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4/1/2010 - April 2010 SLI Educational Update - Gamblers Take Second Bite at the SB380 Apple



To: SLI Supporters

Date: April 2010

From: A. Eric Johnston

Re: Gamblers Take Second Bite at the SB380 Apple

Senator Roger Bedford offered another bill in the Alabama Senate to legalize unlimited electronic gambling in Alabama. This new bill was a substitute for Senator Bedford’s first bill, SB380, which failed to garner enough votes to make it out of the Senate. The substitute, however, was passed by the Senate late March 30 by a 21 to 13 vote. It will now go to the House for consideration.

Senator Bedford says the reason he offered the substitute bill was because the people are clamoring for the right to vote on gambling and his first bill was just too complicated for them to understand. Both of these are specious reasons and supported only by the rhetoric of those who are attempting to preserve what is illegal gambling in this state.

It is true the first bill was complicated. It set out a detailed plan to permit a monopoly of existing illegal gambling interests who would be exempt from the Alabama Constitution’s prohibition of games of chance, criminal statutes on gambling and Alabama Supreme Court opinions restricting gambling, while offering only a minimal tax as an incentive. The substitute bill will do the same thing, it just does not say it.

The gamblers’ drumbeat continues with “let the people vote” and with the Attorney General adding inflammatory rhetoric to the issue by saying the “rule of law” does not permit the attempted criminal prosecution of the casinos and bingo halls by the Governor’s Task Force on Gambling. This political and legal posturing is highly suggestive to voters that gambling is a legitimate issue in Alabama which needs to be addressed by letting the people vote on whether they want to continue “bingo” in this state. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Senator Bedford’s new bill is just as corrupt as his first bill. The substitute bill does three things: first, it defines “bingo” in such a way that virtually any type of electronic gambling would be permitted; second, it creates a gaming commission with authority to fill in all the blanks, much like Obamacare; and, third, while it requires a 25% tax, it does not say how the tax is calculated. It calls for a special session of the Legislature in January 2011 to implement this far reaching gambling proposal.

If the Legislature approves the substitute bill, it would go to the people for a vote. However, the people would not be voting on a definitive question of gambling. They would be voting on letting the Legislature, with the help of gamblers, determine just how big gambling will be in Alabama.

The Legislature would be able to amend the Criminal Code and other statutes to allow virtually unlimited gambling under the amendment. With the known powerful influence of the gambling lobby, we know the tax will be calculated on a minimum basis. The gambling lobby will, no doubt, seek to restrict the number of gambling establishments, so as to avoid what the earlier bill called “predatory competition.” But if they change their mind, the substitute bill would permit the Legislature to establish a gambling operation in every community and town in the state.

The voters in Alabama have approved over the years 18 constitutional amendment exceptions to the “no game of chance” prohibition in our Constitution. These were all intended to be limited charitable operations played, perhaps, one day per week for a couple of hours with 100% of the proceeds going to charity after minimal bingo winnings were paid to the players. The gambling that exists now in its unlawful form and which is proposed by Senator Bedford’s substitute bill is a high stakes multi-billion dollar industry which will destroy the State of Alabama’s credibility as a good place to live and work, while along the way, destroying the lives and families of her citizens.

The rhetoric of “let the people vote” is a slogan meant to mislead the people into a false sense of security that this is doing the right thing. Citizens are entitled to know the real meaning of proposed legislation. They should be given the details and an objective explanation of them. At the same time, gamblers should be prosecuted for their crimes, rather than permit special interests to mock justice. The people must be given the truth. If they know the truth, they will not be tricked by the political/legal shell game being played in this state.

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