AG commends Smith, Adair on bingo closings

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Monday commended Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith and Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair for taking "swift action to close newly-established illegal electronic bingo halls" in the county. 

“Alabama law is crystal clear,” Marshall said in a statement Monday, three days after Walker County Sheriff's Office deputies raided an establishment in Jasper. “Electronic bingo and coin slot machines are illegal.  No matter what the operators of these unlawful enterprises claim, the Alabama Supreme Court has definitively and repeatedly ruled that electronic bingo and coin slot machines are illegal gaming devices.  There is no debate, there is no ambiguity.  As the Supreme Court stated on March 31, 2016, all that is left to do is to enforce the law.

“I wish to personally commend Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith and his department, as well as Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair, for taking swift and decisive action to close illegal bingo parlors under their jurisdiction.  As sworn law enforcement officers, our first duty is to enforce the law. When illegal activity is unchallenged and allowed to thrive, our state’s entire legal system is undermined. 

“Should local agencies in other jurisdictions fail to enforce State laws on gambling, my office will take action as needed to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

In addition to confiscating 40 electronic bingo machines and other evidence on Monday at a Jasper business, Skill Games, on Friday afternoon, Smith said last week he and Carbon Hill Police Chief Eric House had approached Carbon Hill businesses also conducting similar games to tell them they were illegal.

Smith said all but one of the businesses indicated they would be withdrawing their machines, although the businesses then posted signs that told patrons to go visit the establishment off Highway 5 on Brakefield Dairy Road. Deputies visited the Jasper business Friday afternoon, and, finding it was closed, broke into the building using a search warrant signed that day by District Judge Henry Allred. 

The sheriff said he would be seeking charges against the employees paying out gift cards and those operating the Jasper business. No arrests were made that day, as the business was closed and no employees were present. He indicated similar action could face the remaining Carbon Hill business, which operates out of a garage. 

Adair also said Saturday he supported Smith's actions. 

A sign in the Jasper business said gift cards, not cash, were paid out. Smith said the Chucky Cheese law would not allow cash or gift cards to be paid out, as opposed to small prizes.

He also said business licenses were obtained for machines in the county, claiming them as vending or amusement machines, but he said that is not what they are.

The action comes not only with the rise of electronic gaming machines in Carbon Hill, but also as media reports indicate state officials have sent critical letters to Jefferson County government officials about the proliferation of those machines in that county.