MONTGOMERY, AL -- Hundreds of electronic bingo supporters rallied across the street from the Alabama Supreme Court on July 16, protesting policies by Gov. Bob Riley that have effectively wiped out the state's $2 billion bingo market.
Bingo supporters said they planned a much larger rally outside the State Capitol Building for Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 6). Powerful forces are rallying to the pro-bingo cause including the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Legislative Black Caucus.
Leaders of these groups said they would use the Labor Day event to urge citizens to vote for pro-bingo candidates for governor and state legislative offices in November.
Several months ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson of Operation PUSH (Chicago) visited Montgomery to support video bingo halls, saying their operation is a matter of economic justice. At the time, Jackson said he would stage a March on Poverty in the state capital to pressure the government to permit bingo operations. It is not known if Jackson plans to participate in the upcoming Labor Day pro-bingo rally.
The July 16 rally was organized by public officials from Greene County, which lost 400 jobs when Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling shut down the Greenetrack casino last month.
The rally attracted pro-bingo citizens and lawmakers from eight counties that have suffered similar shutdowns. The closures have cost thousands of jobs statewide as well as deprived local governments of a lucrative source of tax revenues. Bingo halls are the largest businesses -- and the largest employers -- in some Alabama jurisdictions.
Statewide, only one major non-Indian bingo hall, Victoryland in Macon County, remained open at presstime, thanks to a ruling by a local judge who blocked a raid by the governor's taskforce. However, local officials said they are concerned that the Alabama Supreme Court may nullify that ruling and permit the taskforce to shut Victoryland, too.