Put bingo to vote and move on

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Staff
Unemployment in Alabama is in double digits. The state’s education budget is in proration. The general fund budget might not be far behind.
But headlines across the state in recent weeks have focused not on the lawmakers working to solve those problems but on the politicians squabbling over the issue of gambling in Alabama.
Gov. Bob Riley has taken on a crusade that appears to have backfired on his reputation; as he amps up his fight against electronic bingo with costly raids by his gambling task force, his approval rating is falling.
Polls show that Alabamians simply want an opportunity to vote on the issue. Two bills before the Legislature would do just that: one, sponsored by state Sen. Roger Bedford, and another sponsored by state Sen. Marc Keahey. Both bills would limit and regulate gaming through a constitutional amendment that would be on the ballot this fall.
Of the two, we favor the Keahey bill, in large part because it puts stricter controls on gaming and also requires bingo enterprises to match their gaming investment with spending in other areas, such as hotels and restaurants.
But above all, this issue needs to go before the voters, and until it does, our lawmakers need to move on to more urgent issues, like passing viable budgets, figuring out how to save the Prepaid Alabama College Tuition Fund and helping coastal residents get better insurance coverage.
The people want to vote. Set the date, then fix what needs fixing.