The cops know his name, but his buddies love it when he comes in town.
To date, Calhoun County and its northeast Alabama neighbors have sat out most of the state’s ongoing tussles over the legality of electronic bingo — or electronic sweepstakes, to use the proper term.
No longer is that the case. An out-of-state company, National Promotions, plans to use a northern Calhoun County location to test the state’s laws against sweepstakes machines. It already has installed hundreds of the machines in a building near Silver Lakes Golf Course. The attorney for National Promotions has told The Star that he will file suit if the state shuts down that facility. District Attorney Brian McVeigh says he intends to do just that once his department’s investigation is complete.
Now the murky waters of electronic bingo are nearing Piedmont, where it seems National Promotions may have plans to follow a similar course there in a building that once housed a successful (and legal) paper bingo operation. (And, yes, that is the same National Promotions that tried to open a business with sweepstakes machines in Oxford earlier this year.)
But let’s be clear — facts in this scenario are hard to find.
A front-page story in Sunday’s Star highlighted those difficulties. Though National Promotions’ website lists Piedmont as one of its retail sites, tracking down the owners of that company for comment has been next to impossible. We’ll leave assumptions to others, though we’re confident in saying this possibility of an electronic bingo operation opening in Piedmont is lathered in equal parts confusion and concern.
It’s apparent our little part of Alabama isn’t going to sit out the next round of Alabama’s fight against electronic bingo.
There’s no reason to recount this state’s tiring legal history with electronic bingo. Suffice it to say that the final years of former Gov. Bob Riley’s administration were hampered by the dramatic shutdowns of the state’s largest electronic casinos and the bingo-related back-and-forth between his office and former state Attorney General Troy King. Likewise, federal indictments of a handful of former and current legislators and Montgomery lobbyists in a pay-for-bingo vote scheme did Alabama no good. (That the indictments didn’t stick doesn’t diminish the stain they left on the name of the Alabama Legislature.)
By nature, gambling is fraught with potential dangers. History proves that. And Alabama’s long-standing decision to leave lotteries and casinos to other states has created two effects: (1.) financial windfalls for its neighbors and (2.) all attention on the one form of gambling that’s retained a tenuous legal existence in the state.
Alabamians gamble. On sports, on other states’ lotteries and casinos, and at the few legal Indian casinos that operate here. Yet, the state Legislature has never adequately addressed this unfinished matter, and now it has reached our front doorstep.
Our expectation: more confusion, more concern and a lengthy, drawn-out affair. Lucky us.