Meeks won’t discuss video bingo

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Despite Florala’s passage of its electronic bingo ordinance Monday, the “bingo ball” has landed back on the county government rack.

Wes Laird, Florala city attorney, said Tuesday any applicant wishing to apply for a bingo permit in Florala would first have to obtain a permit from the county sheriff. This is dictated in state Constitutional Amendment 565, which was approved by voters in 1994 and allows charitable bingo in Covington County.

When electronic bingo was discussed as a possibility in the county last year, Sheriff Dennis Meeks said he wanted “nothing” to do with the licensing process. Instead, he felt it should fall to the responsibility of the county commission.

Tuesday, Meeks’ opinion had not changed, and when asked about the possibility of electronic bingo in Florala, he replied, “No comment.”

District Attorney Greg Gambril, however, remained vocal in opposition to electronic bingo in Covington County.

“The Code of Alabama, the Alabama Constitution and the Alabama Supreme Court all state that gambling in Alabama and Covington County is illegal,” Gambril said Tuesday. “The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that constitutional amendments such as the one here in Covington County legalizing the traditional form of paper bingo do not legalize electronic bingo machines, which — in their popular and current guise — are actually slot machines.”

Gambril said the Supreme Court has established a multi-part test for determining whether any particular machine is illegal, and that test will be “strictly applied” to any electronic bingo machine brought into this county.

“I know that these are desperate economic times, but whether or not people feel that electronic bingo is an easy or logical fix to our economic situation, that does not mean they can by-pass the laws of this state,” he said.

“As of right now, no law has been broken by the Florala City Council by merely passing an ordinance,” he said. “I encourage anyone out there who is thinking about opening an electronic bingo parlor in Florala, or any city council thinking of following Florala’s lead, to understand that if illegal gambling machines are brought into this county, they will be seized and those responsible will be prosecuted.”

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said again on Tuesday it was his opinion electronic bingo is coming to Alabama, and the passage of Monday’s ordinance was done only to protect Florala’s interests.

Opp city officials said the city has “no plans at this time” to pass a similar ordinance.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said Andalusia will not pursue electronic bingo.