A new bill that would have permitted the installation of electronic gambling machines at a new venue in Macon County did not make it past a procedural vote held in the Alabama Senate. The proposed venue was a well established dog track known as VictoryLand. The bill in question, SB 320, was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley but it fell short of the votes it needed and therefore it couldn’t be brought up for debate. The vote was 14-13 in favour of bringing the bill up for discussion but this was far from the three-fifths majority it needed.
The proposed legislation was intended to write a law that would give VictoryLand gambling machines that were identical to the ones operated by the Poarch tribe of Creek Indians at their casinos. The Indian tribe currently operates three casinos in the state of Alabama at Wetumpka, Atmore, and Montgomery and it falls under the jurisdiction of federal laws and not state laws. These casinos are equipped with electronic bingo machines which look very much like slot machines.
Sen. Beasley said that the state was being unfair when it didn’t permit a particular establishment to have a type of bingo machine that other establishments already had. In fact, the Senator also said that voters were probably under the impression that they had authorized bingo in all its forms including electronic when the issue was brought to the ballot earlier. Sen. Beasley went on to say that if his bill had been passed then it would have bolstered the existing amendment permitting bingo operations in the county.
VictoryLand had been raided in 2013 and all its electronic bingo machines seized. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled against the establishment last month, saying that the machines were illegal and not covered by the constitutional amendments that permitted bingo in certain parts of the state. The court specified that the amendment stipulated card and paper bingo and not the electronic type.
Milton McGregor, the owner of VictoryLand, intends to fight on despite the adverse court ruling that came after a long drawn out legal battle. In fact, he had said that he will reopen the establishment at a later date with brand new machines. The gambling facility at VictoryLand used to provide direct and indirect employment to more than 2000 people, and the loss of these jobs when the hall was shut down has hit the community hard. However, the failure of the proposed bill to get the attention of lawmakers will definitely hit his plans hard.
Interestingly, the VictoryLand bill wasn’t the first electronic bingo bill to fail to make it past procedural obstacles in the Alabama senate. Another proposal, this one by Dem Sen Bobby Singleton of Greensboro to retain bingo casino services at GreeneTrack, was also shot down in the senate since it failed to get the 21 votes it needed. The gambling industry has great potential to revitalise the economy and therefore need of the hour is to provide proper regulation and intelligent policies.