Holley: voters should decide bingo

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 11, 2010

State Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba), said Wednesday he will support legislation allowing Alabama residents to vote on a constitutional amendment to allow bingo.

Last year, Holley, who represents Covington County, opposed the gambling legislation dubbed the “Sweet Home Alabama” bill by proponents.

“The events of the past few weeks dictate and clearly point to the fact that a final resolution to electronic bingo’s legality will require the people of Alabama to exercise their right to vote on the issue,” Holley said in a written statement. “I will support a vote on a constitutional amendment on the bingo issue if the amendment provides for a strong oversight commission, taxes the machines in an amount that is fair to the people of Alabama, and brings closure to this sad chapter in Alabama’s history.”

At present, there are two such bills before the Alabama Senate.

One, sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville), came out of committee Tuesday and appears to be on the fast track for consideration by the full senate as early as today.

The Bedford-sponsored bill would allow gaming at the Mobile Greyhound Park, VictoryLand, Greenetrack and Birmingham Greyhound Racing and two gaming facilities, Country Crossing and White Hall Resort and Entertainment Center, and allow the addition of a second location in White Hall and one location each in the 4th, 5th and 6th congressional districts in north Alabama to be chosen by a state gaming commission.

A similar bill still in committee and sponsored by Sen. Marc Keahey (D-Grove Hill) puts stricter controls on gaming and also requires bingo enterprises to match their gaming investment with spending in other areas, such as hotels and restaurants. Keahey’s bill does not have a sponsor in the House.

Holley said, “I am still reviewing the legislation and will monitor any changes to the proposal.  However, ultimately only a vote by Alabama’s citizens will bring the issue to a conclusion. This is a great state whose citizens believe in democracy.  If this legislation is placed on the ballot for a vote, then the final resolution would be in the hands of those who exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

If the Bedford bill is approved by the Senate today, it would go to the House, where Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) has said members are waiting to see what the senate does before putting the bill on their calendar.

Hammett has long held the position that the issue should be decided by the voters of Alabama.