Riley rallies opposition to gambling in Alabama

Published 8:48 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

State Sen. Hank Erwin stole Gov. Bob Riley’s thunder Tuesday night when asked to speak by the governor at his anti-gambling pep rally at the Pelham Civic Complex.

“It’s now or never. We’re serving notice that it’s showdown time in Alabama,” Erwin said. “We’re telling illegal gamblers to hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back anymore.”

Riley was in Pelham for the first of several events he is planning around the state to solidify citizen opposition to proposed legislation he said, if approved, will expand gambling in Alabama.

In addition to Erwin, Riley was joined at the rally by Shelby County state representatives Mike Hill, Cam Ward and Mary Sue McClurkin, as well as more than 100 of his supporters and others opposed to gambling in Alabama.

“This is a simple, uncomplicated issue,” Riley said. “It’s either yes or no. There is no nuance here. You’re either for it or against it.”

Riley’s battle cry is in response to Senate Bill 135, which involves Bingo in Greene County. Riley said that bill and a number of other “local” bills that will come before the state legislature this year are anything but local and, if approved, will expand illegal gambling throughout the state.

“Illegal gambling is becoming more and more prevalent in our state,” Riley said. He used Walker County, which allows Bingo, as an example.

“Bingo has erupted in that county to the point that it has devasted that county,” Riley said.

“When you go in these so-called Bingo halls, you won’t hear anyone shout out, ‘B-7.’ What you’ll see are slot machines. That’s not Bingo. It never will be Bingo. If it looks like a slot machine and acts like a slot machine and pays money like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine.”

The governor said Alabama residents have voted in opposition of gambling, though some persist with wanting to put the issue on the ballot.

“I’ve heard people ask, ‘Why not let the people vote.’ We have voted,” Riley said. “What part of no do you not understand? The people of Alabama have said time and time again that they don’t want gambling in our state.”

Riley said the state’s quality of life is at risk if gambling is allowed to expand. He said estimates put money spent on gambling in Alabama at more than $675 million.

“There’s lots of talk now about the economy and the stimulus package,” Riley said. “That’s a lot of money that could be back in people’s pockets.”