Shelby County senators oppose bingo bill

Shelby County’s trio of state senators all voted against bringing the state’s bingo issue to a ballot in late 2010.

Senate Bill 380, which was sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, passed the Alabama Senate March 30 by a vote of 21-13. The bill will now be considered by the Alabama House of Representatives.

Sens. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo; Steve French, R-Birmingham; and Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham; all voted against the bill.

“Despite our best efforts today, (the) electronic bingo bill passed the Senate,” Erwin wrote in his blog shortly after the bill passed. “The bill has many concerns, and sadly, a few of our colleagues gave into the political pressure.”

In his blog, Erwin called the bill a “blank check” for bingo hall owners, and said he is opposed to all types of gambling.

If the bill passes the House of Representatives, it will allow Alabama residents to vote on whether to allow taxed bingo across the state.

If voters approved the measure at the polls, it would also levy at least a 25 percent tax on all bingo revenue across the state and create an Alabama Gaming Commission.

The bingo tax would be distributed to the state’s Education Trust Fund, Medicaid and senior programs, the Intellectual Disability and Mental Retardation Waiting List and each county in the state, according to the bill.

The bill would also grandfather in charity bingo halls currently in operation throughout the state. However, no bingo halls are currently in operation in Shelby County.

According to the bill, the state Legislature would call a special session Jan. 25, 2011 to discuss bingo halls in the state if the bill is approved by the state’s voters.