Current Issues - Gambling

This page is designed to provide information and links to articles that speak to current moral issues facing our society. Please reference the original article (if available) when using quotes from these resources.
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Friday, December 18, 2020

Governor Ivey Issues Statement Regarding the Study Group on Gambling Policy Report 

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Friday issued the following statement:
“Earlier this year, I established the Study Group on Gambling Policy to thoroughly review and gather all the facts surrounding the seemingly endless debate on gambling in Alabama. They were tasked with providing detailed information to allow public officials and the people of our state to make the most informed decision possible, should we decide to pursue legislation to deal with this issue.
“I offer my sincerest thanks to Mayor Todd Strange and the members of the Study Group for their diligent work, especially for adapting when COVID-19 interrupted in-person meetings. 
“After initial discussions with them regarding their report, I believe their research will be pivotal as gambling policies are being considered, debated and potentially voted on. As my team and I pour over the findings, I encourage the Legislature and the people of Alabama to do the same. The potential to act on gambling is an opportunity that cannot be accomplished solely by a governor or solely by the Legislature. It is incumbent on us to work together to provide the citizens of Alabama their opportunity to determine the future of gambling in Alabama.
“I continue to maintain the final say on gambling belongs to the people of our great state, and if and when I have a recommendation regarding a specific course of action, I will do so in full transparency to the people of Alabama, working hand-in-hand with the Alabama Legislature.”
Click here for a copy of the Study Group on Gambling Report 
Members of the Study Group on Gambling:
  • Todd Strange (Chair)
  • R. “Rey” Almodóvar
  • Dr. Deborah Barnhart  
  • Walter Bell  
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin 
  • Young Boozer  
  • Sheriff Sam Cochran 
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley  
  • Carl Jamison 
  • Justice James “Jim” Main 
  • Phillip “Phil” Rawls 
  • Bishop B. Mike Watson

Press Contact
Gina Maiola, Press Secretary
Office of Governor Kay Ivey


Esport betting platform gets license for video game gambling

By:  JAKE SEINER, AP Sports Writer
October 23, 2018

Video gamers in the United States and elsewhere will soon be able to bet on themselves.

The live-betting esports platform Unikrn had its wagering license approved by the Isle of Man on Tuesday, clearing the way for users to legally gamble on competitive video games.

"There is finally a legitimate, regulated operator in the space that has a pretty comprehensive offering," Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood told The Associated Press. "It's huge."

Unikrn immediately began rolling out to 20 countries a variety of online products, and will soon bring esports wagering to most of Europe, South Korea and other Asian countries, and parts of Latin America. Certain types of esports betting will also be available in the U.S.

Unikrn had previously only been licensed to provide real-money betting on esports in the U.K. and Australia.

In countries with legalized sports betting, Unikrn users will be able to make odds bets on major esports competitions, like the upcoming League of Legends World Championship on Nov. 3.

Unlike traditional sports books, the esports platform will also offer skill-based bets. Essentially, gamers can bet on their own abilities in games like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and League of Legends.

Once they have verified their age and location, users can link their game to the Unikrn platform, and then Unikrn will generate odds for the player based on his or her profile within the game. Players can place a bet on the Unikrn website into a mutual pool, play their next match, then come back to the site to claim their winnings or make another wager.

In America, skill-based betting will go live in 41 states as part of Unikrn's product rollout, although a date for the U.S. unveiling hasn't been made public. Esports spectator betting will not yet be available in the U.S.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Alabama’s Longtime Hostility to Gambling Shows Signs of Fading

By Alan Blinder
June 10, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Even more than its Bible Belt neighbors, Alabama has steadfastly resisted legalizing gambling for generations.

The clout of evangelical Christians helped make sure of it: Joe Godfrey, the top lobbyist for the state’s most powerful churches, once received an Inauguration Day promise from an influential politician that no proposal for gambling would make it through the State House while he was in office.

But the resistance is now openly fraying, suggesting that gambling is no longer a potent moral issue that animates voters and politicians the way it once did.

As the landscape shifts in Montgomery, the state capital, the consequences may reverberate across the South, where nearby states gladly rake in billions of dollars that Alabamians are not allowed to wager at home.

The Supreme Court opened a new front last month when it cleared the way for sports betting in any state that wanted it, a ruling that neighboring Mississippi swiftly moved to embrace. And on Tuesday, Alabama voters in both major parties nominated candidates for governor who favor a vote on creating a state lottery.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

“You Pay Even If You Don’t Play.” Debunking Gambling Proponents Top Arguments with National Policy Expert Les Bernal

Nate Grasz
Capitol Connection Episode 68

You’ve likely heard about all the money Nebraska is “losing” every year to casinos across the Missouri River in Iowa. Now, proponents of expanding gambling in Nebraska are saying the losses will worsen and the state will lose even more money if Nebraska lawmakers don’t legalize sports betting.

