Federal Judge Says Alabama Bingo Machines are Illegal

The United States has a curious hodgepodge of sometimes conflicting gambling laws. Although playing online bingo and poker are not illegal in and of themselves US law forbids banks, credit card companies and payment processors from handling any gambling related transactions.  Despite the maws online bingo players in the US continue spending billions annually playing their favorite game. Last year the Justice Department seized the domains of three major poker sites. Many thought online bingo sites would escape the attention of US Attorneys but in June the same agency seized an online bingo site. This prompted one major bingo operator, the World Bingo Network, to cease operations. In a surprising about face the department of justice ruled in December that online bingo and poker are legal if done on a state by state basis. Only sports betting is prohibited.

In Alabama a battle over electronic bingo machines has been going on for years. Earlier in the moth a federal judge ruled that the machines are illegal. The argument over the legality of the machines has been ongoing and last year several bingo halls sere raided by state officials. A full blown scandal ensure when it was revealed that some politicians had taken contributions from competing gambling interests in Mississippi. Several bingo halls were closed and hundreds lost their jobs leaving some counties impoverished. Not only did the judge rule that electronic bingo machines illegal but that money seized in last year’s raids must go to the state as profits from illegal gambling.

In December Judge Scott Vowell heard arguments from both sides of the issue. The plaintiffs, Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, and the defendants, the bingo hall operators expressed opinions about the legality of electronic bingo. In his order judge Vowell said that claims by the defendants that the machines were only bingo games was without merit and said the machines were actually slot machines and gambling devices that are illegal in Alabama. Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange said that Vowell’s ruling validates his claim that the electronic bingo machines are actually slot machines.

In contrast to the ruling in Alabama several states have announced plans to launch their own online bingo and gambling sites. States are going after the billions Americans spend every year gambling on the internet. Experts say that federal legislation is inevitable but will not take place until after the November elections. Once full legalization takes place several online bingo operators have positioned themselves to enter the lucrative US online bingo market.

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