Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall commended Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith and Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair for taking swift action to close newly established illegal electronic bingo halls in Walker County on Tuesday.
“Alabama law is crystal clear,” Marshall said. “Electronic bingo and coin slot machines are illegal. No matter what the operators of these unlawful enterprises claim, the Alabama Supreme Court has definitively and repeatedly ruled that electronic bingo and coin slot machines are illegal gaming devices. There is no debate, there is no ambiguity. As the Supreme Court stated on March 31, 2016, all that is left to do is to enforce the law.”
“I wish to personally commend Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith and his department, as well as Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair, for taking swift and decisive action to close illegal bingo parlors under their jurisdiction,” Marshall continued. “As sworn law enforcement officers, our first duty is to enforce the law. When illegal activity is unchallenged and allowed to thrive, our state’s entire legal system is undermined.”
“Should local agencies in other jurisdictions fail to enforce State laws on gambling, my office will take action as needed to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Marshall said.
It is a much different situation in Jefferson County where Marshall has expressed frustration with the job performance of new Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway.
A judge has written cease and desist orders to the operators of two illegal electronic bingo halls now operating in Brighton. The city has licensed both of the illegal gambling halls.
Pettway said he is leaving enforcing state law to the local authorities.
Marshall told Channel 13’s Sara Killian that he does not understand why former Sheriff Mike Hale had the resources to enforce state law against illegal gambling and Pettway does not.
Marshall said that the Alabama Supreme Court has been clear, and there is no ambiguity in Alabama law. Bingo is a game played with other people on a paper card, not on a coin operated machine.
The city of Graysville has also licensed an illegal gambling hall that is set to open soon.
Marshall said he has talked to Sheriff Pettway and has informed in writing that he will not act to enforce the law the Attorney General’s office is prepared to do so.
Even though the Alabama Constitution outlawed gambling in the state of Alabama and the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that electronic bingo machines are forbidden forms of gambling under the law, there are still persons operating the illegal machines in defiance of state law and Supreme Court precedent, often with the support of their local authorities.
Original reporting by WVTM Channel 13’s Sara Killian contributed to this report.