MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The State Supreme Court has ordered casino shutdowns in two counties, prompting questions over the future of gambling in Alabama.
Casinos in Lowndes and Macon counties will soon be closing following the court’s decision Friday.
It’s the latest move in a decades-long saga by the state going after gambling.
Political Analyst Steve Flowers recalls his time in the legislature when lawmakers and voters approved constitutional amendments for electronic bingo in those counties.
“It was 25 years ago and so we all passed it in the legislature. People in Macon county voted for it, so when you start trying to close down the things in Greene and Macon counties, it looks like it’s a little racist to me,” Flowers said.
Flowers says he thinks the move will hurt those communities economically.
“It’s the biggest employer in their county. They pay local taxes, and on top of that they give to all the schools and charities in their district. It’s very vital in those counties, they only have about 15,000 to 20,000 people,” Flowers said.
Flowers also said he thinks this decision makes the legislature’s acting on gambling legislation all the more urgent.
Attorney General Steve Marshall says what’s going on in those casinos though is not bingo allowed by the amendments, but slot machines, which are not.
“Under the current law of Alabama, there is no such thing as electronic bingo. These in fact are slot machines, and slot machines are illegal under Alabama law,” Marshall said.
Beyond that, Marshall says the court’s ruling is a victory against what he calls a “menace to public health, morals, safety and welfare.”
“In one of these counties at just a local convenience store, someone came up and talked about how they believe that families were being harmed when they saw what they described as child support being spent for gambling and that those losses went away from the kids who desperately needed the money,” Marshall said.
Those casinos include VictoryLand, White Hall and Southern Star.
Justices ordered those two counties’ courts to enter orders within 30 days from Friday, permanently enjoining them from offering electronic gaming.
We reached out to all three casinos impacted for comment, but none could be reached.