Bill would legalize gambling at non-Indian sites

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gambling operations like Victoryland in Macon County and Country Crossing at Dothan could continue to operate as long as the games being played are legal at Indian gaming facilities, under a bill introduced in the Alabama Legislature.

The House Tourism and Travel Committee has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 20 on the bill, which was introduced Tuesday.

The proposal is an effort to stop Gov. Bob Riley’s antigambling task force from raiding and shutting down electronic bingo operations. The operators of the Country Crossing facility went to court last week to stop an expected raid.

Under the legislation, games played at Indian facilities would also be legal at non-Indian facilities already in operation, said the sponsor, Democratic Rep. Marcel Black of Tuscumbia.

Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said the bill would be unconstitutional because the Alabama Constitution makes such games illegal and a statute passed by the Legislature can’t override the constitution.

A spokesman for Country Crossing, Doug Rainer, said the facility’s operators were studying the proposed legislation.

“Right now we are supporting movements that would eliminate Bob Riley’s attacks on legal businesses such as ours,” Rainer said.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he expects most Republicans in the Legislature to oppose the bill.

“If the constitution says slot machines are illegal, that supersedes any statute,” Hubbard said. He also said the bill would create a monopoly for the established gambling facilities already in operation.

Black said he also plans to introduce later in the session a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize electronic gambling machines at certain locations, tax those operations and establish a statewide gaming commission to regulate gambling.

Black said the purpose of the bill is to treat all gambling operations the same.

“When people go into a facility run by an Alabama operator and when they go into an Indian facility, there’s no difference, it’s all gambling. This needs to be done to keep it fair,” Black said.