State’s dance with bingo getting old

Published 10:20 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

I share frustration with many Alabamians over the current bingo debacle.

Having lived in this state my entire life, I can’t stand the light that the debate over this subject shines on my fellow citizens.

With each passing day, I grow more disappointed in Attorney General Troy King, Mobile District Attorney John Tyson and Gov. Bob Riley.

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I once had a great respect for Gov. Riley and the way his administration ran our state. I still look back over his nearly eight years in office as a good, but this mess as he prepares to leave office, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’ve not played bingo since elementary school and I’ve never played it for money. I’ve only “gone gambling” once in my life – a weekend trip to Biloxi, Miss. with a friend while I was in college. As I recall, I lost more than I won; a pretty good indication on why I haven’t gone back.

I don’t have a problem with gambling. I don’t have a problem with gambling in Alabama. What I do have a problem with is lawmakers who cloud the subject, allowing what could be an illegal activity to continue while elected officials jockey for position at the head of the line.

If gambling is illegal Alabama, then it should be illegal in all counties and all cities. If it is legal, the same should apply.

The Alabama State Senate passed the ‘Simple Bingo Bill’ Tuesday afternoon. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, provides the people of Alabama a straight up or down vote on the issue of electronic bingo and, if passed, creates a bingo tax higher than any other Southern state along with a tough independent statewide gaming commission.

I’m for that. If the people want it, great. Let’s play bingo and tax the devil out of it.

However, Gov. Riley sees a loophole in the bill. “If the people vote yes, the casinos get the bailout they want.  If the people vote no, the situation we have today continues,” he said.

If a vote is put before the people, it should fix this situation regardless of how the votes fall. In this all or nothing bill, the state is sent back to the drawing board if we vote no.

I’m probably not educated enough to fix this problem. It seems too simple. It seems like a yes or no question. Is it legal or is it not?

And I think in this scenario, an “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. As I voter, I’m tired of hearing “yes, it’s legal” from one side and “no, it’s not” from the other.

If lawmakers don’t know, let us decide.

If the voters say it’s legal; bingo for everyone now and forever. If the voters say it’s illegal; it’s illegal and we can all move on with our lives.

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.