Enforcement of Law Should Be Priority
By Freddy Ard
Alabamians are presently witnesses to an intriguing power struggle. On one side is Governor Bob Riley, whose administration is attempting to enforce laws against illegal gambling. On the other, are the operators of electronic bingo machines, whose efforts to sway public perception against the enforcement actions directed by Governor Riley are in high gear. Media ads attempting to distract attention from the real issue abound.
There has been, and likely will continue to be, much debate, and even controversy, surrounding the issue of gambling in Alabama. Some believe it immoral, while others cite the collective good to be derived from the prospective revenues generated from the various forms of gambling activity. Relying on gambling revenues, contend some, is bad public policy, while others believe it to be a harmless activity for which government should impose no restriction. None of these opinions, views, or positions, is relevant in the present stand-off. We would all be well-advised to set aside our personal views or preferences on the subject of gambling, in favor of a proper context to these current events.
On January 29, 2010, and previously on November 13, 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the machines in question are not bingo at all, but illegal gambling devices. If those machines are illegal, shouldn’t action to curtail such operations (irrespective of persons or influence) along with the enforcement of the laws of our state, be encouraged, applauded, and even demanded of those elected in representative service and leadership?
The Supreme Court released a six-part test to determine if a game meets
the legal definition of bingo. For instance, the court ruled that human
interaction has to be involved and that a machine cannot play a game of
bingo for a person. The person must be an active participant. In 62 of 67 counties, Republican and Democratic prosecutors have stopped slot machine gambling. Yet some illegal facilities remain in operation because some public officials refuse to enforce the law, perhaps due to intimidation by powerful casino bosses.
Governor Riley has for seven years demonstrated a record of initiative, leadership, and decisiveness in every area of his administration. In fact, his success in the area of business development has been phenomenal by any measure. His administration has demonstrated integrity of the highest level, without even a hint of scandal. The Riley administration has enjoyed exceptional success with his own legislative agenda, a significant feat given Democrat majorities of both the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives. As a result, both the public in general, and the media in particular, have applauded this leadership. With regard to enforcement of the law, fairly, and without ambiguity, in the matter of illegal electronic bingo operations, the governor deserves no less consideration.
Finally, whether you believe that gambling is good or bad, wrong or right, we should all be in agreement that we should follow the law and furthermore, that no one is above the law.
Freddy Ard is Chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, a member of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, and has served as Shelby County Commissioner and Helena City Councilman.