Our view: Bingo – still at issue
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange breezed into our office last week on a campaign stop, and the editorial board took the opportunity to pick his mind about the state’s aggressive stance against illegal gambling in the state and how that squares with some Republican lawmakers’ interest in striking a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates tribal casinos in Alabama.
It appears the state is hedging its bets, so to speak. Not only have non-tribal electronic bingo operators found themselves in the crosshairs of the state’s law enforcement, but Strange has also pursued litigation in an attempt to shut down the Indian casinos’ electronic bingo operations – the same profitable endeavors from which some lawmakers want a piece of the action.
Strange, however, managed to make that dichotomy seem, well, almost reasonable. He is, after all, a politician.
He reminded us that Gov. Robert Bentley’s first order of business was to dismantle his predecessor’s special task force on illegal gambling and return that authority to the attorney general’s office, into which Strange had just been sworn, and the new AG set about prosecuting the cases he inherited. “Our job – and we try to stay in our lane – is to make sure we’re enforcing the law.” As for a compact, Strange agrees that the state could benefit from such an arrangement, providing that the legality of the machines’ use is resolved.
Of course, there are far more important issues facing Alabama than electronic bingo. And Strange, after all, is running for re-election in a race that is becoming increasingly about gambling – his opponent, Joe Hubbard, says Strange is ignoring drug dealers and targeting “little old ladies” in bingo parlors. Strange counters that Hubbard’s campaign is bankrolled by the Poarch Creek Indians, who gave the Democrat “a million dollars” in contributions.
In a moment of levity, Strange quipped that he hoped “we’re not all sitting around in retirement talking about (the bingo) issue.”
As elusive as resolution to this intractable issue has been, that may well become our reality.