11 Arrests in Alabama Bingo Investigation

The ongoing bingo saga in Alabama has reached a whole new level with the arrest of two casino owners, four state senators and lobbyists by the federal government. Federal officials allege that millions in bribes were exchanged in an attempt to legalize electronic and internet bingo is Alabama. A total of 11 people have been indicted in the ongoing investigation. The indictment contains 39 counts stemming from a federal corruption investigation looking into attempts to pass bills in 2009-2010 that would have allowed electronic bingo in the state. The bills did not pass but federal investigators say that operators of the state’s two largest casinos and several lobbyists offered legislators millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by famous country music entertainers and hidden payments in exchange for favorable votes. Lanny Breuer of the Justice department’s criminal division stated, “The alleged criminal scheme was astonishing in scope. Indeed, as alleged in the indictment, the defendants’ corrupt conduct infiltrated every layer of the legislative process in the state of Alabama.”

The investigation and indictments have also affected the current governor’s race. The Democratic nominee Ron Sparks questioned the timing of the indictments saying they are politically motivated. Sparks stated, “Anyone who loves democracy and freedom should be concerned with the timing of these indictments.” GOP nominee state Rep. Robert Bentley, said that the indictments, “are an example of what is wrong with Montgomery politics. As governor, I will be a vigilant force against corruption of any kind, regardless of party affiliation.” Sparks is in favor of legalized gambling in Alabama and Bentley says he supports letting the voters of Alabama vote of gambling legalization. Some politicians are calling for candidates to return contributions received from gambling interests.

Electronic bingo has been the subject of controversy since the beginning of the year when current governor Riley, an anti gambling activist, staged a series of raids against electronic bingo parlors across the state.  Many believe Riley was protecting the interests of Native American gaming interests who contributed heavily to his campaign. The closure of casinos has cost thousands of jobs in the state and many say the state is losing money to casinos across the state line. Riley’s anti gambling task force has not been without its own scandals. David Barber who was head of Riley’s task force was spotted gambling at a casino in Mississippi. It appears that this issue will not be settled until the people of Alabama have a chance to vote on bingo.

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