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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not Enought Money to Fight Gambling?

The faith community used its voice and its money in 2003 to defeat a proposed state lottery, but they acknowledge that it could be a little more difficult to defeat gambling interests this time.

The reason? Money.

Members of the Alabama State Baptist Convention, the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) and Republican Senators Scott Beason and Hank Erwin gathered on the steps of State House Wednesday to decry the proliferation of gambling in the state. But they acknowledged while their convictions against gambling are strong, their pocket books might not be.

Joe Godfrey, executive director for ALCAP, said unlike lottery proponents, the electronic bingo proponents have much more money to throw at this issue. And it's possibly more money than churches have. He pointed to last year's "Sweet Home Alabama" campaign.

Godfrey was the pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church during the lottery fight and he said the church took $5,000 out of its budget to help fight the lottery. He said other churches did the same to fight the $6 million that Gov. Don Siegelman had to promote the lottery.

"Six million dollars is a drop in the bucket," he said. "You'll have machine manufacturers, the Country Crossings, the Victorylands --they will put gazillions into this because they stand to make millions."

The Rev. Dan Ireland, the director emeritus of ALCAP, said that legislators should support the governor's efforts to uphold the constitution and wipe out electronic bingo. He said if the courts uphold the state constitution and wipe out electronic bingo machines once and for all, it would also wipe out Alabama Indian Casino gambling. He pointed to federal law that says that Indian casinos can only have what is allowable in the state.

Ireland said to those who propose that there should be a vote of the people on the issue, "Why should we vote on something that is already illegal?"

Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, characterized the fight against gambling as a battle for Alabama and the "fabric and future of our people."

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said that he was a high school student when gambling proponents sold leaders in Jefferson County on establishing a pari mutuel dog track. He said that venture never lived up to its promises to help education, but it did make some people a lot of money.

"My belief is that when you rationally think about it you understand gambling's effect and you know that it is not an economic tool," he said.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

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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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