Alabama State Senator Proposes Bill to Revive Bingo

Alabama State House Apr2009Voters in Alabama may soon have an opportunity to decide on a gambling bill that would create a state lottery and breathe life back into the state’s casino and bingo community.

The bill, proposed by the Alabama State Senate’s republican leader and President Pro Tem Del Marsh, would bring legislation authorizing the operation of gambling institutions in the state if passed, for the first time since unlawful gaming passages were introduced to its constitution in 1901. Del Marsh’s plan is to use revenue from gambling taxes to help amend his state’s ailing budget. According to his proposal, a state lottery and four casinos would generate $400 million and 11,000 jobs without a single change in Alabama’s infrastructure and tax rates.

However, Marsh faces opposition from his fellow republicans, who are in the process of putting together a plan that would tax the Porch-Creek Indians, who already run their own legal gaming facilities within their reservations. The senate republicans’ plan would draw in an estimated $250 million in additional revenue, but calls for additional consolidations and cuts within the state infrastructure, plus an increase in taxes.

Representatives of Alabama’s remaining bingo halls, such as Center Stage in Wiregrass, have announced their support of Marsh’s bill and hope to see the return of the once popular bingo game and its variations. Center Stage is only allowed to facilitate paper bingo, but prior to a raid by three years ago by the state’s Attorney General’s office when the bingo hall was known as Country Crossing, contained hundreds of gambling machines and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The previous success of the Country Crossing Gambling Hall virtually guarantees that should the proposed bill pass, it will help the state raise revenue, but its fate lies in the hands of Alabama’s citizens.