State legislators and governor are at odds over gambling operations

Alabama legislators and Gov. Bill Riley are moving in opposite directions concerning gambling in the state.

Looking for ways to increase state revenues to cover a state budget shortfall, lawmakers are considering raising taxes levied on electronic bingo halls and perhaps permitting (and taxing) Class II slot machines in those halls. The additional funds would be targeted for schools, which have had their budgets slashed several years in a row, supporters said.

But Riley announced formation of a task force to investigate gambling operations throughout the state and to close “illegal gambling operations using casino-like slot machines in bingo halls. Alabamans shouldn’t be forced to stand by and watch rogue gambling interests come in and take our state for all its worth.”

As this debate over gambling rages, the Birmingham Racing Commission approved use of a game called Instant Racing, which will be available for play at the Birmingham Race Course. The game uses video of old races, but the gambler doesn’t know which old race will be run and simply picks a horse by number. Once bets are down, the race is run, and the player finds out if he won.

Commissioners said they hope the game will provide a new reason for people to visit the track, where attendance has been down in recent years.