Alabama Attorney General Says B-I-N-G-No To Electronic Machines

bingo card covered in markers
The battle over the difference between electronic bingo and slot machines is heating up in the state of Alabama once again.

Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the state was filing multiple lawsuits against casino operations in five counties that it says continues to operate illegal slot machines.

The machines in question, which look and play exactly like slots, are electronic bingo machines. Traditional slots one might find in a Las Vegas, Nevada casino are random number generator-based games. This basically means a computer randomly generates the numbers which determine outcome of each slot spin.

Electronic bingo machine or slot?

Electronic bingo games may look and play the same as slots. These games are indistinguishable from the slot machines one might find in a Las Vegas casino in many ways.

However, the difference is the results of each spin are based on electronic bingo games usually involving multiple machines. The bingo games run in the background. Meanwhile, the player goes through virtually the same slot machine experience they might find in Las Vegas. All the while, these bingo games determine the outcome behind the scenes.

Prior to 2010, several electronic bingo machine operations opened across Alabama, taking advantage of laws that allow bingo parlors to operate and county and municipal lawmakers who approved the presence of electronic bingo parlors featuring the games.

The Alabama anti-gambling task force

In early in 2010, an anti-gambling task force put together by then-Governor Bob Riley shut down many of these parlors. In March 2010, the Alabama Supreme Court decided the Governor did not have the authority to put together an anti-gambling task force. Susquently, a number of these parlors reopened.

However, the anti-gambling taskforce reopened later in the year with the help of the Attorney General’s office. The  courts determined the Attorney General did have the authority to operate such a task force.

Raids continued, and several court battles between the state and electronic bingo parlors ensued over the next few years. Most operations closed and reopened regularly following varying court decisions.

In 2016, Victoryland, one of the state’s largest operators, won a ruling in a federal court against the state and reopened.

AG says electronic bingo parlors are defying state law

Marshall still believes electronic bingo parlors are operating in defiance of state law. The lawsuits filed this week ask the courts to stop operators from promoting, operating, and transporting the machines.

The state also filed motions requesting preliminary injunctions to shut the operations down immediately.

“It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to ensure that Alabama’s laws are enforced, including those laws that prohibit illegal gambling,” Marshall said. “Through multiple rulings in recent years, the Alabama Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that electronic bingo and the use of slot machines are illegal in all Alabama counties. Therefore, we have taken action to hold accountable those who defy the laws of our state. These lawsuits represent a comprehensive legal approach developed by the Attorney General, with the assistance of the Office’s career experts, to finally put a stop to illegal gambling.”

The lawsuits are allegedly the culmination of ongoing investigations into these casinos and gambling ventures around Alabama. The civil complaints call for the closure of the casinos because the Attorney General says they present a legal nuisance.

The Attorney General also says the State pursued numerous cases against electronic bingo operators over the past five years. Each time, part of the goal was to clarify the state’s anti-gambling laws.

Each time, the Attorney General claims people cannot play bingoon electronic devices. This essentially defines electronic bingo machines as slot machines. Resultingly, slot machines remain illegal in Alabama.

Martin Derbyshire

About

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.