Greene County bingo again at center of state gambling debate

With seven days left in the current Alabama 2022 regular legislative session, gambling legislation has come back up before the legislature. The future of electronic bingo in Greene and Lowndes counties is again at the center of the discussion.

In the Alabama Senate, bills sponsored by Senator Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, have passed out of committee and await floor action. Albritton’s bills would create a state lottery and allow casino gambling in Alabama.

The bills create casinos at VictoryLand in Macon County; Greenetrack in Greene County; The Birmingham Race Course. The Mobile Greyhound Park and a location in DeKalb or Jackson counties in northeast Alabama, which the Porch Creek Indians would operate. The bills would also allow two “satellite casinos” in Houston and Lowndes counties. The Porch Creek Indians currently operate electronic bingo type operations at Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.

Under Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, there are five operating electronic bingo parlors in Greene County, including Greenetrack, and two additional licenses which have been issued by Sheriff Jonathan Benison. The existing bingo parlors in Greene County are opposed to the legislation because it will result in the closure of their operations, and only Greenetrack will remain as a full-fledged casino, with other games like blackjack, roulette and poker, when the legislation goes into effect.

Most of the Greene County opposition is based on the future of the existing bingo operations – their employees and the charities and governmental agencies that they currently support with bingo proceeds.

In another of Albritton’s bills, there are provisions for a statewide gambling commission that will have two years to investigate gambling operations in Greene and Lowndes counties, outside the state authorized gambling operations. It is unclear how this investigative process will evolve and how many bingo parlors will survive.

In the Alabama House, two similar bills for a lottery passed through committees in the House and await floor action.

Any gambling legislation for a lottery and/or casinos, will be subject to a statewide referendum, as constitutional amendments to permit gambling, which is currently banned by Alabama law, at the November or a special election.

Some knowledgeable observers of the Alabama Legislature do not feel there is enough time left inn this legislative session for the lottery and casino bills to be reconciled and passed by both houses of the legislature. Others say there is still time to pass this legislation or for the Governor to call a special session to pass it.

People statewide, especially electronic bingo parlor operators in Greene and Lowndes counties will be watching the legislative process closely.

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