By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
For years gambling has been an illegal, controversial and lucrative business in Alabama.
While against the law, the consequences of opening and operating gambling facilities have been minor for the perpetrators.
That is all about to change if the substitute to HB414 becomes law.
The bill introduced by Representative Allen Farley (R-McCalla), is designed to put teeth into the enforcement of Alabama law.
Farley a 36 year veteran law officers said, “The purpose of HB414 is to give law enforcement in Alabama a chance to slow this epidemic down of organized gambling.”
According to the bill it will become a felony to have ten or more slot-style machines in the state.
“Under current code there is not one felony offense for illegal gambling in Alabama, they are all misdemeanor said, H. Sonny Reagan, Deputy Attorney General, “There are no effective deterrents to discourage people from engaging in illegal gambling activity in the state.
Alabama State Attorney General Luther Strange who has been on the job for over a year has kept a close eye on the method used by those who engage in opening and operating such gambling facilities. “We have look at how to create a deterrent in the law to try to stop the proliferation of illegal gambling, said Reagan.
Farley say that the law will give law enforcement real tools to combat this crime by also allowing the seizure and confiscation of the property of those who run such gambling businesses.
Farley says for many years he has been a part of investigations and trials of gambling interests and during the process learned that casino operators average making one thousand dollars a day per gambling machine. Farley then does the math, “That means one machine brings in $41.67 an hour, the casinos operate 24 hours a day so, 24 times $41.67 and then multiply that by 30 days, which equals $3,000,240 million just for one machines over a 30 day period,” calculates Farley.
According to the AG’s office most casinos operate between 800 and 1200 machines in one facility.
“It is not surprising that a person would risk a six thousand dollar misdemeanor fine to make that kind of money,” said Farley.
According to Farley allowing law enforcement to seize property will help them recoup some off the cost of investigating these crimes as well as the other expenses that are incurred. Farley says that even in a slow year it will cost over a $100,000 just to store confiscated machines just in Jefferson County.
“The seizure of property is the same as the current law used to confiscate property in drug cases such as drug houses,” said Reagan, “It is a civil forfeiture.”
It has been pointed out numerous times that when then Attorney General Troy King refused to prosecute the laws of the state there were more than one hundred gambling facilities in operation illegally in Alabama.
“Much of this illegal gambling is being funneled into the states political system, said Reagan, “This is a great cause of the public corruption in Alabama.”
AG Strange has made fighting public corruption and white collar crimes a vital part of his administration.
“This industry has generate so much money and it has a corrupting effect on our political system,” said Reagan, “AG Strange has been has been dealing with this issue and we believe the best way to try to address this problem is through the Legislative process.”
Farley has been a champion of the bill because of his years of devoted services in law enforcement, the AG’s office found Farley as the perfect ally to work with on HB414.
“This bill gives law enforcement in Alabama a chance to fight organized gambling,” said Farley, We have to make the consequences stiff enough to make these people think twice.”
Farley who spent 33 years of his career as an officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office has seen the human cost of gambling, “These gambling people target working people and lower income neighborhoods,” said Farley, “As a sheriff I have talked to people who have lost everything they have at these places.”
Both Farley and Reagan say that the law will change nothing within current law other than adding harsher penalties for law breakers.
“Under HB414 what is legal to do today, will be legal tomorrow. The only thing that changes is the punishment,” said Reagan.
Farley believes the bill will bring much needed help to law enforcement by having real repercussion for those who break state law.