Attorney General King gives Governor Riley an opportunity to resolve gambling issue

Attorney General Troy King at Wednesday's press conference - Photo by Marc Parker

Montgomery, AL – Alabama Attorney General Troy King announced today in a press conference that, as the state’s chief law officer, it was within his authority to intervene and direct Governor Bob Riley’s Gambling Task Force Commander John Tyson’s actions, but he was not prepared to exercise that option … yet.

In early January of this year, Riley created a task force to combat gambling in the state, bypassing King when the two fundamentally disagreed over the legality of electronic bingo machines.

The governor’s task force planned a raid of the Bingo Pavilion in the Country Crossing development in Houston County last month but was halted by the issuance of a restraining order.

Last week Tyson said that the dog track in Greene County should shut down its electronic bingo operations, which he describes as illegal slot machines. But the sheriff of Greene County warned the task force not to attempt to shut down Greenetrack.

Although admittedly opposed to gambling himself, today King described the activities of the task force as “controversial and irresponsible,” especially in light of the task force’s pending confrontation with Greene County authorities.

“It is beyond comprehension that we now find ourselves in a position where armed law enforcement in Greene County may soon be confronted by armed state troopers – all in the name of the ‘rule of the law,’” King said. “This situation was unnecessary and cannot be tolerated. The safety of law enforcement and even the general public cannot be so recklessly put at risk.”

Although criticizing the actions of the task force, King praised Riley and his accomplishments while he has held the state’s highest office, naming the governor his mentor and friend, but criticizing him for simply not seeking the answers in the judicial system.

“I have always admired him,” said King. “What brings us here today may be described as a situation where the right thing is being done the wrong way … and with serious consequences.”

King stated he would like the governor to work with him on a suitable solution to the problem, imploring him to implement a three-step plan that includes seeking civil declaratory actions to discover if there is enough evidence to shut down the electronic bingo halls that have already closed; seek a ruling in Supreme Court; and to refrain from making further warrantless raids assuming that the facilities will abide by court instructions.

“Today, I will be sending the governor a letter outlining these recommendations and urge him to take these steps toward a safe, fair, and reasonable resolution,” said King. “Failing to do so will leave me, once again, with no choice but to re-evaluate this Office’s position and response.”

The attorney general has not set a time frame on when he plans to intervene if the governor does not comply with his suggested course of action.

“I’m not here today to give the governor an ultimatum or timetable,” he said. “I’m here today to suggest a course to the governor that is responsible and that will have the respect of the people of our state if it is followed.”

King also did not mention a deadline on when or if he would superintend or direct the actions of the task force.

“I’m not here to make any threats and I’m not going to speculate about what’s going to happen,” King continued. “I made a clear statement and provided a clear plan and I hope that the governor will receive it in the spirit that is intended and that he’ll implement it.”

Article by Melissa Parker

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