Bentley, Sparks favor bingo disclosure

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The disclosure that the state’s largest casino gave less than 1 percent of its gross per year to charity has the two candidates for governor saying more openness is needed.

Democrat Ron Sparks said, “There should be accountability and transparency when it comes to gaming in Alabama.”

Republican Robert Bentley believes gambling operations should be required to make frequent public disclosure of contributions to charities that are sponsoring their games, said Angi Smith, Bentley’s campaign manager.

The candidates expressed their views after a judge’s order showed that Victoryland’s electronic bingo machines in Macon County grossed $503 million over five years and contributed $4.4 million to charity, or less than 1 percent per year.

Alabama’s electronic bingo casinos operate as private businesses that are supposed to benefit charities, but they make little financial information known. The recent order by the U.S. District W. Keith Watkins gave a rare glimpse at the finances of Alabama’s largest casino, which is the only non-Indian casino still operating in the state.

The New York Times Regional Newspapers reported that an audit by the state Examiners of Public Accounts shows the closed electronic bingo machines at Greenetrack in Greene County provided $796,160 to the Greene County Board of Education in 2008.

The board gets 40 percent of Greenetrack’s bingo proceeds, volunteer fire departments get 20 percent, and about 80 charities share the remaining 40 percent.