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Supreme Court ruling does not legalize sports betting in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 25-year old law that limited legalized sports betting to just the state of Nevada.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought the suit because he believed that the law put casinos in Atlantic City at a distinct disadvantage to casinos in Los Vegas that have become the recognized hub for the lucrative sports betting industry.

Barring action by Congress, New Jersey will immediately be rolling out their new sports betting books. Several states will be following suit, but today’s ruling does not change the law in Alabama. Legal experts have told the Alabama Political Reporter that the Constitution of Alabama has its own prohibition against games of chance.

“The only legal form of gambling is dog racing, betting on simulcast racing at dog tracks and local bingo with cards,” Gadsden area attorney Eddy Cunningham told APR.

Foundation for Moral Law President Kayla Moore said that the, “Supreme Court ruling has nothing to do with the Alabama Constitution. It’s a matter left to the states.”

Cunningham believes that this is a source of revenue that the state should consider tapping.

“This will be the way out of trouble for our general fund and education,” Cunningham said. “Millions are already being bet in Alabama illegally. If we legalize sports betting, we do away with bookies. And we can tax the heck out of it and regulate it.”

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Cunningham suggested that there would be some benefit from bringing sports betting out of the underground economy and into the light.

“For the first time, families have a chance of knowing if a family member is gambling,” Cunningham said. “Each bettor is going to get a 1099. Sorts betting by and large, is not done by poor people.”

Changing the Alabama Constitution will not be easy even if there was any effort to do so.

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A gambling bill would have to be a constitutional amendment. For an amendment to pass, it must be approved by three fifths of both Houses of the legislature. Former Governor Robert Bentley called a special session in 2015 to pass a lottery plan. While a lottery bill passed both Houses, they could not agree on a plan between them.

Not only do many Alabamians object to expanding gambling, but to actually get legislation through the legislature also means dealing with the vested gambling interests.

The owners of existing facilities in Shorter, Birmingham, Mobile, Dothan, Greene County, and Lowndes County will want their little fiefdoms protected from competition or they will not support legislation. The Poarch Creek band of Indians (PCI) operate three electronic bingo halls that reportedly generate over $100 million a year in revenue.

This almost certainly means that any legislation allowing the large Vegas based casinos to bring their operations and expertise into Alabama is dead on arrival in the legislature. Additionally, many conservatives that do not necessarily oppose gambling expansion, do oppose giving special privileges to a handful of privileged gambling bosses that other businessmen and communities in Alabama are not given the same opportunity to pursue.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Sue Bell Cobb and Walt Maddox have introduced lottery plans. The viability of an Alabama lottery would be highly suspect if neighboring states like Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and/or Tennessee make sports betting legal. Legalized sports betting at the nearest state line would likely slow any potential revenue (already very suspect) to a trickle.

Then there are the social costs of dramatically increasing the pressure on citizens to gamble their money away.

“This litigation was conceived in greed by powerful gambling interests in partnership with a handful of self-serving politicians to benefit a privileged few,” the public advocacy group Stop Predatory Gaming said in a statement. “It’s a naked money grab from the wallets of ordinary Americans cloaked as a “states’ rights” case.” “The American people lost $117 billion on state-sanctioned gambling in 2016, causing life-changing financial losses for millions of citizens. It directly contributes to the lack of mobility out of poverty that traps so many. This serious national problem will be made far worse if the government is allowed to operate and advertise sports betting.”

“Sports betting is especially dangerous for American kids,” Stop Predatory Gaming continued. “Studies show that children in those countries with legal sports gambling are repeatedly exposed to harmful messages and advertisements about sports gambling. It normalizes gambling for kids.”

The NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and the NCAA all opposed opening up more sports betting and all were parties to opposing New Jersey’s effort before the courts.

To further complicate matter the NFL is calling for more federal legislation. The NFL said in a statement after the ruling:

“We intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Congress

Negotiations on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill appear to have broken down

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Capitol Building (STOCK PHOTO)

Both parties in Congress and the White House hoped to have agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, but those hopes appear to have been dashed after a Thursday night meeting at the White House.

The Washington Post reports that the White House and Democrats failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on the fifth virus relief bill. White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation with no agreement and both sides far apart on basic issues.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has insisted on a $3.4 trillion package. The White House wants a $1 trillion relief package.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump was called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues.

Pelosi said that the meeting was “consequential,” but blamed Republicans for the breakdown in negotiations.

“They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time, and that’s why it’s hard to come to terms,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said that if the administration decides that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid. Schumer said Democrats were “very disappointed” in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court.

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Pelosi claimed that Meadows pounded the table at one point. Meadows denies the allegation.

“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”

Over 30 million unemployed Americans will see their unemployment checks dramatically cut next week without an extension of benefits. Trump has suggested that he could increase the benefits through unilateral executive action. Critics suggest that would be unconstitutional.

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Democrats want about $1 trillion in aid for cities and states, but Trump has dismissed that demand as a “bailout” for mismanaged states and has agreed to just $150 billion in aid for states.

Meadows said that the White House has agreed to go above $1 trillion, but that Democrats still have refused to go below $3.4 trillion. Democrats are also pushing for more money for food stamps, child care and the U.S. Postal Service as part of the plan. All of this would be paid with more deficit spending.

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Corruption

Arrest warrant issued for Rep. Will Dismukes for felony theft

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been accused of theft of property, a Class B felony. (WSFA)

An arrest warrant has been issued for Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for felony theft from a business where he worked, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Thursday.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018, Bailey said during a press conference.

Bailey said the charge is a Class B felony and levied when a person steals in excess of $2,500 and that “I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that.” 

“The warrant has just been signed, his attorney has been notified and we are giving him until late this afternoon to turn himself in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the employer contacted the district attorney’s office with a complaint about the theft on May 20, and after reviewing bank records and interviewing witnesses, the decision was made to charge Dismukes with the theft. 

WSFA reported Thursday that the theft occurred at Dismukes’ former employer, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc. in East Montgomery. Bailey did not provide any more specifics on the charge but said the employer signed the arrest warrant after countless hours of investigation on the part of the DA’s office.

While the charge stems from a complaint filed months ago, Dismukes been in the headlines recently and faced a torrent of calls for his resignation in recent weeks after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

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The event was hosted by an individual with close ties to the League of the South, a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, Dismukes stepped down from his post as a pastor at an Autauga County Baptist church but defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature.

If convicted of the felony, Dismukes would be immediately removed from his seat in the Alabama House, to which he was elected in 2018.

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In June, the Alabama Democratic Party called for his resignation over previous social media posts glorifying the Confederacy.

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