CHICKASAW, AL -- The Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling raided a bingo hall here on Feb. 25, seizing 25 electronic bingo games but making no arrests.
The owner-operator, attorney James "Pete" Bridges, promptly sued the state of Alabama, Gov. Bob Riley and taskforce commander John Tyson Jr. for the illegal seizure of private property. Bridges said his machines meet the six tests outlined by the Alabama Supreme Court in its landmark bingo verdict last year and are therefore legal.
It was the 21st bingo hall raid by the taskforce in recent weeks. Unlike some recent attempts in which local judges countermanded search orders, this raid was staged without a warrant. Tyson said police don't require warrants to stop "obvious crimes in progress."
State Attorney General Troy King, who has consistently clashed with Gov. Riley over bingo issues, last week criticized the tactic of warrantless raids as "reckless and ill-advised."
On March 3 in Montgomery, the state Senate voted 18 to 16 against further consideration of a bill that would permit, regulate and tax electronic bingo in 10 venues statewide. The bill would have legalized bingo operations until voters can weigh in with a referendum on the issue this November.
Supporters said the measure is intended to restore 6,000 jobs that were lost when the gambling taskforce shut down bingo across Alabama. But after the March 3 vote, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville), said he believed the issue is now "dead" in the statehouse.