Larry Wyatt said his last $23 dollars were in one of the machines and he wasn't allowed to cash out. "I'm 25 years old and I've got a baby. I'm just here trying to make some money to survive," the West End resident said.
I understand how hard it is to make a living, Mr. Wyatt, but this ain't the way to do it, especially not with your last $23. Find something else to do.
The above was a result of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department serving up another hot, steamy batch of "justice," this time upon Lucky Duck Bingo in Midfield, Alabama. Despite charity bingo being given the go-ahead in Jefferson County, Sheriff Mike Hale, the Alabama Attorney General's office and the district attorneys for the county's Bessemer and Birmingham divisions think otherwise, hence the closure of these and other bingo parlors in Birmingham, Pinson and other cities.
The AL.com story doesn't explain why the county authorities felt the machines were illegal, and the Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson claims to have personally inspected the machines and determined they meet the Alabama Supreme Court's definition of bingo. Nevertheless, the machines were confiscated and the establishment shut down. There's also the matter of the non-refundable $15,000 license fee paid to the city, drawing accusations from the local yokels in the AL.com comments area of impropriety on part of the mayor.
Geez...for an activity that could net Jefferson County and other counties in the state millions of dollars in tax revenue, tens of thousands of new jobs and a way to pay down the crushing debt that's plaguing many parts of the state, the state sure does have a hard-on about cracking down on these "immoral" establishments. But then again, that's just the state doing it's best to legislate morality, again.
Or it could be the ongoing attempts to keep the Poarch Creek natives and other tribes flush with cash, and the buses headed to Tunica, Philadelphia and Biloxi packed with paying customers. Really, I covered this in the other two posts on electronic bingo.
For those wondering if these machines are legal in Jefferson County, period, take a look at Amendment 386: Operation of Bingo Games By Nonprofit Organizations in Jefferson County:
The operation of bingo games for prizes or money by nonprofit organizations for charitable or educational purposes shall be legal in Jefferson county, subject to the provisions of any resolution or ordinance by the county governing body or the governing bodies of the respective cities and towns, within their respective jurisdictions. The said governing bodies shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations for the licensing and operation of bingo games, within their respective jurisdictions, provided, however, that said governing bodies must insure compliance with the following provisions:
(a) No person under the age of 19 shall be permitted to play any game or games of bingo, nor shall any person under the age of 19 be permitted to conduct or assist in the conduct of any game of bingo;
(b) No bingo license shall be issued to any nonprofit organization, unless such organization shall have been in existence for at least 24 months immediately prior to the issuance of the license;
(c) Bingo games shall be operated only on the premises owned or leased by the nonprofit organization operating the bingo game. If the premises is leased, the rate of rental shall not be based on a percentage of receipts or profits resulting from the operation of bingo games;
(d) No nonprofit organization shall enter into any contract with any individual, firm, association or corporation to have said individual or entity operate bingo games or concessions on behalf of the nonprofit organization, nor shall said nonprofit organization pay consulting fees to any individual or entity for any services performed in relation to the operation or conduct of a bingo game;
(e) A nonprofit organization shall not lend its name or allow its identity to be used by any other person or entity in the operating or advertising of a bingo game in which said nonprofit organization is not directly and solely operating said bingo game;
(f) Prizes given by any nonprofit organization for the playing of bingo games shall not exceed $1,200.00 in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any bingo session or $2,400.00 in cash or gifts of equivalent value during any calendar week;
(g) No person or organization, by whatever name or composition thereof, shall take any salary, expense money, or fees as remuneration for services rendered in the operation of any bingo game.
It's unsaid whether the staff were complying with any of the above, or if the machines were in compliance, despite Mayor Richardson's personal seal of approval. Given the slant and corn-fed bull delivered most of the time, it's hard to say if we'll ever get a straight answer.
Midfield, Fairfield and many other cities were counting on the bingo boom to pad their coffers, but the raids are putting an end to all of that. At least someone finally mentioned the idea of consolidating these cities into a combined city/county metropolitan government like the ones enjoyed by Nashville, Louisville and other cities. More on that in a future post.