Passing the buck on bingo

Published 11:15 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Last week, Gov. Robert Bentley offered up what some might consider the perfect solution for the electronic bingo conundrum in Alabama – He washed his hands of it, passing the onus of enforcing the state’s prohibition on gambling from the state attorney general’s office to local sheriffs and district attorneys.
On the positive side, the change will likely stop the voluminous state spending – more than $9 million to date – in the thus far futile effort to eradicate electronic bingo in the state.
On the negative side, by leaving the interpretation of what’s legal and what’s not to local officials, there’s sure to be no consistency across the state.
From that perspective, it seems the governor’s administration, particularly Attorney General Luther Strange, who is eyeing a run for governor, has the most to gain by passing off the responsibility of enforcing the state’s gambling prohibition.
But it does nothing to clear up the question of what, exactly, is prohibited and what is not.
It also opens the door to a flood of money into campaign chests as gambling proponents eye candidates for public office who might consider electronic bingo as legal under existing constitutional amendments and local regulations.
Recently, a circuit judge in Montgomery ruled that the state must return hundreds of gambling devices and thousands in confiscated cash taken in a raid at the bingo facility at Macon County’s VictoryLand. In his ruling, Judge William Shashy determined that the state had selectively enforced the law.
With the determination of what is and isn’t legal now at the discretion of local law enforcement officials and prosecutors, we predict more uneven enforcement across the state.
That’s no way to govern.

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