The Greene County Democrat received a press release from Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison, that early Wednesday morning, November 15, the Sheriff served an Order of Immediate Closure on the Palace Bingo facility in Knoxville, Alabama.
The sheriff says the closure was necessitated by Palace Bingo’s flagrant and ongoing violations of Amendment 743 following multiple warnings. Amendment 743 explicitly states that “Prizes given by any non-profit organization for the playing of Bingo games shall not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any Bingo session.”
This enforcement action is consistent with the Sheriff’s historic insistence that bingo operators operate within the law. The order directs that Palace Bingo remain closed until further notice and invites TS Police Support League to arrange a meeting to discuss the terms under which Palace Bingo may reopen.
Section 6 of Constitutional Amendment No. 743, states, “(6) Prizes given by any nonprofit organization for the playing of bingo games shall not exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any bingo session.” A bingo session is not defined in the Amendment.
In an earlier section of the amendment, it states: “The sheriff shall promulgate rules and regulations for the licensing, permitting, and operation of bingo games within the county. The sheriff shall insure compliance with such rules or regulations.”
The Sheriff says his enforcement actions against the Palace Bingo follows a flurry of legal moves by the Sheriff to ensure the continued lawful operation of bingo in Greene County. The Sheriff dismissed his own lawsuit seeking an injunction to implement new rules for bingo, that involve “Bookend Bingo” and a definition of electronic marking machines. The new rules, which were adopted by the Sheriff without consultation with the bingo operators and charities, would require players to play a standard bingo game before and after an entertainment phase, where they would play bingo on machines similar to the current machines.
The Sheriff argued that his new rules would require a change in software but would likely run on the current bingo machines. The State of Alabama, in a long running lawsuit claims the bingo machines are ‘illegal slot machines’ doing gambling and not the skill game of bingo, where you must keep up with your numbers and letters, on a paper card.
The Sheriff says in his press release, that changes in the legal landscape required an adjustment of the Sheriff’s legal strategy. Sheriff Benison remarked upon these recent actions by saying, “Litigation is always fluid. Every decision I make is designed to ensure the continued play of bingo in Greene County.
“Critics have done what critics do. They criticize. While I am aggressively working to preserve the future of bingo in Greene County, they are throwing stones. Somebody once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” said Benison.
The Democrat reached out to the TS Police Support League and their representatives. who said they had “no comment at this time on the Sheriff’s actions.” They did say that they planned to continue the scheduled the Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at the Palace Parking Lot.
The Sheriff insisted that his plans and rules for bingo were the surest way to protect and continue bingo and its benefits to people, agencies, and organizations in Greene County.