Gambling either right or wrong for all in state

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All on the same page now: Let’s sing “Alabama.”

One of her most colorful characters, Milton McGregor, has been back in the news in the past week.

McGregor, owner of Victoryland, re-opened the doors to his once-shuttered casino. He was among a list of legislators, lobbyists and casino owners who were indicted on federal charges for vote-buying in Montgomery and found innocent.

It looked at first as if the state’s raids on casinos – led not by the then-attorney general, but by task force commanders appointed by Bob Riley, coupled with the federal charges, had stopped casino-style gaming in all but the three Indian-owned casinos in Alabama.

But McGregor, like Phoenix, is back.Attorney General Luther Strange has declared war. So here we go again.

The argument current Strange has made is that Alabama’s Supreme Court has ruled that bingo, where legal by special statute in Alabama, is traditional, paper bingo. Therefore, operations like McGregor’s, he says, are illegal and must be shut down.

On the other hand, federal laws allow Indian tribes to conduct any kind of gaming that is legal in a state. Bingo is legal in some parts of the state; therefore the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe can run bingo operations. But they run not traditional, paper bingo, but electronic.

For us, here’s the rub. If electronic bingo isn’t allowed under Alabama statutes, then don’t allow it. Period. If electronic bingo is the same thing as “traditional” bingo for the tribe, then it should be also for private enterprise.

The Poard Creek Indians employ many people in Alabama, and have been generous with their gaming proceeds. We wish them no ill will.

But they, and other Indian gaming interests in neighboring Mississippi, have also made political contributions to Riley and to Strange. And that gives us pause to consider the two men’s opposition to electronic bingo conducted by non-Indians. It’s either right or it’s wrong. Period.

The last effort to get the issue on the ballot for an up- or down-vote by the people of Alabama led to the aforementioned federal indictments and the incarceration of a developer, a former legislator, and a former lobbyist. The legislature isn’t likely to entertain the thought – much less seriously consider – getting the matter on the ballot again.

So here we are, same song second verse, with no better harmony than the last time.