Alabama Seizes Gambling Machines
Alabama has some of the toughest laws on the books to prevent gambling, and nearly the only form of gambling allowed in the state is bingo. Indian reservations, who are among the first in most states to build casinos, have to have the state’s permission to offer class III type games, which includes table games and slot machines. There is no such agreement between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, but because of the state laws authorizing bingo for charitable purposes they can and do employ electronic bingo machines in their casinos on Indian land. Strange and the state of Alabama have no jurisdiction there.
They do have gaming facilities, but the games they offer are electronic bingo games.
Luther Strange, Attorney General for Alabama, announced in early November that another casino which featured electronic bingo games, the Southern Star Entertainment casino in Lowndes County, came under scrutiny several months ago. In early November, over 350 electronic bingo games were seized along with some amount of cash.
The casino had in the past operated paper based, traditional bingo games but brought the electronic bingo games in earlier in 2012. After several months’ investigation, the Alabama Justice Dept. concluded that the games were illegal and seized all the machines.
They have not made any such seizures from the Indian gaming establishments as they fall under a different set of rules, but the Strange is investigating his options on shutting down the tribe’s electronic bingo games as well.
The casino is currently closed and the phone disconnected; the machines and cash are being held as evidence and the machines and cash will be subject to forfeiture proceedings in the circuit court of Lowndes County.
Bingo is the one exception to the strict gambling laws that Alabama possesses; in fact, these laws are written into the States constitution, and the language according to the Alabama Justice Department extends to online gaming of any sort.
In 2000 Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed charity operated bingo, and later approved an amendment allowing a business to operate the games for a charity. This is how the Southern Star Entertainment casino operated.
Earlier this year, in July, the state seized 400 electronic bingo games and $283,000 in cash from the Center Stage Alabama bingo casino near the town of Dothan, and Strange has urged the state legislature to increase the penalty for such crimes to a felony to act as a deterrent. The seizure of the 350 plus machines from the Southern Star Entertainment casino continued to Attorney Generals’ efforts again any type of electronic bingo machines.
While the two casinos insist that the electronic machines were legal, the Alabama Attorney General maintains that the electronic games were not what was intended in the voter referendums which allowed bingo games for charitable purposes.
Strange also maintains that the electronic bingo games operating under the jurisdiction of the National Indian Gaming Commission are illegal, but the commission can interpret state law as they see fit, and will not allow the state of Alabama or the federal government to seize the same machines on Indian lands. The federal government has no interest in pursuing Stranges’ policies on federal Indian land, despite letters he has written to them complaining of the games earlier this year.
While the three Indian casinos with electronic bingo machines are beyond the state of Alabama’s reach, it is evident that they will not allow electronic bingo games in any form outside of the Indian controlled lands.