Thursday, March 04, 2010

Ala. governor cracks down hard on bingo machines

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The governor of this Bible Belt state is waging a one-man crusade against gambling — and stirring racial tensions — by sending state troopers on late-night raids to shut down electronic bingo parlors.

Republican Bob Riley, a lifelong opponent of gambling, contends the electronic devices are essentially slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama. He formed a task force a year ago to halt their spread.

He has forced the shutdown of more than 30 gambling halls and idled more than 2,000 casino workers. Many of the bingo parlors are in poor, black areas.

Black leaders have complained their communities are being denied vital jobs and tax revenue. Some leaders have planned a march Saturday to encourage the legislature to hold a referendum on reopening the bingo parlors.