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House passes bill to decriminalize possession of vintage slot machines

An amendment to ensure the machines aren’t used for private gambling failed.

(STOCK)

For the fourth straight year, the Alabama House has passed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of vintage slot machines.

Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island, said the antique community wants the bill passed as the pre-1960s slot machines make for interesting collectors’ items.

“Right now, we’re one of only two or three states where people can’t buy an antique slot machine,” Brown said. “We’re making criminals out of people that aren’t criminals.”

As it stands, any possession of a slot machine is a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama.

Concerns, and later an amendment, came forward while the bill was on the floor Tuesday that even though the machines are antiquated and the bill limited possession to private use, that the machines could still be used for gambling.

Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery, brought forward the proposed amendment, which would have strictly prohibited using the machines for gaming.

Brown expressed concern about the effects of the amendment.

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“My concern is not to make criminals out of good people,” Brown said.

Ingram said nobody was worried about the owner putting in a nickel or a dime and using the machine in their own home, but that the bill needed to be amended to ensure private clubs didn’t use the machines to facilitate gaming.

With many of the machines costing thousands of dollars, Brown said that didn’t seem to be a serious concern.

“It wouldn’t be profitable,” Brown said.

The amendment ultimately failed with 27 “yeas” and 45 “nos.”

The House then passed the bill as written 79-15 with three abstentions.

The House also voted through a bill Tuesday that would ensure spouses of state and education employees get the full benefit of their partner’s retirement in the event they pass away.

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The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana, said the bill comes from hearing about a difficult situation that a friend of his family experienced last year.

The friend, he said, fought through cancer twice while being eligible to retire, but beat the cancer and decided to keep working.

“The third time he was told he was not going to be able to beat it,” Ellis said. “He filed for retirement but it takes 30 days. He passed away 18 days too soon.”

Because of that, Ellis said the man’s spouse was automatically kicked into “option 3” which gives 50 percent of the retirement benefit to the spouse for life instead of “option 2,” which gives 100 percent to the spouse for life.

“It cost his family half the retirement he worked more than 30 years for,” Ellis said. 

The bill would make it so that if a state or education employee dies in active service, their spouse gets the option for the full benefit.

The bill passed 98-2 with one abstention.

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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