Democratic gubernatorial candidates talk electronic bingo

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The fallout from the latest bingo ruling is stirring up the Democratic gubernatorial race with only a week before primary election day.

Electronic bingo has been a big issue for gubernatorial candidates from both parties, but most Republicans at least agree that they're opposed to electronic bingo but would tightly control it if the courts decide its legal.

Bingo and gaming has been the cornerstone of one of the 2 Democratic candidates campaigns. Today, Ron Sparks came out swinging, but not at his opponent.

"I'm asking the governor to stop this madness and stop this craziness in the state of Alabama," Sparks said at a Birmingham press conference. "The people don't deserve it and they wanna vote on it."

Sparks said he's asking Riley not to re-start raids on electronic bingo halls after a supreme court ruling last week that gives the governor final say in bingo issues.

Sparks said he would fire task force commander John Tyson and dismantle the operation if elected governor.

Rival Artur Davis capitalized on the ruling to point out his differences with Sparks on the bingo question.

"I think the ruling clarifies our differences in the Governor's race," Davis said. 'I'm the only candidate running who's not controlled by the gambling interests, but who is also for giving people a chance to vote. People ought to have a chance to resolve this question. But I'm not going to do it in a way where the deck is rigged to favor a few fat cats who are running a few casinos."

Both Democratic candidates agree on letting voters decide whether electronic bingo is legal, but no one is sure how casino raids would affect their race with just days before election day. Sparks says it might actually help his campaign.

"Anytime you wanna strategize on political campaigns, certainly people that's losing their jobs, someone that's trying to stick up for their job, possibly that could help you," Sparks said. "But my concern is that it's wrong."

"We don't have the gambling operators funding us like Sparks does," Davis said. "So we've gotta get out there and take our case to the people. We've gotta take our case to the voters. And we feel good about the last week of the campaign."

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