Winners and Losers in the Alabama Bingo Trials

Most people find it hard to believe that the simple game of bingo could generate controversy of any kind. In Alabama this was not the case and resulted in two trials and the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars. It all began after the Alabama legislature passed a bill that would have allowed Alabama residents to vote on the legality of bingo in the state. Federal prosecutors intervened and said that votes had been bought and sold. Federal prosecutors said consciences dictated that they interfere with the legislative process.

Soon prosecutors issued 11 indictments and casinos offering electronic bingo were shut down and thousands were thrown out of work in a state with high unemployment. Some political observers believed the move was part of a backlash by the new Obama administration angered by staggering Republican victories in Alabama. Political upstarts unseated long serving legislators and many brought a radical agenda to the capitol. Newly elected senator Shadrack McGill said he didn’t believe in the separation of church and state and political discussions in the legislature turned to non-issues like immigration, abortion and evolution.

Anti-gambling rhetoric was often heard in the legislature and the governor’s mansion and a series of raids followed. In the first trial 12 jurors did not convict anyone. Not satisfied with the results vindictive federal prosecutors tried the same defendants for a second time.  The results were predictable and during the second trial jurors acquitted all of the defendants. Jurors told reporters that the prosecutor’s witnesses lacked credibility or were testifying to get lighter sentences.

Electronic bingo magnate Milton McGregor walked out of the courtroom a free man and immediately announced plans to reopen his VictoryLand casino and put 3,000 people to work. A battle between McGregor and Alabama attorney general Luther Strange is shaping up.  Strange told reporters that in his opinion electronic bingo is still against the law and promises to enforce all Alabama laws pertaining to bingo.

The real losers at the second trial were the people of Alabama who had to pay for the trials and had their freedom of choice taken away by federal prosecutors. Surveys in the state have clearly shown that a large majority of Alabama voters favor legal electronic bingo and believe they have the right to spend their money as they see fit without government intervention. There may be a solution in store for Alabama’s bingo fans. A December ruling by the Justice Department has cleared the way for legal online bingo in the United States.

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