The Alabama Legislature adjourned sine die on May 4, 2016, without adopting gaming measures which could have shored up its beleaguered budgets. Alabama’s general fund budget, chronically beset by inadequate funding for Medicaid and Corrections, was adopted in this same session over Governor Bentley’s veto even though it left a projected $85 million shortfall in Medicaid alone.
The Legislature failed to act on two lottery bills, both proposing to amend Alabama’s anti-lottery law, Art. IV § 65, Alabama Constitution of 1901. HB10 would have authorized a statewide lottery and directed the proceeds to the education budget to fund college scholarships while SB19 would have simply authorized a state lottery without designating where the proceeds would be directed. Neither measure even advanced to the floor of their respective house.
Meanwhile, legislators also failed to adopt measures that would have authorized the play of electronic bingo in Macon and Greene Counties. Both bills, HB419 and SB320, proposed amendments to the local constitutional amendments authorizing the play of charitable bingo in those counties. The legislation would specifically permit electronic bingo for charity in those counties consistent with the types of electronic games permitted by IGRA. This would have clarified the long-running dispute between operators in Greene and Macon County over electronic bingo and the legal disparity between the machines permitted by IGRA in Alabama’s Poarch Creek tribal jurisdictions versus those permitted by Alabama law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Alabama. There is thus no resolution on the horizon to this contentious and troublesome issue.
As expected, the Supreme Court of Alabama released its decision during the legislative session on March 31, 2016, in the forfeiture action involving Victoryland in Macon County. The Court once again effectively declared electronic bingo illegal in Alabama in reversing the trial court’s order which found that Victoryland had been selectively prosecuted. The net result of the decision, along with Governor Bentley’s legal problems stemming from an inappropriate relationship with a female member of his staff, likely have ended immediate plans to reintroduce electronic bingo at Victoryland. Victoryland owner, Milton McGregor, and local Macon County officials have for months announced imminent plans to reopen in Macon County under the authority of Governor Bentley’s previously issued Executive Order No. 13. Given the uncertainty stemming from the pending impeachment proceeding involving Governor Bentley, as well as the recent Court decision, many machine vendors are understandably reluctant to once again test the waters in Alabama.