King takes over gambling task force

Published 11:34 am Monday, March 22, 2010

By By Kerry Whipple Bean & Michele Gerlach
Attorney General Troy King said Monday he will take over the state’s task force on illegal gambling and temporarily stop the task force’s raids on Alabama casinos.
King said he was dismissing John Tyson Jr. as commander of the task force. He said he would ask courts to decide whether the gambling machines at Alabama casinos are legal.
King said the 448 days since the task force was established, “core questions” about bingo machines remain unresolved.
Amid the debate over the bingo raids in recent months, the state Legislature has proposed a number of bills that would allow Alabamians to vote on a Constitutional amendment to regulate and gaming establishments. The most prominent of those fell just shy of making it to full debate by the Senate.
Both Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, and Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, said Friday they expect yet another piece of bingo legislation to come before the legislature when it reconvenes next week after its spring break.
Hammett said the bill will likely be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Roger Bedford, whose earlier attempts at passing bingo legislation this session failed.
Hammett said the new legislation calls for a constitutional amendment that defines the game and establishes a commission to regulate it. It also gives the governor, lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, and others the authority to appoint members to the gaming commission, and prohibits those seeking election to offices with appointing authority from receiving campaign funds from gambling interests.
The bill will tax gambling revenue a minimum of 20 percent at the state level and 5 percent at the local level, he said.
The 16 counties in which charitable bingo is currently allowed would not be affected by the new legislation in the ways that previously proposed legislation did.
If Alabama voters approve the measure, the legislation calls for a special session of the legislature will be convened in the last week of January of 2011 to establish rules governing bingo.
Holley said he has not had the opportunity to read the new legislation, but has heard that it will be introduced this week.
The legislature has got to get to the budgets, Holley said. He said he expects the education budget to begin in the House while the Senate will first take up the general fund budget.
He said it’s his understanding that Congress did pass that measure this week.

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