Unless there are significant changes, three Alabama Bingo Halls will have to stop their machines or risk prosecution by the end of October 2022. Alabama’s attorney general is pressing the issue of the legality of electronic bingo machines at facilities.
While the immediate effect of the notice could mean the end of the line for the three sites named in the release. It could also be the harbinger of a similar fate for another establishment offering electronic bingo games.
This development could also change the content of the legislation aimed at developing gambling in Alabama.
AG tells Alabama bingo halls to shut everything down
On September 30, the Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a Notice of State Decision Supreme Court. The case was Alabama vs. Epic Tech, LLC.
Marshall calls the decision “a major victory for gambling law enforcement in Alabama” and conveys its significance for three bingo halls in the state.
Essentially, Marshall says the decision means that electronic bingo devices in these three establishments are illegal:
- southern star
- White room
Marshall adds that he is granting “the state of Alabama’s request to prohibit casinos from offering” gambling to customers.
Thus, companies that operate these machines in these facilities now have the choice between shutting down the machines indefinitely or risk criminal prosecution.
Considering how quickly Marshall released this statement after the court ruling, it seems almost guaranteed that Marshall would sue at one point. This particularly applies if bingo halls were to continue to offer electronic games.
The decision also reinforces the fact that in the eyes of the state, only bingo games played on real physical cards are legal in some parts of the state. An amendment to the state constitution allows each county to decide for itself whether to allow bingo games with a charitable component within its boundaries.
Both the Southern Star and the White Hall sit inside Lowndes County while Victoryland occupies a place in County of Macon. This announcement could have ramifications for a similar facility in another county and in fact, Marshall is alluding to exactly that.
Could this be a bad sign for other bingo halls in Alabama?
Marshall indicates an answer to this question in his statement.
“The Attorney General’s separate lawsuit to end illegal gambling at the Greenetrack Casino in Greene County continues to proceed in court.”
Given the state Supreme Court’s opinion on electronic bingo machines in Lowndes and Macon counties, the fate of this litigation does not look very good for Greentrack. It could only be a matter of time before Marshall issues a similar statement naming this facility.
Although Greenetrack’s operations may comply with the Greene County orders, the Supreme Court could again rule that only physical bingo games fall within the bounds of state law, which supersedes all county provisions.
At this time, it is unclear if any of these bingo halls will continue or begin offering paper games. Alternatively, they could simply close shop due to this development. The best hope for the future of electronic bingo games in Alabama now appears to be the state legislature.
State legislature could step in to expand legal gambling in Alabama
In theory, if Alabama’s gambling laws restrict electronic bingo machines, one possible way forward is change state laws. The Alabama legislature has been active on the gambling issue recently.
Last session, a potential constitutional amendment to expand legal gambling in Alabama nearly passed the Senate. This legislation did not explicitly address the legality of electronic bingo devices. Either way, new legislation in the next session might do that.
Alabama Senator Greg Albrittonthe sponsor of the aforementioned legislation, said it plans to try again in 2023. It is unclear at this time whether it will include a provision legalizing electronic bingo.
Barring such a change, it appears Marshall intends to shut down electronic bingo games in Alabama. If the legislature does not intervene, it appears the highest court in the state is behind him.