Alabama Attorney General Picking the Wrong Fight

Alabama attorney general Luther Strange has been back in the news recently. In February he made good on a threat to shut down VictoryLand casino [putting 600 people out of work in an area with high unemployment. During the raid on VictoryLand over 1,000 electronic bingo machines were seized and over $200,000 in cash was seized. Some news sources say that Alabama citizens are getting tired of Strange’s antics and his waste of taxpayer dollars and resources. Strange has spent millions pursuing his vendetta against bingo. A recent editorial in the Cullman Times states “The state of Alabama’s crusade against what it perceives as gambling slot machines amounts to a grand waste of time and money.”

The laws defining bingo in Alabama are murky at best. In some counties bingo is legal but not slot machines. Most people consider the issue unimportant but not state officials. Even worse Strange is now at odds with the National Indian Gaming Commission over slot machines in tribal casinos located in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery. Since Strange went to law school he should be familiar with the concept of tribal sovereignty. The acting chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission had to remind Strange that “Indian tribes are not bound by state definitions of the game of bingo when operating on Indian lands.”

Some political observers look at Strange’s efforts to close tribal casinos as ‘public nuisances’ as rather odd considering the fact that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has donated over $100,000 to Strange’s campaigns. The lands owned by the tribe are under federal jurisdiction and are not subject to Alabama’s gaming laws. For years Alabama politicians have made a big show of targeting locations with slot machines. Strange considers the electronic bingo machines to be illegal slot machines even though several gaming experts have said they are not.

The editorial in the Cullman Times expresses what the editor believes is the real reason behind all of the raids, trials and other antigambling activities in the state. The editorial says that the “The state’s habitual attack on what it perceives as illegal gambling operations has more to do with an attempt at governing morals than anything else. Alabama politicians have made careers out of attacking “sin” through the years, mostly to gain votes from people.” Many people would like to see the gambling issue put to a popular vote but over the years politicians have devised deceitful ways to prevent Alabama residents from voting on the issue. Lawmakers need to bring a simple referendum to the voters and let them decide the issue.