Class II bingo makes headway in AlabamaThe Alabama Senate voted 21-9 in favor of a bill that would allow Birmingham and Mobile greyhound tracks to offer Class II video bingo, subject to voter approval on both the state and local levels.
The bill, dubbed "bingo for books" because it would tax video bingo proceeds in order to raise revenue to purchase school textbooks, now advances to the House, where it is expected to face a tough battle.
Two of the state's four greyhound tracks, in Greene and Macon counties, already have high-stakes electronic bingo, approved by local voters last year. Although revenues are not taxed, charities in those counties receive some of the proceeds. For example, VictoryLand in Macon County has more than 700 video bingo machines, and pays a minimum of $10,500 per week to local charities from the revenue they generate. The "bingo for books" bill currently being considered calls for a 10 percent state tax and a 4 percent local tax, which would apply to all four Alabama tracks.
The racetracks have struggled during the past few years in part due to competition from video gaming at tribal casinos in the state. The racetrack in Greene County ceased live racing in 1998, although it continues to conduct simulcasting. Total handle at all four tracks fell from almost $300 million in 1997 to $253 million in 2002.
Milton McGregor, who owns the tracks in Birmingham and Macon County, has stated in local news reports that if Birmingham passes video bingo, he will invest the necessary funds to bring horse racing back to the racetrack, which discontinued the sport after the 1995 season and has since conducted only greyhound racing and simulcasting. He said the total investment could be as high as $40 million, which would include the necessary renovations to allow for 3,000 video gaming machines, along with a program to repair and rebuild the racetrack and stable area.