By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Attorney General Luther Strange issued a written statement on Thursday announcing that the House Judiciary Committee has approved House Bill 414, legislation recommended by the Attorney General to fight illegal gambling.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said, “I am pleased that the House Judiciary Committee has taken action on our recommendations to make Alabama’s gambling laws stronger and more effective.” “I want to thank Representatives Allen Farley (R) and Paul DeMarco (R) for their leadership in moving this bill forward, and I urge members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass this bill as soon as possible. This is my top legislative priority.”
Operating an illegal gambling business is currently a misdemeanor. Organized criminal enterprises run their operations for profit. Since the penalty for breaking Alabama law is so low, they view it as just another cost of doing business.
HB 414 makes the following improvements to the law:
Luther Strange’s press release said, “The maximum penalties for the crimes of promoting unlawful gambling and the crime of conspiracy to promote unlawful gambling will be increased from class A misdemeanors to class C felonies. This would deter large-scale illegal gambling enterprises and also restore the punishment ranges to their original form when the Legislature first passed these statutes in 1977.” The bill would also increase the maximum penalty for possessing ten or more slot machines from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony.
The bill would also give law enforcement the authority to seize and condemn real property which is being used for illegal gambling involving when ten or more slot machines are being used. Following a circuit court trial, the property would be sold and the money from the sale would go to the law enforcement agencies which seized the property.
As long as the penalties for illegal gambling are so low, criminals will keep opening illegal casinos and gambling halls in Alabama and then the police and sheriff’s departments have to spend time and resources investigating them and shutting them down. HB 414 would make the cost of running and operating illegal casinos much more expensive and would compensate local law enforcement for their efforts in enforcing Alabama’s anti-gambling laws, by letting them seize property used for illegal gaming and then selling that property for the benefit of the law enforcement agency involved in making the arrests.
HB 414 has passed the House Judiciary Committee. Next it has to be considered and voted on by the full Alabama House of Representatives. From there it goes on to the Alabama Senate. If the bill passes both Houses of the Alabama legislature before the end of the regular session, it goes on to Gov. Bentley’s office.