Electronic bingo operations in Alabama shut down

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 12:00 PM

The White Hall Resort and Entertainment Center shut down its electronic bingo games so the gaming hall operators can determine whether they're in compliance with a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

Attorney Joe Espy said the center closed its bingo operations at 5 p.m. Wednesday and would remain closed for at least two weeks. Espy said 105 employees were temporarily laid off as a result of the decision to shut down.

Espy represents Cornerstone Community Outreach, which operates the center.

The Supreme Court's ruling set out guidelines of what constitutes legal bingo. It also lifted a restraining order that had prevented the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling from raiding the White Hall gaming center.

The decision by the state's highest court stemmed from an earlier raid by the task force on the gaming center, about 20 miles west of Montgomery. Espy said Cornerstone officials were concerned there would be another raid.

"With the situation as it is and the threats that have been made, we couldn't put our employees in jeopardy," Espy said.

Cornerstone officials said in a press release that the facility would reopen "when the determination has been made that all machines are in compliance."

Espy said there was also concern that the workers were losing their incomes so close to Christmas. He said the closing would also temporarily stop payments Cornerstone makes to charities in Lowndes County.

Gov. Bob Riley's press secretary, Todd Stacy, said attorneys for the White Hall facility informed the governor of the decision to shut down.

Concerning the loss of jobs at the gaming center, Stacy said casinos cause an economic drain on a community because of the effects of compulsive gambling.

"The casinos take away more from a community than they give," Stacy said.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King on Tuesday sent a letter to attorney generals in counties where some form of bingo is being played and urged them to study the Supreme Court ruling to determine if the games in their counties are legal.

In Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes told the Dothan Eagle he is taking a wait-and-see approach concerning machines that are to be used at the Country Crossings development, which is scheduled to open Dec. 1.

He said the Supreme Court ruling will help him determine if the machines are legal.

"It helps. But it's still murky," Hughes said.