New governor to continue gaming task force

Published 1:03 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gov.-elect Robert Bentley has said he will continue the work of the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling — but has turned it over to incoming attorney general Luther Strange.
But a spokeswoman for Strange said the two offices will not have any comment on how the task force will approach Indian gaming facilities in the state.
Officials with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, which operates Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, have long maintained that they are governed by federal gaming regulations. Gov. Bob Riley’s office, which created the task force, had said it would look into Indian gaming, but the task force never made any move to shut down casinos like Wind Creek.
In the past year, non-Indian gaming facilities in Alabama closed down under threats from the task force.
“By assigning all pending cases and investigative authority to the attorney general’s office, I have transferred the primary responsibility for ensuring that Alabama’s gambling laws are enforced statewide to Attorney General-elect Luther Strange,” Bentley said in a statement. “I will fully support Attorney General Luther Strange in his efforts to enforce the laws of Alabama including laws against illegal gambling. Attorney General Strange will follow the law on gambling and he will have my full support.”
Strange, in accepting the assignment, said his office will not back down from enforcing the gambling laws in the state under his leadership.
“The people of Alabama have elected me to enforce the laws of this great state,” Strange said following the assignment. “I intend to enforce the rule of law as it is written and in strict accordance with the decisions of the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Jessica Garrison, a spokeswoman with Strange’s office, said Bentley and Strange are not making comments concerning the effects of the task force assignment on Indian-owned casinos in the state.
“They are not making any comments outside of the information already released,” Garrison said. “(Any effect on) those establishments won’t be discussed until after they take office.”
Riley, who will complete his final term in office Jan. 16, commended the announcement made by Bentley in the assignment.
“I applaud Attorney General-elect Strange for his commitment to ensuring Alabama law is enforced equally and as it is written in all 67 counties,” he said in a statement. “The list of legal principles spelled out in the joint statement is solid, unadulterated law and it is completely consistent with the view that the Task Force and I have taken over the last two years. The gambling bosses who had hoped that Alabama’s new elected officials would allow them to break the law must be sorely disappointed today.”
In the joint announcement from Bentley and Strange, the duo said gambling establishments that have previously been closed under the threat of raids by the task force should not see this an a signal that opening would be allowed.
“I will work with local district attorneys who are willing to be part of our team,” Strange said.
Alabama law concerning illegal gambling devices such as slot machines and so-called “electronic bingo” will continue to be as follows:
• Any machine that meets the definition of a slot machine or gambling device pursuant to Sections 13A-12-20 (5) and (10) of the Code of Alabama (1975) will be seized, gambling proceeds will be seized, forfeiture actions will be pursued; and any persons who are in the possession of illegal slot machines or who are promoting illegal gambling will be prosecuted, period.
• Absolutely no constitutional amendment in the State of Alabama authorizes the use of machines that accept cash or credit and then dispense cash value prizes based upon chance. Machines with those features are slot machines and are not made legal by any bingo amendment. Likewise, no local bingo rule, regulation or ordinance can legally authorize slot machines.
• The six factors defining bingo laid out by the Alabama Supreme Court in the Cornerstone case will be applied strictly. Those factors cannot be changed, diluted, waived, redefined or reinterpreted by local rule, local regulation, or local definitions, nor through purported certifications from a gaming laboratory.
The Attorney General’s office will provide guidance to prosecutors after the transition, but Bentley said the operators of gambling establishments throughout the state should clearly understand the legal position of the State of Alabama moving forward beginning on Jan. 17.

Email newsletter signup