If people are already gambling, shouldn’t we capitalize on increased tax-revenue and legalize casinos in Nebraska? Couldn’t the state use this revenue to pay for education, gambling addiction funds, and lower property taxes? Should Nebraska legalize sports betting? Wouldn’t legalizing more forms of gambling eliminate illegal gambling?

While these questions and arguments are recycled every year, it’s important to know the facts and realities of state-sponsored gambling. Hear the answers to these questions and why every citizen – especially Nebraskans –  should care about what their state decides to do with gambling on this week’s Capitol Connection Podcast featuring renowned policy expert Les Bernal, national director for Stop Predatory Gambling.  Les Bernal's interview begins at the 4:30 minute mark.

 Les Bernal has spoken and written extensively about government-sanctioned gambling, appearing on national television and radio shows including 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. He has testified before Congress and has been cited by more than 600 newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, USA Today, and Sports Illustrated. Les has also spoken before more than 1000 business organizations, college audiences and faith groups across the nation.


Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes

Executive Summary November 2017
  • Overall rates of gambling among NCAA men have decreased.  Fifty-five percent of men in the 2016 study reported gambling for money within the past year, compared to 57% of respondents in the 2012 study and 66% in 2008.  As in the general population (college-aged and otherwise), women engage in nearly all gambling activities at much lower rates than men.  Over the 12-year period studied, participation in most gambling activities decreased among all student-athletes despite the expansion of land-based and online gambling opportunities during this time.
  • However, in contrast to activities such as poker or online casino games, sports wagering remains popular among student-athletes.  In 2016, 24% of men reported violating NCAA bylaws within the previous year by wagering on sports for money (9% reported wagering on sports once per month or more).  These rates are just slightly lower those seen in the 2008 and 2012 surveys.  About 5% of current NCAA women reported wagering on sports in the past year.
  • Most of the gambling and sports wagering behaviors of student-athletes involve low stakes.  Among student-athletes who have ever gambled for money, the largest reported one-day loss is less than $10 for nearly one-third of men and more than one-half of women.  Only 35% of men and 13% of women gamblers have ever lost more than $50 in a day.  Of the student-athletes who have ever wagered on sports, only 21% of men and 5% of women reported losing more than $50 in a day.  Most fantasy sports and basketball pool participation among student-athletes involves similarly low amounts.
  • That said, gambling and sports wagering can lead to significant well-being issues for some student-athletes.  Just under 2% of men participating in the 2016 survey (along with a smaller percentage of women) met standard diagnostic criteria for problem gambling.  Four percent of men who had gambled in the past year reported one-day gambling losses of $500 or more.  Student-athlete gambling debts are a well-being concern, but also a worry for potential vulnerability to outside gambling influences.
Click here for a pdf copy of "Trends in NCAA Student-Athlete Gambling Behaviors and Attitudes"
Click here to read the rest of the article.

Gambling or skill? Alabama lawmakers ponder whether to turn fantasy sports into a reality

By John Sharp
March 22, 2017

Is fantasy sports gaming a battle of wits and smarts that's worthy of free-market protection? Or is it just dolled-up digital gambling that deserves being outlawed? Josh Adams, following the debate in Montgomery from 50 miles away, can speak to the questions as well as anyone in the country.

Adams, 38, who lives in Auburn, is already nationally known for his views on the matter.

In the past two years, both the New York Times and the PBS show "Frontline" have come to talk to Adams, a recovering gambling addict, featuring him in deeply-reported stories about fantasy sports gaming and the risky obsessions associated with it.

"I want people in Alabama to be able to play daily fantasy sports," Adams, who works for an entertainment production company in Opelika, said in an interview this week with "Most people can play responsibly."

And for people who can't play responsibly, like himself, Adams insists that the industry owes them forthright warnings to stay away, and to tell them where to find help.

In the Legislature, three bills are in play to legalize daily fantasy sports gaming by Alabama players. And the brains-vs.-luck debate is well under way.

"To me, I don't see it as the same type of gambling that I've been opposed to in the past such as the casino-type of gambling," said Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, who is sponsoring one of the bills. "It's about the skills of picking teams that are playing once a day or a couple times a week."

