On Sept. 9, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley submitted the following request for an advisory opinion to the Alabama Supreme Court:
“Would an amendment of Article IV, section 65 of the Alabama Constitution to grant the Legislature power to authorize only a state operated lottery, result in removal of the existing general ban on gambling or gaming activities in the state and thus, result in legalizing Class III or other casino style gaming in the state with or without further legislative act?”
Supreme Court justices Lyn Stuart, Glenn Murdock, Greg Shaw, Jim Main, and Kelli Wise declined the request. The Associated Press reported that the court was reluctant to weigh in without specific language to review.
Gambling in Alabama and been unclear and heated for many years. Several Alabama counties and cities had enacted ordinances allowing and regulating e-bingo parlors. Additionally, in some counties such as Macon, voters had authorized and approved electronic charity bingo play as early as 2003.
In 2010, after previous Alabama Governor Bob Riley had created an anti-gambling task force to combat the proliferation of the electronic bingo parlors, the state’s Supreme Court determined that the Governor did not have the authority to assemble and empower such a task force. Soon after, the Supreme Court reversed their original decision, and law enforcement authorities advised the many operators to shut down or have their machines confiscated. In the years following, many seizures and forfeitures have headlined the news.
In a ruling Friday, Circuit Judge William Shashy stated that the embattled VictoryLand casino had shown “substantial evidence” that Macon County voters authorized electronic bingo in a constitutional amendment approved in 2003. He went on to write, “This Court reiterates its ruling that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed, and this Court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment.”
While the contentious environment in Alabama has continued, the Poarch Creek native-owned casinos in the state have thrived.
Alabama state legislators are expected to consider casino and lottery bills again during the 2016 session.