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Ala. Bingo Referendum Could Come Next Year

Posted On: 5/3/2010

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electronic bingo machines, Alabama bingo machines, video poker, Bob Riley, VLT

MONTGOMERY, AL -- A bill in Alabama to let citizens vote on bingo legalization in a statewide referendum may have died when the state Legislature adjourned last week, but it could be resurrected in the new session next January, since leading candidates for governor support the measure, the Tuscaloosa News has reported.

Electronic bingo was a $2 billion industry in Alabama until current Gov. Bob Riley shut down some 22 bingo halls this year through a combination of police raids and legal threats.

The resulting loss of about 6,000 jobs and of considerable local tax revenues from major resorts like Country Crossings prompted lawsuits, political recriminations and a flurry of legislative lobbying for and against bingo.

Riley is a lame duck whose term ends in January. Observers say that bingo is sure to be a major campaign issue in the gubernatorial and legislative races this fall.

Meanwhile, an FBI probe into allegations of vote- buying by bingo supporters has resulted in several state senators receiving subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. Most are not targets of the investigation, but they are expected to describe political pressures surrounding the issue (see related story.)