Alabama Bingo Brouhaha Continues

Bingo is in the news again in Alabama. Electronic bingo has created a long a bitter legal battle between casino operators and state and federal regulators. Federal prosecutors wasted million in a first trial where the defendants were acquitted of all charges. Vindictive federal prosecutors then announced plans to try the defendants a second time. The results were predictable. The jury handed the justice department a humiliating defeat. In the process tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted. The whole battle was over electronic bingo machines that regulators say are really slot machines which are prohibited in Alabama.

Although federal officials have backed off the state’s attorney general Luther Strange is continuing the vendetta against electronic bingo. Recently Strange went so far as to ask the National Indian Gaming Commission to take action to ban electronic bingo machines on reservations where he has no authority. The tribe, which operates three casinos in Alabama, is justifiably offended. Daniel K. McGhee, Tribal Gaming Commission Administrator for the Poarch Creek Indians, said that his “biggest problem” with the attorney general’s action was the request to take action on tribal land. McGhee told reporters that “It’s an attack on sovereignty. Basically, he might as well be asking to be able to enforce certain laws in Florida or any other state.” He added “It’s offensive to tribes to make a request like that.”

Strange sent a letter to the commission requesting similar actions. McGhee said he is confident that the bingo machines are legal under current gambling laws. McGhee said that last year Strange sent a similar letter to the commission with a similar request. NIGC Chairwoman Tracie L. Stevens replied to Strange and said that the Poarch Creeks “may play electronic bingo so long as it otherwise meets IGRA’s Class II gaming definition.”  McGhee s pointed out that “They did not have a problem with what we are doing here. I don’t see what he hopes to gain by a second letter.”

Strange has argued that the bingo machines operated on lands owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are illegal according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan expressed frustration and said “It puts the state in an untenable position when you are enforcing the rule of law in the state but yet the National Indian Gaming Commission will not enforce the federal rule of law on tribal lands.” It makes one wonder what actions state officials would take against those playing internet bingo in Alabama in the privacy of their own homes?