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Local GOP opposes gambling bill

“Let the people vote!” is the mantra shouted at us everywhere (via TV commercials, newspaper ads, and direct mail) by a special interest group so enticingly called “Sweet Home Alabama.” The well-funded campaign promoting the legalization of currently ILLEGAL gambling in Alabama is not about country music (nor country music’s millionaire performers), nor is it about funding education, and it is certainly not about bingo (a game we play with BINGO cards and little buttons). It is all about MONEY—making bingo promoters a lot of money at the expense of many gambling addicts as well as those seeking occasional recreation.

The people HAVE voted! In a statewide vote on the Siegelman lottery in 1999, voters said no by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. With 52 percent of registered voters in Covington County voting, 64 percent said no and in Andalusia 65 percent said no. Sixty-six percent of Opp’s voters said no, as did 53 percent of Florala’s voters.

The executive committee of the Covington County Republican Party has taken the position of opposing the expansion of gambling in any form in the state of Alabama. The state’s gambling moguls are pushing legislation that will unravel Alabama’s laws against gambling. The first pro-gambling bill to come up in the Legislature, SB 135 (HB363 in the House), is disguised as a so-called “local bill” in an effort to slip it past our anti-gambling stalwarts in the Legislature. In reality, the bill would have statewide impact. It would legalize slot machines and expand gambling across the state.

Other legislation is expected, including a Constitutional Amendment to legalize slot machines that is being pushed by ALL of the state’s major gambling interests, aided and abetted by other powerful special interests. All of this legislation pretends to authorize “bingo,” but it’s a thinly veiled attempt to legalize slot machines. We know that in just three counties, illegal gambling sucks more than $675 million out of the state and local economies as people throw their hard-earned dollars away at slot machines, which lines the pockets of a few gambling moguls. This is money that otherwise would be injected back into the economy through spending on local goods and services.

Though some argue that we need gambling revenue for education, the Constitutional Amendment will likely bring in less than one percent of the money we spend on education. In fact, SB135 / HB363 exempts some gambling operations from any new taxes. If we expand gambling in our state, we invite more crime, misery, and corruption into our neighborhoods and communities.

Our Republican Sen. Jimmy Holley has come out firmly opposed to expansion of gambling and he has been the target of the “Sweet Home” crowd. He is braced for the fight but he needs to know your support him. You can call him at 334-242-7800 and ask for his office.

I’m not sure where Mr. Hammett stands on this issue in the State House. You may contact him as well by calling the House switchboard at 334-242-7600 and asking for his office.

William Blocker

Chairman, Covington County Republican Party