Attorney General Luther Strange Speaks on Fighting Electronic Bingo Battle

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By Tamika Bickham

Attorney General Luther Strange talks illegal gambling today. It's the first time he speaks on the issue following an electronic bingo raid at Houston County's Center Stage two weeks ago.

When it comes to electronic bingo, the same question continues to come up. What is legal and what isn't?

"Everybody knows what the rules are. Nobody is surprised. Slot machines are illegal in this state, always have been in all counties," said Attorney General Luther Strange.

Strange says that should serve as a warning to all those who plan to reopen what he calls an illegal operation in their gaming halls. If they do, they will be held accountable. Just two weeks ago Houston County's Center Stage was raided.

"In the Houston County case we sent out a cease and desist letter, probably close to a year ago, and it offered them every opportunity to go into court and they simply ignored it, so our investigators went in determined what was going on there was illegal and proceeded to take that action," said Strange.

So what about Victoryland owner, Milton Mcgregor, who said this shortly after he was acquitted on all conspiracy and bribery charges last March.

"I can assure you we will be open because we have a constitutional amendment approved by 76 percent of the people, and we are entitled to have everything we had before," said Mcgregor.

Strange says not so fast. His message to McGregor?

"He can't operate slot machines. He can't pay people a lot of money, earn millions of dollars for private interests when it's a charitable bingo amendment, and that's consistent with what we said everywhere," said Strange.

Although some counties do have constitutional amendments, he says to comply with the law, the operations have to be for charitable purposes and operated on a nonprofit basis. He also says they must play traditional bingo, but still he admits slot machines around the state continue to pop up.

"The problem with gambling in these counties is that the money involved is so great and the penalties are so minimal," said Strange.

So he says, the only way to combat the problem is to make the penalties harsher.

"Just increase the penalty to a felony and I'm confident that would put an end to this foolishness," said Strange.

Strange says that they have notified the other operations in the state that they believe to be operating illegally, but he didn't specify which ones those are.