reality."

Over at the Anchor Club in Bessemer, a mother of three who has worked at the bingo charity for six months says it will be tough to lose her job.

"It's sad," said Arnitra Davis. "It gave people jobs. As bad as the economy is now. We are going to have to find work some where else."

Attorneys for the bingo charities said Friday they believe electronic bingo is still possible under the new guidelines set by the Alabama Supreme Court. Bingo supporters are also urging the Alabama Legislature to pass legislation which could legalize electronic bingo gaming.