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Alabama Gambling Debate Reignited By Attorney General Strange

The electronic bingo machine debate is one that has been ongoing for the past several years in Alabama, and after VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor beat a case against him earlier this year, residents in Alabama thought the issue would die down.

That was the case until recently when Attorney General Luther Strange reignited the debate by sending a letter to the federal agency that oversees Indian gambling. The letter reflected on Strange's inability to police the tribe operating what he believes are illegal slots at their casinos.

"The Tribe's ability to obscure the line between Class II and III makes it harder for my office to enforce Alabama law outside of Indian land," wrote Strange. "Alabama citizens are understandably confused when Indian tribes are allowed to call their Class III slot machines 'bingo,' but gambling promoters within the state's jurisdiction cannot use the same gimmick."

The angle that Strange took regarding the residents of Alabama is an interesting one, according to some analysts.

"What the people of Alabama have said over the past few years, is they increasingly want the electronic bingo machines to be legal, and many residents actually believe the machines are already legal under state law," said Gaming Analyst Brad Dawkins. "The government, however, has maintained that the machines are illegal, and that is where the confusion lies with regard to the Alabama residents."

McGregor and fellow gaming hall owner Ronnie Gilley were indicted on charges that they bribed lawmakers in exchange for positive votes on a bill that would have allowed the electronic bingo machine debate to be settled by voters. The bill passed the Senate, but was soundly defeated in the House. Gilley pleaded guilty to the charges and became the main witness against McGregor. Gilley's testimony did not lead to a conviction of McGregor, as the jury found him not guilty earlier this year.

The gambling debate sprung to life when former Governor Robert Riley created the Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The task force had a hand in closing down all of the major gaming halls in Alabama, but the force had no jurisdiction to close the tribal casinos that operate the electronic bingo machines. Strange would like the federal agency to force the tribal casinos in Alabama to stop offering the machines to their customers.

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