Monday, March 1, 2010

Bingo Battle is ridiculous

To gamble or not to gamble, that is the question?

To the outsider, this whole issue has to look completely ridiculous. As I understand it, only 2 states don't have legalized gambling (meaning lottery, casinos, etc.), Utah and Alabama. Of course, fans of Big Love know that Bill Henrickson is teaming with Native American interests to create a Mormon themed casino to support his polygamist family in HBO's hit series.

Here in Alabama, we have Governor Bob Riley shutting down electornic Bingo Halls throughout the state, most notably Victoryland's successful business owner Milton McGregor. Of course, this is all in retaliation for McGregor investingating Riley's staff to find out they've been taking money from Mississippi Casino lobbyists.

Although its looks as if this story is still flying under the national radar, its squarely the number one topic in the news in Montgomery for the past month. Political rallies for and against gambling have led shoutdowns between patrons for both, including our own governor shouting over thousands of protestors. What an embarrassment this has become.

It was this writer's opinion that Bob Riley was going to go down as maybe the best governor in the history of Alabama prior to all this flare up. Riley has done alot of good things for the state, he's been progressive in luring more industry, creating jobs and better funding education. But this Bingo Battle has become his Waterloo.

I think the problem most people have with the situation is these electronic bingo/slot machines at Victoryland and other areas haven't sprung up over night. They've been in place since Riley took office in 2003 and have been attracting thousands of customers. Living in Atlanta, we would routinely see Victoryland commercials on television and bus loads of daytrippers headed to Macon County just like people on the East Coast would flock to Atlantic City. So why shut them down in 2K10 and not 5 years ago?

Now we have police raids, thousands of people out of work and tons of money going to lotteries in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and casinos in Mississippi. My senior students that I teach can't believe that a lottery in Georgia pays for college tuition for state schools for students who have a B average in high school. What a difference in attitude and discipline in a school system this could provide with such incentive out there.

Bottom line is people are gonna gamble. Its here in Alabama and its here to stay. I can place a bet illegally with an acquantance right now for any college hoops or NBA game tonight or I can bet on an off shore account. Is the task force going to raid me? Highly doubtful.

So its time for the all involved to let the people of Alabama vote on a legitimate bill. If it passes, tax it just like alcohol, tobacco etc. Heaven knows we need the revenue in this state. If it doesn't pass, the state line mini marts to the north and east of us will continue to sell tons of lottery tickets and Biloxi will still have more Alabama car tags in its parking lots then any other state.

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