Countered Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program - an organization funded by Alabama churches that opposes gaming of any kind: "It's nothing more than online casinos. They say it's all skill. It's not."

Click here to read the rest of the article.

An 'advisory council' on gaming?

Guest Voices,
October 20, 2016
By Eunie Smith, Eagle Forum of Alabama; Joe Godfrey, ALCAP; and A. Eric Johnston, Southeast Law Institute

On October 3, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley announced he was appointing an advisory council on Gaming. Among the reasons reported is that it was necessary to resolve ongoing disagreements over electronic bingo, to resolve disputes and controversy that have existed for years on gambling, to avoid selective enforcement of gambling laws, to settle a lack of consensus among the judiciary and determine best practices from other states.

In the Governor's wisdom, all of this needs to be reviewed and then presented to the people for a vote. In other words, the Governor is now working for gambling interests in this state and he expects the Council to advise a repeal of that provision in the Alabama Constitution which prohibits games of chance. In the process, the Governor will discover a new source of income for the state - taxation of the poor.

For those of us who have been involved in the gambling issue, the Governor's approach is completely transparent. Possibly, he has been duped by the gamblers, but more than likely, he has chosen to work with them to legalize gambling on the pretext of resolving conflict in the state and increasing revenue.

The apparent genesis of this was the case of State v. $223, 405.86, et al. The trial court found there was selective enforcement of gambling laws. The Governor said there is a "quilt work of local constitutional amendments around the state." He suggests this is the basis for the dispute which needs to be resolved.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Video gamers in the United States and elsewhere will soon be able to bet on themselves.

The live-betting esports platform Unikrn had its wagering license approved by the Isle of Man on Tuesday, clearing the way for users to legally gamble on competitive video games.

2016’s Most Gambling-Addicted States

by Richie Bernardo
April 25, 2016

Gambling exists in every state — even Hawaii and Utah, where gambling is prohibited by law — but not everyone gambles the same. First, there are “recreational” or “social” gamblers who might, for instance, buy the occasional scratcher, take the rare casino trip or bet small stakes in fantasy sports. But they also possess the mental capacity to quit at any point and prevent catastrophic financial loss. Then there are “professional” gamblers — the likes of math genius Edward Thorp and high-stakes sports bettor Bill Krackomberger — who gamble well enough to make a living out of it while separating work from personal life.

But when the business or pleasure gets out of control, gambling becomes a real medical condition. Gambling disorder, as the affliction is known, affects slightly more than 2 percent of all U.S. adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs such as alcohol can, leading to addiction.”

That addiction can lead to serious economic consequences. On a societal level, compulsive gambling costs an estimated $6 billion per year, according to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling. Individually, a male gambling addict accumulates an average debt between $55,000 and $90,000 whereas a female averages $15,000, by one estimate. Most do not have adequate resources to pay back what they owe. As a result, gambling addicts develop a high tendency to amass even more debt, suffer from other health issues, lose their jobs, strain their relationships or even commit crimes.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Lottery Not the Answer


When Gov. Robert Bentley announced his support for a state-run lottery in Alabama he sounded as if he had found some magical cure for all the ills of the state. He promised a state-run lottery would be a “permanent solution” to the state’s financial problems.

Bentley said taxes would never have to be raised if a lottery were approved because the state-sponsored gambling scheme would “provide funding we can count on for year after year.”

Like other advocates of this get-rich-quick scheme, Bentley’s words are as hollow and misleading as those of all the gambling crowd with which he has now aligned himself.

Look at the experience of Missouri, a state with a lottery for the past 30 years. Originally lottery proceeds went to the state’s General Fund but in 1992 voters specified that all lottery proceeds go to education.

Despite the earmarked funds Missouri State Senator Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We still haven’t funded the educational formula as described by statute” for K-12 schools.


Missouri has about 19 percent more population than Alabama. Its per capita income is about 8 percent higher than Alabama’s. Missouri’s per household income is more than 10 percent higher than Alabama. Yet that state with 30 year’s experience with a state-run lottery earmarked for public education cannot even meet minimum statutory requirements to fund one of the state’s most basic and important services.
That is why Missouri leaders are considering asking state voters to kill the state lottery.

Immediate past speaker of the Missouri House John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “that the lottery is an unstable and inefficient source of funding for public education.” He called publicity for the lottery “horribly misleading” and questioned whether government should be promoting gambling.

