Electronic bingo confusion in Jefferson County

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As several bingo operators in Jefferson County make plans to reopen, confusion remains regarding whether or not electronic bingo in Alabama is legal or not.

Wednesday, Attorney General Troy King came out of a private meeting with Governor Bob Riley without revealing too much about King's plans to takeover the governor's Illegal Gambling Task Force.

"The governor and I had a good conversation," King said. "We have a lot to think about now."

King and Riley have been at odds over electronic bingo. Riley contends electronic bingo facilities are illegal but King says some are legal.  

The matter became even more complicated this week when Jefferson Co. Circuit Judge Robert Vance said King could takeover the governor's anti-gambling task force. That ruling followed a ruling last week by Tallapoosa Circuit Judge Tom King, who said the task force could not act outside of Mobile County.

All of this confusion has left Arthur Green, the Jefferson Co. District Attorney in Bessemer, in limbo.

"I would feel foolish to go in there and do something without the attorney general telling me I was right," Green said. "In fact he is telling me I'm wrong."

Several electronic bingo operators in Jefferson County announced this week their plans to reopen Friday at six o'clock. Jim Stevens, an attorney for one such operator, says they will abide by state law.

"We do have a new game that tries to fit the six factors the (Alabama) Supreme Court is talking about," Stevens said. "We have that in Lipscomb now and we will open."

Thursday, on WERC's Steve and Leah radio show, King's main Republican opponent accused the attorney general of accepting at least $200,000 from gambling interest.

"The question is why want the attorney general get involved in these bingo cases," said Luther Strange. "So the question you have to ask is it based on friendship he has with the people who run the casinos."

King has said in the past he will not take gambling money, but King adds it is hard to determine where the money comes from when it flows from one political action committee to another.

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