Alabama AG Marshall files lawsuits to stop ‘electronic bingo’ in Greene and other counties

Sheriff Benison revised bingo rules to provide funds to hospital

Last week, the Greene County Democrat received from Sheriff Benison, a revised copy of Section 4 of the Electronic Bingo Rules for Greene County. The revised rules provide for the Greene County Health Services, which includes the Hospital, Nursing Home, Physicians Clinic and related health care facilities, to receive $25.00 per bingo machine to support healthcare for Greene County residents.

The new rules are effective as of October 1, 2017 and will provided needed revenues for the hospital with the November
distribution of bingo funds.


(MONTGOMERY)—Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Wednesday the filing of multiple lawsuits against casinos in five counties that continue to operate “electronic bingo,” on what he calls illegal slot machines in defiance of state law.  The lawsuits call upon local circuit courts to prohibit the defendants from promoting, operating and transporting “electronic bingo” machines and slot machines in those counties.
The civil lawsuits were filed in Greene, Houston, Lowndes, Macon and Morgan counties against the operating casinos, machine manufacturers and vendors, and the governmental authorities responsible for licensing and overseeing electronic bingo operations in those counties. In Greene County, the lawsuit was filed against all five bingo operators, bingo machine providers and Sheriff Jonathan Benison.
“It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to ensure that Alabama’s laws are enforced, including those laws that prohibit illegal gambling,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall.

“Through multiple rulings in recent years, the Alabama Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that electronic bingo and the use of slot machines are illegal in all Alabama counties.  Therefore, we have taken action to hold accountable those who defy the laws of our state.  These lawsuits represent a comprehensive legal approach developed by the Attorney General, with the assistance of the Office’s career experts, to finally put a stop to illegal gambling.”
Responding to the lawsuit, Sheriff Benison stated, “First of all as Sheriff of Greene County I would like to clarify and say that we do not operate as casinos, and never tried to portray ourselves as such.  We are approved, legalized electronic bingo facilities.  This is legal because we the citizens of Greene County voted overwhelmingly in 2006 for Amendment 743 to provide for electronic bingo.”
Sheriff Benison continued, “We have been operating and providing jobs and funding for Greene County through this Amendment.  I don’t know about the other counties filed in the lawsuit but as for Greene County, even the shortest closure of our Electronic Bingo facilities will result in a devastating economic downfall for our county.  We don’t have big industries or factories that our county runs off of; electronic Bingo is our livelihood.
“Thousands will be affected because so many are direct recipients of funds made through electronic bingo, such as, Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Hospital, Greene County Nursing Home, Firefighters Association, E-911, City of Eutaw, City of Forkland, City of Union, City of Boligee, Greene County Sheriff’s Office and not to mention 16 sub charities that are incorporated to make sure everyone is provided with help.
“This is all of our youth, senior citizens, our law enforcement. These are the hundreds of employees that each one of the facilities employs.  What are they to do if they lose their job?  I am shocked about this news, but we are willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that our vote for Amendment 743 was not done in vain.”
Luther Winn Jr., CEO of Greenetrack issued a statement saying in part,
“AG Marshall’s actions have real-life consequences. By his own hand, Marshall has now jeopardized the jobs of 115 mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, who work at Greenetrack. These are good-paying jobs with health insurance and retirement benefits. Don’t let Marshall fool you – this lawsuit signals his willingness to increase Alabama’s unemployment, food stamp and Medicaid rolls by 115 from one facility here in Greene County. Marshall’s lawsuit also jeopardizes Greene County E-911 and fire protection for the entire county, both of whom are completely dependent on bingo revenues.”
Winn goes on to say, “We question AG Marshall’s motives and timing. It is worth noting that AG Marshall has accepted campaign contributions from two individuals and two out-of-state law firms with gambling ties.”
Winn says that he has made numerous complaints to Federal officials, including U. S. Attorney Jeff Sessions about corruption which has been involved in the fight against electronic bingo and efforts to violate the voting rights of Greene County citizens who overwhelming supported a referendum for Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, which authorizes electronic bingo in the county.
Since assuming office in February, Attorney General Marshall has continued to assist other agencies and district attorneys in the enforcement of anti-gambling laws in Alabama.  The multi-county lawsuits filed last week are the culmination of ongoing investigations into these casinos and gambling ventures around the state.   The civil complaints call for the closure of the casinos because the illegal gambling they offer presents legal nuisances in the state.
Many of these cases are based on an Alabama Supreme Court case in which the justices define bingo in great detail, as a game played on paper cards, with five rows across and five columns down, in which a player must actively participate in dabbing their numbers and recognizing and calling-out when they have a winning bingo. The courts have ruled that electronic bingo machines are in reality “slot machines” and are therefore illegal.
AG Marshall has brought his legal action in the local circuit courts of the counties where the electronic bingo games are played. It will take some time before these cases are heard and a more definitive decision can be made by the courts on the future of electronic bingo.

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