Let’s put an end to bingo-busting business

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I’ve never played bingo for money, but I have enjoyed the occasional game.

In school, teachers used to have bingo games as a “fun” way to do math. We’d have to add numbers to get the right answer, and once we got five in a row, we’d get a prize or extra credit or something worthwhile.

It must have worked, because growing up I’d see signs on church bulletins about “bingo night” and I always wished I was old enough to go.

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When I was in college, my best friend’s favorite game was bingo, so for her birthday one year I bought her a game — it had the wheel that turns and drops out the letters and everything. We were also roommates, so occasionally I’d be rounded up as a part of the bingo fun. (Don’t worry, we didn’t play for money … just for Snickers bars and pride).

That being said, I’m not necessarily a fan of gambling. I’ve gone to the casinos in Biloxi, Miss., once and played on the slot machines.

It was fun, but I don’t really get the thrill of pushing a button and hoping you’ll get a match.

So, I imagine I probably wouldn’t really enjoy an electronic game of bingo either.

But, just because I don’t, doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of folks who do.

That’s evident by the success of Victoryland, White Hall and the new establishment Country Crossing, all here in Alabama. It’s also evident by the success of casinos in states neighboring Alabama.

I’ll admit I’m no expert on the Alabama laws of gambling, what’s right and what’s not.

All I can say is I’ve been an Alabama resident all my life and one that has paid attention to her state government for all of Gov. Bob Riley’s time in office.

With all the recent raids on state bingo halls, I have to wonder — why now?

Quincy’s 777 at Victoryland has had electronic bingo machines since 2004, while Riley still had two years left in his first term.

And, as far as I know, these machines have been no secret.

So, why wait until the end of your tenure to start raiding, Gov. Riley?

And for that matter, why even raid at all?

If these machines are indeed illegal, then yes, the law should be followed. But, isn’t there a better way to reach that verdict?

If it’s known there are electronic bingo machines in these facilities, then couldn’t there be a much simpler way to determine their legality?

While it could be argued that sending 135 state troopers to Country Crossing for hours is efficient, I would certainly disagree, especially in a time when Alabama’s funding is among its most sparse.

What I want to see in my state government is efficiency — I want to see teachers’ jobs secured and students’ educations continually improving; I want to see our local roads driveable; I want safety.

What I don’t want to see is a ridiculous charade shutting down gambling halls just for them to reopen again. There needs to be resolution in this matter, peacefully.

If bingo machines are illegal, then so be it. If they aren’t, then put a tax on them and bring some much-needed revenues to the state of Alabama.

Let’s move past this and get onto issues that really matter, like putting money in our education budget and our other state agencies on their way to sinking financially.

Holli Keaton is news editor of The Messenger. She can be reached at holli.keaton@troymessenger.com.