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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 5, May 2011, Posted On: 4/15/2011

Electronic Bingo Returns To Alabama - And So Do Police Raids

Marcus Webb
Robert Bentley, Alabama, electronic bingo, Alabama bingo, VictoryLand, Country Crossing, White Hall Entertainment Center, Luther Strange, Bob Riley, video poker

MONTGOMERY, AL -- The apparent "all quiet on Alabama's bingo front" that began with the swearing-in of new Gov. Robert Bentley in late January lasted just over two months.

In February, Alabama's new attorney general told the state's remaining bingo resorts they must ship their machines out of state or risk raids and confiscation. Operators complied with Attorney General Luther Strange's demands while waiting for court verdicts that they hoped could clear the way for the return of bingo, as earlier reported by VENDING TIMES.

The first pro-bingo court verdict of the Bentley era was quick in coming. In late March, a Jefferson County circuit court judge ruled in favor of bingo in local venues. Days later, Magic City Bingo and Midfield Bingo opened in the city of Midfield. But on April 4, just a week after the Midfield bingo sites opened, sheriff's deputies raided both locations.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Country Crossing in Dothan, formerly one of the state's largest bingo operators, said the company is working with manufacturers to create a machine that conforms to state gambling laws. County Crossing officials said they expect to resume bingo operations later in 2011.

Two years ago, former Gov. Bob Riley created a taskforce comprising state troopers who staged predawn raids with guns drawn as they shut down a series of bingo facilities across the state. Bentley ran for governor on a promise to shut down the controversial cadre, saying he preferred to let courts decide bingo's legal status.

Upon taking office, Bentley did disband the taskforce. And after the April 4 raids in Midland, the new attorney general restated the administration's preference for court action over police action. A spokesman for the AG's office also insisted that state gambling laws would be enforced.

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