Judge Brown rules for Greenetrack to return seized ‘bingo’ machines

At press time, the Democrat learned that Judge Houston L. Brown, Special Circuit Judge, dealing with matters related to gaming in Greene County, ruled in favor of Greenetrack and ordered the return of hundreds of electronic bingo machines and other records seized in the first raid against Greenetrack in July 2010.

The judgment relies heavily on the specific wording in Constitutional Amendment 743, voted on by the people of Greene County, which permitted bingo, including electronic forms of bingo, in Greene County.
A more detailed story on the judge’s ruling will be in next week’s issue of the Democrat.

Singleton introduces bill to change Greene County bingo amendment

Bobby Singleton

Senator Bobby Singleton

State Senator Bobby Singleton recently submitted a bill to change Constitutional Amendment 743 regulating bingo in Greene County. The proposed amendment to our current amendment was referred to the State Senate’s Local Legislation Committee.
Singleton’s amendment would make significant changes to the current operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County.
First, the amendment would clarify and specifically allow electronic bingo in Greene County “on any machine or device that is authorized by the National Gaming Regulatory Act by 25 U. S. C. Section 2701, and which is operated by any Native American tribe in Alabama”. This would legalize any electronic bingo machine or device, which was approved by the Federal government for use in Indian casinos, to be used in Greene County.
Second, the amended bill limits bingo gaming to a licensed racetrack in Greene County where pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal. The only facility in Greene County currently meeting this criterion is Greenetrack. While not stated, it would seem that this change would restrict electronic bingo to one facility – Greenetrack – in Greene County. The future operation of other bingo halls in Greene County is unclear and would possibly depend upon a “sub-license” from the one recognized racetrack in Greene County.
Third, the amended bill provides for a state gross receipts tax (4%) and a local gross receipts tax (8.5%) on gaming revenues at the racetrack operating bingo. These taxes would be levied on the gross revenues, which are defined as the total amount of money played on the electronic machines less the value of prizes and winnings paid to the players. The gross figure would be determined before costs of operating the bingo facilities were applied.
The current bingo parlors in Greene County have never publically revealed their gross revenues, so the public does not know what this taxing formula will produce in revenues and whether those amounts are fair. There is also a formula, in the amended bill, for distribution of the 8.5% monthly local wagering tax, with 1.5% retained by the Greene County Gaming Commission (created by the bill) for its operations; 1.5% to the Greene County Commission; 1.5% to the Greene County Commission for distribution to municipalities, based on population; 2% to the Greene County Board of Education; 1% to the Greene County Hospital and Nursing Home; 0.5% to the Greene County Firefighters Association; 0.25% to the Greene County Industrial Board; 0.25% to the Greene County Ambulance Service; 0.75% to the Greene County Housing Authority; and 0.75% to the new Greene County Gaming Commission for distribution to nonprofit organizations that provide services to residents of Greene County.
There is also a “local bingo game vendor tax of 4%, which is levied on the gross revenues collected by bingo game vendors from leases or revenue sharing agreements with a racetrack”. This vendor tax will be shared between the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Eutaw Police Department, based on population ratio.
Fourth, a five person Greene County Gaming Commission is created to “implement, regulate, and administer bingo gaming” in the county. This Commission would replace the current role of the Sheriff of Greene County in regulating and distributing the proceeds of electronic bingo gaming in the county.
The five member Greene County Gaming Commission would be named as follows: one appointed by the Governor of Alabama; one by the U. S. House Representative for the Seventh Congressional District (now Terri Sewell); one by the State Senator for the 24th District (currently Bobby Singleton) and two by the State House of Representatives delegation for Greene County. The members of the Gaming Commission will serve five-year terms and be subject to the regulations of the Alabama Ethics Commission. They should all live in the 7th Congressional District and at least two must be residents of Greene County.
This proposed legislation is now in the Senate Local Legislative Committee. It would have to be approved by this Committee, the full Alabama State Senate, the Alabama House of Representatives and signed by the Governor. Once passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor it would be subject to a Constitutional Amendment vote by the people of Greene County. If the Local Legislation were opposed by any one legislator, it would then also have to be voted on as a Constitutional Amendment by all of the people of Alabama.

$239.987.12 distribution in Bingo

On Monday, March 2, 2016, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison distributed $239,987.12 in bingo allocations from the four licensed gaming operations in the county. This distribution represented the January assessment 2016 payment.
The sheriff’s Bingo Rules and Regulations direct each licensed facility to distribute approximately $60,000 per month to the particular entities also determined by the sheriff. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union and Boligee and the Greene County Board of Education.
Sheriff Benison continues to withhold the Greene County Commission’s bingo allocation, which would total approximately $96,000 per month.  The Commission has not received its bingo payments from the sheriff since May 2015.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
Greenetrack, Inc gave a total of $59,987.12 to the following: Greene County Commission, $23,994.84; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $8,998.07; City of Eutaw, $4,499.03; Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $2,999.36; Greene County Board of Education, $13,497.10.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, 4,500; Towns of Forkland, Union $3,000 and Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
Rivers Edge (YAPO) gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each $3,000; and Greene County Board of Education,13,500.

Sheriff Benison amends bingo rules to provide Greene Co. Hospital with 4% of monies paid by bingo operators to machine vendors

Greene County Sheriff, Jonathan Benison, who is solely in charge of electronic bingo operations, under Constitutional Amendment 743, amended his bingo regulations, effective June 2nd, to provide the Greene County Hospital with 4% of the revenues paid by the four bingo operators to vendors for machines and/or softwear.
The Democrat contacted the Sheriff’s office to determine the amount of money this will generate for the hospital. A spokesperson for the Sheriff said this new regulation would generate $20,000 to $25,000 a month for support of the Greene County Hospital. This amount would meet a request that the Hospital has been making to the Sheriff for over two years to be included in the allocation of bingo funds.
In the amendment to the bingo rules, Sheriff Benison says that it is “standard practice in the industry to pay vendors (those who supply machines and/or softwear) a percentage of their net gross revenues; and further that all bingo operator and/or charities operating bingo in Greene County, Alabama shall henceforth deduct and pay to the Greene County Hospital an amount equal of 4% of the amounts paid to vendors.”
The amendment instructs the bingo operators to pay this 4% of the vendor’s amount, directly to the Greene County Hospital, at the same regular interval – weekly, monthly, yearly – that they pay to the vendors.
In his amendment, the Sheriff points out that “ the vendors provide a valued service but also that they reap the rewards of Constitutional Amendment 743, as provided through the efforts and protection of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.“Luther Winn Jr., CEO of Greenetrack said this amendment would interfere with the contracts that he has in place with Greenetrack’s machine vendors. He informed the Democrat that he is not favorable to this amendment and will discuss its negative implication’s to his business with the Sheriff. The Democrat tried but was not able to reach other bingo operators and charities, for their opinions on the new amendment, prior to press time.
Winn said he was expanding the number of machines at Greenetrack to the 500 required by the Sheriff and suggested that it would have been better to fund support for the Greene County Hospital through a portion of the new fee revenues, from the additional machines, than from this 4% charge to the vendors.
Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System, which includes the hospital, residential care center, physicians clinic, home health and other services, said “I am pleased to see the Sheriff has included healthcare for Greene County citizens in his plans for allocating resources from bingo operations in Greene County, under Constitutional Amendment 743. These funds will help close the gap in providing care for low income people in Greene County, many of whom cannot afford to pay for quality health care that they need.”