Gambling a central issue in campaigns

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 30, 2002

BNI Newswire

In the last week before the primary, the issue that dominated the last gubernatorial election is front and center again.

Since Gov. Don Siegelman, the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, announced plans to try again to establish a lottery in Alabama, the GOP contenders have all vehemently opposed any form of gambling.

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But Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James and the third-place candidate according to polls, has raised questions this week about the sincerity of U.S. Rep. Bob Riley’s opposition to gambling.

James alleges that a Riley campaign brochure claims he helped pass a bill to prohibit Internet gambling, but that bill never passed.

According to James, Riley’s campaign also received two $500 donations from the American Horse Council, which represents many facets of the horse industry, including racing.

"Anyone who is sincere about fighting gambling would never accept money from the gaming lobby," James said. "On one hand Bob Riley wears his Christianity on his sleeve. On the other hand Bob Riley seems to have something up his sleeve. The voters of this state deserve to know the truth about Riley’s pro-gambling record."

Riley, though, said he is against any form of gambling and urged candidates to work together to fight a lottery.

"The only thing I can tell you is that I have been against gambling all my life," he told The Associated Press. "I have never supported gambling and I never will. The same is true of Steve Windom and Tim James. We need to concentrate on defeating Don Siegelman and his lottery."

Meanwhile, Steve Windom announced Wednesday that his campaign is the only one which has come up with a counter-offer to Siegelman’s lottery, which would raise money for education.

Windom, also vehemently opposed to a lottery, said his plan calls for saving money by bringing accountability to the state bid process.

His comments brought the debate over gambling back to Siegelman’s original intent: the issue of funding for schools.

"We need to put spending under the microscope, beginning in Montgomery," Windom said last week.

"We have had all of these ‘good ol’ boy contracts," he said, referring to ethics allegations against Siegelman’s bid process. "We need to make sure that money gets to the classroom."