Locals want vote on bingo

Published 8:23 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

By By Lisa Tindell
news editor

With the debate over electronic bingo heating up in Alabama, polls show that a majority of residents want a chance to vote on the issue — and an informal survey of Brewton residents reveals similar results.
Eddie McCreary said although he doesn’t do much gambling, the impact of legalizing electronic bingo could be a benefit to everyone involved.
At issue in the gambling debate is whether certain forms of electronic bingo are legal in Alabama. Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force attempted to raid two bingo halls last month, and they remain closed amid the controversy. Two bills have been proposed in the state Senate — one by Roger Bedford and one by Marc Keahey — that would create a gaming commission to limit and regulate legal bingo. Both bills would allow residents to vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize electronic bingo.
Bedford’s bill has passed a Senate committee and is expected to go to a vote of the full Senate as early as this week.
John Cheramie and Leigh Weaver said putting the issue to a statewide vote would be the fair way to handle the situation.
Weaver said the people would be the ones spending the money and should be allowed to make that decision.
Weaver said she may not use the right to gamble that a yes vote might bring, but she thinks everyone should have the choice to play bingo if they want.
McCreary said he believes opening legalized bingo halls or other casino-type establishments would keep money in Alabama.
According to the Florida Lottery’s official Web site, in fiscal year 2008-2009, the Florida Lottery transferred more than $1.28 billion to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. For the seventh time in the Florida Lottery’s 21-year history the agency surpassed the billion-dollar mark in a single year. Currently, the Lottery’s total contribution since start-up is more than $20 billion. Although that size contribution is only a small part of the state’s overall education budget, the impact of the Florida Lottery on public education flows from community to community.
That information is important to area residents as well. Ashley Fore said anything that would benefit the children of Alabama would be enough to get her vote.
Lottie Cole also said she would be willing to cast an affirmative vote if the activity would benefit education.
McCreary said the issue is one that is touchy for many people but believed most people would approve of legalization of electronic bingo.
Crystal Dykes said if legalizing electronic bingo would bring more money to the state, everyone would win.
Fore said she’s not certain a vote to legalized electronic bingo or other gambling activity in Alabama will pass.