Riley obsessed with bingo

Published 6:48 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Staff
Most folks were shocked when Gov. Riley declared that unlike every other state in the country Alabama was not plagued by nor should we worry about the financial crisis facing our state. The governor took two minutes to dismiss the economic woes in a Pollyanna display of optimism, basing his budgets on a pie in the sky gamble that Congress would rescue us with another stimulus spending boondoggle. However, it was no surprise that Riley quickly moved to the subject of electronic bingo and spent nine minutes in a tirade against bingo in the state.
Attorney General Troy King has openly been on the other side of the fence from the governor during this charade. King diplomatically, but adamantly, disagrees with the governor on whether the machines are legal. He has warned the governor that he has overstepped his boundaries and is treading on treacherous ground that could leave the state vulnerable.
This whole scenario is perplexing to most Alabam-ians. Riley’s actions appear ludicrous. Alabamians can gamble online every hour of the day if they so choose. It is possible to purchase a lottery ticket via the internet from any state in America. There are ways to bet on every football game and sporting event. Under Alabama law that is equally as illegal as the bingo games. The only difference is that Alabama is one of the only states not deriving much needed tax revenue. from this form of gaming.
Riley’s charade makes him look naïve, irrational and childish. It appears he rather play cowboys and Indians than solve the state’s real problems during his last year in office.
He created a personal posse to chase down the cowboys but instructed his sheriff not to mess with the Indians. In fact, his sheriff was caught playing marbles with the Indians in their wigwam and won while waiting for his next chance to attack the cowboys.
This whole situation appears hypocritical at best and suspect at worse. On the surface, the question asked by most Alabamians is why the governor in his last year in office has gone overboard on this ubiquitous obsession. It looks even worse that the governor’s posse is never interested in raiding the Indian casinos in the state. Hopefully, there is no hidden motive.
It is disappointing that Riley, who spent seven years building a great reputation as an outstanding governor and a hallmark legacy as a premier industrial recruiter, has become perceived as somewhat of a joke. He will forever be remembered as “Bingo Bob.”  Alabama is once again being ridiculed for being a backward, ignorant state that elects demagogues who spend precious state resources for dramatic self-serving, reactionary, schoolhouse door stands.
Prohibition taught us a valuable lesson that most of the country learned. You cannot wipe out alcohol and gambling. Therefore, the best solution is to regulate and tax it.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at <> .

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