Bingo bill pulled from consideration in Ala. House

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

MONTGOMERY AP) — A bill to legalize, tax and regulate electronic bingo was pulled from consideration in the Alabama House on Wednesday with the sponsor saying the issue appears dead after dominating the 2010 session of the Legislature.

Democratic Rep. Marcel Black of Tuscumbia asked that action be delayed and admitted that he did not have the 63 votes needed to pass the proposed constitutional amendment.

“To be honest with you, I don’t expect to see this bill again this session,” Black said.

Black could attempt to bring the issue back for debate and a possible vote Thursday, the session’s last day.

The bill had passed the Senate earlier in the session. If it also passed the House, it would go to Alabama residents in a statewide referendum in November.

Republicans and a few conservative Democrats had opposed the measure, saying it would open the door to expansion of gambling in Alabama.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn said he believes supporters were “seven or eight” votes short and believes the issue is dead.

“This delay means they don’t have the votes,” Hubbard said.

The bill calling for a statewide vote in November came up briefly in the House on Wednesday, but after a short speech Black asked that it be pulled from consideration.

Gov. Bob Riley has opposed the bingo bill and has formed a task force that has raided or attempted to raid electronic bingo operations. Riley said it’s too early to declare the bill dead, but he said he hopes it doesn’t come back up.

He said the bill wrongly does not allow voters to declare that electronic bingo is illegal in the state. If the bill is rejected, he said, private casinos will still be trying to win court rulings, with some continuing to operate.

“Even if the people overwhelmingly voted no, nothing happens. It’s rigged so the casinos win no matter what the people say. The gambling lobby tried to deceive lawmakers and that eventually caught up with them,” Riley said.

Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said he had planned to vote “yes” and was hoping to get an electronic bingo operation in Etowah County.

He said by not passing the bill it leaves thousands of jobs at current or future electronic bingo facilities “at jeopardy.”