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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Senate committee passes bingo bill

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee passed a bill on Wednesday that would create a statewide gaming commission and allow electronic bingo at several points of destination in the state.
The committee passed the controversial bill 4-1 with Republican Sens. Del Marsh of Anniston and Charles Bishop of Jasper abstaining.
Republican Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, voted against the bill. Democratic Sens. Quinton Ross, Bobby Singleton, Lowell Barron and Rodger Smitherman voted for the bill.
Ross, D-Montgomery, and Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said the state currently is not taxing bingo and this would allow the state to collect much-needed revenue. They said the bill would stop the expansion of gambling.
"It's already been here," Smitherman said.
Gov. Bob Riley and other Republicans have said the bill would expand gambling and would legitimize electronic bingo.
Riley has formed a task force on illegal gambling, which recently raided a facility in White Hall and confiscated more than 100 machines and more than $560,000, which a judge recently ruled had to be returned. Riley has appealed the order, stating the judge has a conflict of interest because of previous work for an Indian casino.
The administration has also noted that the ruling was just a preliminary injunction. Riley wants to take White Hall or a similar case to the Alabama Supreme Court as a test case in hopes of a ruling that the machines are illegal in the state.
Bryan Taylor, policy director for Riley, said the task force is making progress.
"Casino operators are in a race to change the constitution before the Supreme Court rules on it," he said. Taylor said the operators are afraid the Supreme Court will rule the machines are illegal.
David Barber, commander of the governor's task force, has said the bill before the Legislature would make the machines confiscated in White Hall legal.
Paul Hubbert, head of the Alabama Education Association, said the bill would generate $140 million of much-needed money for education.
"This needs to regulated and this needs to be taxed," he said.
Without the bill, gambling will continue to "expand like kudzu" in Alabama, Hubbert said.
House and Senate committees have now passed the bill so either chamber can now bring up the proposal for consideration.
The bill is a constitutional amendment and would require approval by voters.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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