Committees OK bills to allow Alabama casinos to operate bingo machines

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Committees approved two bills Wednesday aimed at gambling halls VictoryLand and GreeneTrack to resume operations without interference from state law enforcement.

The Senate Committee on Tourism and Marketing approved SB320 from Sen. William Beasley (D-Clayton), which would allow VictoryLand in Macon County to operate the same bingo machines being used by the Poarch Creek Indians at casinos in Wetumpka, Atmore and Montgomery.

Beasley’s bill would codify the legality of the machines and allow the now-closed casino to resume normal operations. He said the bill would stand to reinforce the current amendment allowing bingo in the county and help to recoup the more than 2,000 jobs lost when the gambling hall was closed down.

The bill was approved with little discussion.

The House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism approved HB419 from Rep. Artis McCampbell (D-Livingston), does essentially the same thing as Beasley’s: It codifies the legality of bingo on electronic devices used by Native American casinos and establishes a gaming commission to oversee the operations.

However, McCampbell’s legislation is a constitutional amendment, which means that, if it is passed by the legislature, the voters of Greene County would have the final say in whether or not is in enacted. Beasley’s bill will have to go before the governor if it is able to clear the legislature.

Gov. Robert Bentley said last year that he has no further plans to go after gambling operations in the state. Further, Attorney General Luther Strange, who had previously taken the lead in unraveling many state gaming operations, has demonstrated an unwillingness to attack such operations recently.

The two bills aim to ensure that the gambling halls are safe from prosecution once Bentley’s time has expired.

After gaining favorable reports, both bills are slated to go before their respective houses when the legislative session resumes April 5.

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