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Gambling Issue Dominates Gubernatorial Forum In Alabama

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In the state of Alabama, there may be no bigger issue that decides the next governor than gambling. Even the unemployment rate was put on the back burner at Saturday's gubernatorial candidate forum in Birmingham.

The candidates met at the Winfrey Hotel with a plan of persuading voters to go in their direction in the upcoming election. With Governor Robert Riley on his way out of office, these candidates see the gambling issue as one that will most likely determine November's winner.

"Who would have imagined bingo would be the big issue when unemployment is at the highest it's been in years," said Republican Bill Johnson. He is one of several Republican candidates who believes the voters should have a say in the future of gambling in Alabama.

The leading candidate from the Democratic side is Ron Sparks, and he has made his position known in recent days. Sparks has blasted Riley for the way he has used the Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

"As governor, I will never use the state troopers of this state to fight my battles," said Sparks, "I will never get into a shouting match with the voters of Alabama."

Sparks was referencing a rally at the State House last week in which gambling supporters got into a heated battle with Riley and other anti-gambling supporters.

The gambling issue is far from resolved, with Riley and the Task Force carrying out raids as recently as this past week. Legislators, meanwhile, have introduced legislation that would put the issue to a vote in Alabama.

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