“You’re telling people to go pay money in to help fund children’s education and the reality is only about 25 cents of the dollar actually makes it back into education,” Diehl said. “We keep trying to squeeze more money out of the lottery — which often comes from the pockets of those with the lowest incomes — instead of being honest with Missourians that the cost of public education is high, we must address it directly and stop using ‘get rich quick’ gimmicks to make us feel better about it,” Diehl said.

“Lottery,” he added, “at the end of the day is government-run gambling and it’s been inefficient.”

That is why the former speaker of the House in Missouri favors asking the people of his state to scrap the state-run lottery in the Show Me State.

Is there any reason to think Alabama’s experience will be any different? None.

To begin with, Bentley continues the practice of lottery supporters to over promise. In May 2015 state Sen. Del Marsh released a study contending a state-run lottery in Alabama would generate more than $330 million. The flaws in the study were quickly pointed out and those numbers are not talked about any longer.

Bentley reduced the promised income from a state-run lottery by more than $100 million — down to $225 million — but that is still unrealistic when compared to the experience of states like Missouri. To net $225 million, $900 million would have to be gambled away because only about 25 percent of the income coming from lotteries goes to state causes. About 75 percent of the money goes to prizes, administration and advertising. For Alabama to reach the promised amount, every one of Alabama’s 4,858,979 residents would have to gamble away more than $185 annually.

For the current year, the Missouri Lottery Commission has appropriated $278 million to the educational budget for state distribution. That amounts to about $182 from every one of Missouri’s 6,083,672 residents because it takes about $1.1 billion to end up with the $278 million.

Missouri’s per capita income is $26,006 compared to Alabama’s $23,936 or 8 percent lower. If Alabamians gambled away the same percentage of their income as Missouri, we would waste about $421 per capita resulting in a state income of $204 million.

It is unlikely receipts would be that high since 19.2 percent of Alabamians live below the poverty level while the Missouri poverty percentage is 15.6. Some Alabama legislators have already questioned Bentley’s proposal. House of Representatives Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, called the lottery “a one-shot deal,” adding “a lottery for the General Fund will become, as it has in other states, a victim to legislative shell games. It will become nothing more than a slush fund for legislators.”

That is what happened in Missouri. When voters demanded lottery revenue be earmarked for public education, the legislator responded by shifting other state money away from the education budget. That is why the state continues to fall short of funding K-12 education at the level called for by statute.

It does not matter where income might be designated, it becomes a shell game in the end.

Bentley called his lottery proposal “a permanent solution.” That has not proven true anywhere else and it will not be true in Alabama. He said lottery would provide “funding you can count on year after year.” Again that has not been true anywhere else and it will not be true in Alabama.


Bentley said taxes would never have to be raised. That is untrue and is an attempt to appeal to the basic emotions of voters. As Diehl said, it is time to be honest with voters about the cost of public education and basic governmental services.

The latest state-sponsored lottery proposal is just another shell game designed to distract the people of Alabama from the serious status of the state’s financial condition. Alabama deserves better than that from Bentley and from our elected state legislative leaders.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed constitutional amendment to authorize an Alabama lottery was released Aug. 5. To read the proposed amendment, visit www.


Alabama Policy Institute (API) recently released a video, “Voodoo Budgeting,” showing Gov. Robert Bentley calling for a special session to push through lottery legislation where he assures the people of Alabama that a lottery would be a “permanent solution” for the state’s budget shortfalls. API, a nonprofit research and educational institute, said in an Aug. 3 email that Bentley’s claims about the lottery being something Alabamian’s can “count on year after year” is “simply not true, as evidenced by the experiences of other states with lotteries.” API will continue to “do our part to keep Alabama’s politicians honest,” the email said. “The people of Alabama deserve nothing less.” 
The Alabama Baptist (TAB)

Click here to visit the Alabama Policy Institute website and view the video.
Click here to visit The Alabama Baptist website.


ALCAP Alert Dated 8/4/2016


We must call into question how much the lottery will siphon from the Education Trust Fund, etc. and tell Alabama Legislators NO. 

For example, if I spend $100 on goods then $4 in Sales Tax Revenue goes to schools. If I now spend $25 of that money on a "get-rich-quick" lottery scheme, then only $3 goes to the Education Trust Fund.

Based on the Governors "lofty expectations" this would mean $12 million dollars in tax revenue diverted from the Education Trust Fund, as well as the lost revenue to local cities, counties, and local school tax revenues generated from the other 5-6% of sales tax that doesn't go to the state.


Speaking from client experience, the lottery hurts the small business as people stop spending money on such things as cokes, Gatorade and food and divert that to a lottery ticket where they make a much smaller margin.

