Bingo operations in Bessemer hoping for court protection

By Alan Collins

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Bingo operations in Bessemer are looking to keep the governor's anti-gambling task force away through the use of the courts.

Judge Eugene Verin held a hearing Tuesday on efforts by Bessemer's Anchor Club to keep the city of Bessemer and the governor's anti-gambling task force from shutting it down. Verin had previously ordered the task force from making raids in Fairfield and in the Bessemer Cutoff until the Alabama Supreme Court rules on whether Governor Bob Riley or Attorney General Troy King has authority over the task force.  Tuesday, club manager Robert White and his attorneys asked the judge to issue another restraining order to keep the city of Bessemer and the task force from shutting them down.

Bessemer Mayor Ed May opposed the idea. May has vetoed all bingo ordinances passed by the Bessemer City Council. He said there is no city ordinance at this time allowing them open, so he believes all bingo gaming would be illegal.

"I see no real difference than what we had before," May said. "It's another way to paint the pig."

Attorneys for the Anchor Club disagree, arguing the city has an old ordinance already in place. Bingo attorneys also said the matter is part of another legal case being litigated, a position Task Force Commander John Tyson said cannot stand.

"A civil court cannot stop a criminal investigation," Tyson said. "The court has said there is no jurisdiction to intervene in those kinds of actions. Nor anything since then has caused the court to change it's mind."

Bingo attorneys said Tyson should be blocked as long as there is a legal dispute over his authority to run the task force.

Verin is expected to issue a ruling on the issue within the week. Judge Verin is also expected to hold a hearing over a charity that would like to open a bingo parlor in Bessemer.

Tyson said bingo operators in Bessemer would be at risk if they open again.

"Strictly prohibited in the state of Alabama," Tyson said. "Don't be fooled by fake names. A slot machine, is a slot machine, is a slot machine."

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