- Cullman, Alabama


March 21, 2013

EDITORIAL: Picking the wrong fight

CULLMAN — The state of Alabama’s crusade against what it perceives as gambling slot machines amounts to a grand waste of time and money.

Alabama curiously permits bingo in some counties, but not slot machines. Frankly, determining the difference is too murky for state officials to worry over. But worry they do.

Attorney General Luther Strange is at odds with National Indian Gaming Commission over machines housed at Poarch Creek Indians’ casinos in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery. The acting general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission has noted in writing that “Indian tribes are not bound by state definitions of the game of bingo when operating on Indian lands.”

Land owned by the Poarch Creek Indians is recognized by the federal government and, in this case, doesn’t fall under state provisions concerning bingo. That should be clear, but for years the state has made a big show of targeting locations over slot machines.

The state’s habitual attack on what it perceives as illegal gambling operations has more to do with an attempt at governing morals than anything else. Alabama politicians have made careers out of attacking “sin” through the years, mostly to gain votes from people.

Gambling certainly carries some risks. Some people go overboard in an obsession to win money. Others simply enjoy an evening of playing slots and poker and taking in the high quality of entertainment available at many casinos. If Strange is uncertain how much Alabamians appreciate a night at the slots, drive over to Tunica, Miss., on any weekend and count the license plates from this state.

Lawmakers have found different ways to prevent residents from voting on legal gambling and lotteries. Now the state is picking a fight with the Poarch Creek Indians, who are operating within the legal boundaries of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The state needs to back off in this fight. Lawmakers should bring a simple referendum to the voters and let the issue, outside of the federally protected Poarch Creek lands, be decided at the polling places.

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