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10/1/2010 - October 2010 SLI Educational Update - Gamblers Stoop to New Low



 To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

 Date:               October 2010  

 From:              A. Eric Johnston

 Re:                  Gamblers Stoop to New Low[1]

When the Legislature adjourned last May, efforts to “let the people vote” by gamblers had failed.  The proposed bills would have expanded, legalized and monopolized all types of gambling in Alabama.  A Montgomery grand jury is investigating politicos for criminal activities.  Governor Bob Riley’s Task Force on Gambling has raided many establishments, closing them down.  The issue is whether “bingo” machines being played are slot machines in violation of Alabama criminal law and not permitted by any of the 18 limited charity bingo constitutional amendments.

 During this time, Alabama was participating in primary and runoff elections, with the general election set for November 2, 2010.  For gubernatorial candidates, as well as many Alabama House and Senate seats, the question of gambling is an issue.  Democrat nominee Ron Sparks favors all gambling, while Republican nominee Robert Bentley would “let the people vote” and dissolve the Task Force.  Both of these positions are frightening to those who have fought to stop unlawful gambling in Alabama.

 On January 17, 2011, a new Governor will be inaugurated and new legislators will take their seats.  The Task Force will come to an end.  Unless Luther Strange is elected Attorney General, enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws on gambling will be spotty at best, perhaps only in Jefferson County if DA Brandon Falls is reelected and in Mobile County where John Tyson, Task Force leader, is DA. 

The Task Force efforts have resulted in favorable Alabama Supreme Court opinions, but the process is not quite over.  We have seen local judges issue injunctions and refuse to permit the Task Force to investigate illegal operations.  The Supreme Court has made it clear the Task Force may go forward.  This legal wrangling delays conclusive opinions.  At the same time, gamblers initiate rallies and other activities attempting to portray this as an issue about jobs and not about unlawful gambling, which is a regressive form of tax on those who least can afford it, primarily to the benefit of gambling machine owners and operators. 

The latest tactic is a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court, accusing Riley and Tyson of violating the constitutional rights of African-Americans in Greene and Macon Counties.  All of the plaintiffs are residents of Greene and Macon Counties, where the populations are 77% and 83%, respectively, African-American.  When these citizens voted on local Amendments 743 and 744, allowing bingo in Greene and Macon Counties, they allege they intended to have expanded gambling.  Their proposition is that civil rights laws, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act, are violated by the Task Force’s “threatening and intimidating” policies which nullify the votes of electoral minority majorities in Greene and Macon Counties authorizing unlimited gambling. 

These civil rights laws are meant to stop racial discrimination.  Now, however, the race card is being played in this high stakes game by politicians and gamblers, and their lawyers, in an effort to enjoin the Task Force from operation.  This effort is a disingenuous and pedestrian effort to delay until January 17, 2011 any ability of the Task Force to obtain final opinions by the Alabama Supreme Court on this issue of unlawful gambling.  It should be an affront to African-American citizens for their race to be used as a reason to perpetuate unlawful and unconstitutional gambling.  It is ridiculous to believe that the Legislature approved and the voters in Greene and Macon Counties voted to permit unlawful unregulated gambling in the face of Article IV, Section 65, Alabama Constitution and Alabama’s historic strong public policy, which prohibit games of chance.

 The gamblers cannot really believe they are going to make this a legitimate racial issue.  That is why it is sad to see them using race as a vehicle to maintain the unlawful activities which line their pockets with filthy lucre.  They diminish the importance of racial equality for the purpose of buying four months’ time, so they can once again start up their casinos and take advantage of their brethren. 

 This year’s election is largely about gambling.  This should also be a referendum on those who play on the prejudices of others for their own personal gain.  Voters must take a very close look at the candidates, those who are not indicted, and vote for those who will be good stewards of Alabama’s future.

[1] Published in Birmingham News September 19, 2010.

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