Across the pond…. Bingo still causing major political waves in Alabama
I know, I know. To us here in the UK, bingo is just a benign bit of fun your grandma plays (although its modern counterpart online bingo has quite a following among the kids) but in Alabama it has become the centrepiece of a tale of politicial chicanery, bribery and a debate about the role of the state within the US federal system.
The tale takes quite some telling but has its roots in Alabama’s stringent anti-gambling statutes. In common with many US states, Alabama has taken the view that gambling is not something that should be sanctioned or condoned.
Of course, the money involved in gambling is massive and huge corporate concerns are constantly at war with the legislature to test whether gambling bans are in harmony with the generally libertarian nature of US law-making. If people are free, the argument runs, then surely they are free to gamble if they so wish?
At the heart of Alabama’s problem lies the fact that while bingo is a game that is banned at the state level, it can be played as part of charity activities at local level. The allegation is that big companies are exploiting this anomaly to place electronic bingo games with high value prizesÂ in community centres whilst covering it by making charitable payments from the revenue they generate.
Further muddying the waters is the fact that Alabama’s current governer (Republic Bob Riley) is alleged to have received campaign funds during his election campaign from big gambling interests from outside the state itself. The charges of hypocrisy have been as loud as they have been predictable. With the Gubernatorial election coming up soon, it’s sure to be a big big issue for the voters as they try to separate the various issues of corruption, free will, protecting others from harm and just plain old having fun.
Despite our brief and ill-fated dalliance in the UK with so-called “super casinos” gambling has been pretty much left to individual choice and light regulatory touch and I think in light of the complex horrors that are thrown up when politics clashes with the gambling industry (political betting aside) we can consider ourselves very lucky indeed.