On October 3, 2016, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued Executive Order 24 creating the Alabama Advisory Council on Gaming.
This group is tasked with “assessing the current state and local laws on gambling, as well as the taxes generated therefrom, and to evaluate the best practices in other states, including tax revenue structures and the enabling and implementing regulations and law, as well as comparing Alabama state laws to applicable Federal gaming laws.”
The Council is to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by January 31, 2017, prior to the next legislative session.
The Governor’s action comes after he and Attorney General Luther Strange sent a series of letters at the end of September 2016 urging local Sheriffs and District Attorneys around the state to enforce the laws prohibiting electronic bingo in their jurisdictions. This letter was sent to Greene County Sheriff Benison and D.A. Greg Griggers.Governor Bentley and Luther Strange sent a more specific and pointed letter to the Sheriffs and D. A.’s for Macon and Lowndes County, listing specific electronic bingo facilities, like Victoryland, which recently opened in these counties and requesting that they be closed based on Alabama law and Supreme Court decisions.
The law enforcement officials in Macon and Lowndes responded to this letter saying that they did not have the capacity or desire to move against electronic bingo facilities in their jurisdictions.
In his Executive Order creating the Gaming Advisory Council, the Governor indicates that gaming in Alabama has been the subject of dispute and controversy and that the State of Alabama needs a fresh perspective and a clear path forward as it relates to gaming and games of chance.
Efforts by the Governor to pass an Alabama State Lottery in this summer’s special legislative session met with defeat because of different gaming interests, including electronic bingo in counties with local Constitutional Amendments. Indian casinos in Alabama and casinos in other states, were not satisfied or protected by the legislation. The proceeds of the state lottery would have been used primarily to support Medicaid in the General Fund and possibly scholarships and pre-K educational programs.
The Governor’s proposed Advisory Council on Gaming will have at least 11 members appointed as follows:
• five (5) appointed by the Governor;
• two members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House, one Republican and one Democrat;
• two members of the Alabama Senate, appointed by the President Pro Temp, one Democrat and one Republican;
• one representative of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, appointed by the Governor;
• one representative of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, appointed by the Governor;
• and additional appointments as the Governor deems necessary.
In the two weeks since his announcement of the Council, the Governor has not publically announced the appointment of any members.
The Greene County Democrat contacted Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO of Greenetrack for a statement of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Gaming. “ I hope Governor Bentley is serious and sincere about seeking a way forward for gaming in the state and not just trying to divert attention from the issue. He seems to be moving slowly in naming the Council. They have a lot of work to do in preparing recommendations for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in February 2017,” said Winn.
“We intend to continue operating in Greene County under Constitutional Amendment 743, because the voters of Greene County authorized electronic bingo. We know that Luther Strange has appealed our latest case to the Alabama Supreme Court, but we feel we are on sound legal and constitutional grounds to operate electronic bingo in the county.
“We feel the people of Greene County will support us and rally to our defense if the Supreme Court decides against the jobs, contributions and progress provided by gaming in Greene County,” said Winn.