MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has announced a decisive court ruling that so-called electronic bingo devices were nothing more than illegal gambling devices.
Houston County Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Conaway concluded that the 691 slot machines and gambling devices seized by law enforcement offices last year from the Houston County-based Center Stage casino were illegal slot machines playing an illegal game dressed up as a traditional bingo game. Law enforcement officers seized the slot machines and $288,688.62 in cash proceeds from the casino last year.
The money will be forfeited to the general fund and the machines will be destroyed.
"The decision from Judge Conaway in Houston County Circuit Court marks a good day for the rule of law," Strange said. "In a detailed analysis, the court held that machines masquerading as electronic bingo are in fact illegal slot machines. Bingo operators have tried to create confusion in the law but this ruling ends the nonsense. Only the traditional paper version of the game commonly known as bingo is authorized by the Houston County bingo amendment, and slot machines cannot be used to play bingo."
Strange said the legal principles underlying Thursday's ruling apply to all counties subject to local bingo amendments. He said the state legislature must change the law to create a deterrent for large scale illegal gambling by increasing the penalty for operating such a casino to a felony.
"Until the Alabama legislature acts to create an effective deterrent for large scale illegal gambling, individuals will continue to engage in illegal gambling activity and openly defy the law," Strange said. "These individuals stand to make thousands of dollars in illegal gambling profits while risking only a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor charge. Law enforcement will continue to be forced to expend valuable resources to deal with this problem."