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October 17, 2013
For More Information, contact:
Luther Strange
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
Alabama Attorney General
Claire Haynes (334) 242-7351
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(MONTGOMERY)ó Attorney General Luther Strange is pleased to announce
that Houston County Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Conaway has issued a decisive
ruling in a case involving so-called “electronic bingo.” The final ruling today was the
culmination of a joint law enforcement effort by the Alabama Department of Public
Safety, Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes, District Attorney Doug Valeska and
Attorney General Luther Strange.
Law enforcement officers seized 691 illegal slot machines and gambling devices
and $288,668.62 in cash proceeds from the Center Stage casino in Houston County last
year. The Judgeís ruling today came after prosecutors from Attorney General Strangeís
Office presented evidence in a three day trial in Houston County. The machines will be
destroyed and the money forfeited to the General Fund.
“The decision from Judge Conaway in Houston County Circuit Court marks a
good day for the rule of law,” said Attorney General Strange. “In a detailed analysis, the
Court held that machines masquerading as electronic bingo are in fact illegal slot
machines. Bingo operators have tried to create confusion in the law but this ruling ends
the nonsense. Only the traditional paper version of the game commonly known as
bingo is authorized by the Houston County bingo amendment, and slot machines
cannot be used to play bingo.”
The Court concluded the gambling devices seized at the Center Stage casino
were ìnothing more than illegal gambling cloaked in a ëBingoí costumeî and ìnot the
game traditional game known as ëBingoí as defined by the Supreme Court.î In the
ruling, the Court specifically found that the machines being used to play so-called
“electronic bingo” were nothing more than illegal slot machines playing an illegal game
that lasted only a matter of seconds. The Court found the game being played did not
meet the six mandatory characteristics of bingo set forth by the Alabama Supreme
Court in the 2010 Cornerstone case, which plainly requires that the human elements of
the traditional game of bingo must be fully preserved in order for a game to potentially
qualify as legal bingo.
501 Washington Avenue Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 242-7300
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Attorney General Strange also notes that “the fundamental legal principles which
underlie todayís ruling apply not only to Houston County, but in all counties subject to
local bingo amendments. Since taking office, I have said that I will resolve the debate
over electronic bingo in the courts. Today, another court has spoken and I hope this
opinion will serve as a warning for those currently engaged in illegal gambling
activities or contemplating operating slot machines in Houston County and throughout
the state.”
ìUntil the Alabama Legislature acts to create an effective deterrent for large scale
illegal gambling, individuals will continue to engage in illegal gambling activity and
openly defy the law. These individuals stand to make thousands of dollars in illegal
gambling profits while risking only a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor charge. Law
enforcement will continue to be forced to expend valuable resources to deal with this
problem. The Legislature must change our law and create a badly needed deterrent for
large scale illegal gambling by increasing the penalty for operating an illegal slot
machine casino to a felony,î said Attorney General Strange.