Supreme Court reaffirms electronic bingo is illegal in Alabama

Published 4:56 pm Friday, December 23, 2016

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

For the second time this year, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that electronic bingo is illegal within the state of Alabama, Attorney General Luther Strange announced today, Friday, Dec. 23.

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While the rulings concern Greenetrack and Macon County, electronic bingo operations are ongoing at White Hall and Southern Star in Lowndes County.

According to a press release from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, in the case State of Alabama v. 825 Electronic Gambling Devices et al (Greenetrack), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State, reversing a lower court judgment siding with the casino.  As a result, the State of Alabama is allowed to destroy the electronic bingo machines it seized from Greenetrack.

In its 29-page ruling released Friday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its March 31, 2016 ruling in a similar case involving the legality of electronic bingo machines.

“There is no longer any room for uncertainty, nor justification for continuing dispute, as to the meaning of [the term ‘bingo’].  And certainly the need for any further expenditure of judicial resources, including the resources of this court, to examine this issue is at an end.  All that is left is for the law of this State to be enforced,” the Supreme Court said.

In a separate case (Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc., d/b/a Victoryland v Marie Hoffman), the Supreme Court ruled that individuals have a right to sue illegal gambling institutions.

“Because the ‘contracts’ containing the arbitration provisions in these cases were based on gambling consideration, they were based solely on criminal conduct, and are therefore void.  Consequently, the provisions of those ‘contracts,’ including arbitration provisions are void and unenforceable,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Strange emphasized that these rulings, combined with the Supreme Court’s March 31, 2016 ruling against Victoryland, remove any doubt that electronic bingo in all its forms is illegal in Alabama and that local law enforcement should do their duty to enforce the law.

“Local sheriffs and police officers in most parts of the State are enforcing our gambling laws.  The sheriffs in Greene and Macon counties must uphold their sworn duty to enforce the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court and not continue to sanction this illegal activity.  As I have previously stated, my office stands ready to render any required assistance to enable them to carry out their legal duties.”

Strange commended Assistant Attorney General John Kachelman of the Criminal Trials Division, as well as agents in his Investigations Division and all law enforcement officers who assisted with the Greenetrack case, including former agents Mike Reese and William Carson for their dedicated work.

A letter dated Sept. 20, 2016 to Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer and Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams signed by Governor Robert Bentley and Strange said, “It is widely known that White Hall and Southern Star have reopened and continue as of today’s date to operate electronic bingo machines. This is a violation of Alabama law.”

The Signal reached out to Lowndes County Sheriff Williams and Tesmer, who both declined to comment.