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Attorney General Strange, District Attorney Brandon Falls, And Sheriff Mike Hale Announce Decisive Court Victory in Five Electronic Bingo Cases

Staff Report

From the Office of Attorney General Luther Strange

(MONTGOMERY)— Attorney General Luther Strange is pleased to announce that Jefferson County Presiding Circuit Judge Scott Vowell has issued a decisive ruling in five separate cases involving so-called “electronic bingo.” The final ruling today was the culmination of a joint law enforcement effort by Sheriff Mike Hale, District Attorney Brandon Falls and Attorney General Luther Strange. Sheriff Hale’s Office seized nearly one hundred illegal gambling machines from five separate locations throughout Jefferson County last year. The Judge’s ruling today came after hearing testimony from law enforcement, gaming experts, machine owners, and bingo workers after prosecutors from Attorney General Strange’s Office and District Attorney Brandon Falls’ Office tried the cases in mid- December 2011.

“The decision from Judge Vowell in Jefferson County Circuit Court marks a good day for the rule of law,” said Attorney General Strange. “The court in a detailed analysis 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 game commonly known as bingo is authorized by the Jefferson County bingo amendment, and slot machines cannot be used to play bingo.”

In the ruling, the Court specifically found that the machines being used to play so- called “electronic bingo” were nothing more than illegal slot machines playing an illegal game that lasted only a matter of seconds. The Court found the game being played did not meet the six mandatory characteristics of bingo set forth by the Alabama Supreme Court in the 2010 Cornerstone case, which plainly requires that the human elements of the traditional game of bingo must be fully preserved in order for a game to potentially qualify as legal bingo. Judge Vowell explained that “the point of Cornerstone, and the preceding Supreme Court decisions on which it is based … is that any variation from the material human steps, elements and skill of the traditional game of bingo takes the game outside the protection of Alabama’s local bingo amendments.” Here, the Court found, virtually all of elements of human skill, attention and recognition critical to the traditional game were eliminated, and therefore the machines did not play legal bingo.

Attorney General Strange also notes that “the fundamental legal principles which underlie today’s ruling apply not only to Jefferson County, but in all counties subject to local bingo amendments. I hope this opinion will serve as a warning for those currently engaged in illegal gambling activities or contemplating operating slot machines in Jefferson County and throughout the State.”

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