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Alabama Race For Governor Heats Up With Gambling Allegations

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When Governor Robert Riley created a task force to go after video bingo gambling operations in the state of Alabama, there were some who privately questioned his motives. Now, those motives are being questioned publicly by a former member of the governor's cabinet.

Bill Johnson, a gubernatorial candidate, has accused Riley of accepting campaign donations from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The contributions are alleged to be in the millions of dollars, and Johnson suggested that may be the reason for Riley's assault on video bingo gambling.

"I'm concerned that those dollars from Mississippi Indian casino owners are manipulating public policy in Alabama," said Johnson, while speaking on the issue, "and blocking the efforts of good Alabamians like Ronnie Gilley from creating the very kind of opportunities we need throughout this state."

Johnson claims to have first hand knowledge of the contributions, and wants Riley to stop dictating to Alabama residents about the gambling issue. He is calling for voters to decide the issue, not the governor.

"It's time for the governor to back off and let the people decide on the future of bingo in Alabama," Let the people of Alabama decide, not the Indians in Mississippi."

Riley has denied the allegations that he has taken any money from the Mississippi Indians. The tribe has also denied in the past that they have contributed to Riley's campaign. These, however, are not the first allegations tossed at Riley on this matter.

Back in 2006, Lucy Baxley was running against Riley to become governor of Alabama, and she made similar claims to the one that Johnson has now made. Riley is dismissing the allegations of Johnson as a political ploy, but many people in Alabama are skeptical.

"There has to be a reason that the governor is engaging in an all out assault on these bingo halls," said Max Gentry, "I think there has to be some political motivation, and Johnson's story would certainly make sense when you consider how strong Riley has gone after these businesses."

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