Bentley creates advisory council on gaming

Published 2:31 pm Monday, October 3, 2016

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Governor Robert Bentley is seeking to resolve disputes over gaming in the state of Alabama, including Lowndes County, through the creation of an advisory group to be called, “The Alabama Advisory Council on Gaming.”

Bentley announced the creation of the council and signed an executive order authorizing it in Montgomery Monday afternoon.

Recently Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange sent letters/emails to district attorneys and sheriffs in the state, including Lowndes County, stating, “”Electronic bingo has been clearly disallowed by Alabama case law as a form of lottery prohibited under Alabama’s Constitution.”

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The letter/email to Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer and Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams said, “We jointly call upon you in your roles as local law enforcement officers to enforce Alabama law prohibiting lotteries and gift enterprises, including electronic bingo , by enjoining the continued operation of the illegal electronic bingo presently  ongoing at White Hall and Southern Star facilities, through the use of appropriate law enforcement action.”

The letter/email asked that Tesmer and Williams provide written acknowledgment of the directive and details of planned enforcement by Sept. 30.

Tesmer and Williams declined to comment on the letter/email and their response when reached out to by the Signal.

Southern Star closed its doors following the letter from Bentley and Strange while White Hall remained open.

Bentley said Monday, however, controversy has centered around what type of gaming will be allowed in the state, constitutional amendments that are present in a number of counties, the supreme court rulings and the definition of gaming, Indian tribal lands and what is allowed on those.

He said, “It’s been a very complex controversy for a number of years. A considerable amount of time, a considerable amount of money has been spent dealing with this issue.” And he said, “This issue is not going away.”

Bentley said unless there are some good recommendations from some entity to finally resolve this, it will never go away.
”So,” he said, “today I am going to announce that I am going to appoint an advisory council… The Alabama Advisory Council on Gaming.”

He said the council will assess the current state laws, as well as local laws, look at taxes that are being generated or lack of taxes, evaluate best practices in other state, including tax revenue structures and the enabling and the implementing regulations of the laws that are in all the other states that have gaming.

He said it will compare Alabama state laws to applicable federal laws.

Bentley said he will have seven appointments, two of which would include one from the Alabama District Attorneys Association and one from the Alabama Sheriffs Association. 
He said two members will be appointed by the Speaker of the House, one Democrat and one Republican and two will be appointed by the Senate Pro Tem, one Democrat and one Republican.

He said, “This council will report findings and recommendations on gaming to me to the Pro Tem of the Senate and also to the Speaker of the House by Jan. 31, 2017.”

Bentley stressed, “The ongoing issue of gaming needs to be solved once and for all.” He said the state needs a “fresh look at the issue” and “past efforts have not solved this problem, and we need a clear path forward on gaming and games of chance.”

He signed an executive order to create the council and announced that Jim Byard Jr., director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and Clinton Carter, deputy state finance director, will be on the council.

Strange also released a statement on Monday saying, “The situation in Macon County, Lowndes County and elsewhere around the state is not about gambling; it’s about the rule of law. And on gambling, Alabama’s laws are clear. In March of this year, the Alabama Supreme Court issued the latest in a long line of opinions declaring ‘electronic bingo’ unlawful in Macon County and the entire state of Alabama. ‘All that is left,’ the Court wrote, ‘is for the law of the State to be enforced.’

“Alabamians who are dissatisfied with state laws against gambling have every right to advocate for new laws. Until the law is changed, however, it is the duty of local law enforcement to enforce current law.

“My office stands ready to assist Governor Bentley and local law enforcement in
making sure Alabama laws are upheld.”