From a personal, anecdotal perspective, we just went to Florida recently and all those stores in Florida right next to Florala have closed - so much for "lottery" business.

We also went to Orlando and it is amazing that from just south of Dothan to Orlando you can hardly see a lottery sign anywhere - BUT travel on one of the older thoroughfares going into downtown Orlando and you will see lottery advertisements targeted at the poor people who need to play the lottery the least. 


Don Wallace
Certified Public Accountant
Northport, Alabama


Governor Bentley announced this morning that he is calling for the Special Session of the Alabama Legislature to consider a constitutional amendment allowing Alabama to vote on a state-sponsored lottery will begin August 15.

Please contact your House Member and State Senator and let them know that you oppose this government scheme that has failed in every state where it has been enacted!

I am asking you to do the following:
1) Contact your House Member and State Senator and ask him/her to oppose any pro-gambling legislation during the Special Session and get others to do the same.
2) Order the EDUCATION EDITION of a new documentary entitled, "OUT OF LUCK."  Be sure to order the EDUCATION EDITION because that version drops the sound when foul language is used.  The original version contains some offensive language at different times during the movie.  The movie is 1 hour and 45 minutes, but every church and every legislator in Alabama should see this movie, so invite your legislators to watch the movie with you.  We have purchased about 50 copies of the EDUCATION VERSION of the "OUT OF LUCK" DVD and if you want to order from us, the cost is $24.99 + shipping (our cost; ALCAP will get nothing out of this; the education version costs more than the original version which can be purchased on or iTunes).  Click here to contact the ALCAP office to request a copy of the education edition of the video.  If you would like to order the education edition directly from Amazon, click here.
Remember, we will not be voting on just selling lottery tickets in Alabama.  Several years ago the Alabama Supreme Court defined a lottery as "any game of chance."  That means that if the people of Alabama pass a Constitutional Amendment legalizing a lottery, the Alabama Legislature can come back and pass enabling legislation that legalizes casinos throughout the state.

Also, the Legislature will come back every year wanting to expand the gambling options because people get addicted and want more options, and because the revenue from each form of gambling diminishes over time.  This is what has happened in every state that has passed lottery legislation!

You can find information about lotteries and casino gambling on the links and current issues tab to the left or

Southern Baptist leader questions Gov. Bentley's motives for lottery push
By Greg Garrison | 
July 28, 2016 
The Rev. Joe Godfrey, executive director of ALCAP, will lead churches in the fight against a state lottery in Alabama.

Southern Baptists have been fighting gambling since the days of brush arbor revivals across the South.

They remain some of the staunchest opponents of gambling, believing it promotes immorality and hurts the poor.

 Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who took office flouting his reputation as a staunch Southern Baptist upholder of morality, has now called for a special session to consider a state lottery.

 The minister assigned to lead the Southern Baptist fight against gambling in Alabama questions Bentley's motives.

 "Either his morals are not as strong as he claims they are, which we've already seen, or this is a distraction from the scandal," said the Rev. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, an anti-gambling lobby supported by the Alabama Baptist Convention.

"I've talked to a lot a lot of pastors who are fed up with him," said Godfrey, a former president of the state Baptist convention.
Regardless of Bentley's motives, Godfrey is gearing up for yet another fight against lottery proposals.

"It's a regressive tax on the poor," Godfrey said. "It's deceiving people into thinking it's their ticket out of poverty. They're going to advertise it and sell lottery tickets in poor neighborhoods, and people will spend their entire paychecks. Most of those tickets will end up in the trash."

Then the state's social services agencies will be beset by chronic gamblers and the social problems they cause, including increased Medicaid rolls, Godfrey said. Instead of fixing Medicaid funding, it will create a bigger drain on state services, he said.

 "You're not going to sell enough lottery tickets to sustain it," he said. "It's not producing wealth. It's draining money out of the economy. When people buy lottery tickets, they're not buying goods and services. They're not paying sales taxes. The state will have to raise taxes."

If the state votes to overturn its constitutional ban on lotteries, a push for casinos will be next, Godfrey believes.

"If people vote to allow a lottery, the legislature can come back and put in place casinos," Godfrey said.

"I think it's smoke and mirrors. I think the ultimate goal is to get casinos. They'll come back and say the lottery revenue is not coming in like we thought it would; we need casinos, slots, keno, terminals. It'll be a constant battle from now on."

When he was pastor of First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, Godfrey had an older couple in the congregation who went to a Mississippi casino and gambled away everything they had, including the mortgage to their house. Gambling addicts then often turn to churches for assistance, he said.

"If we had casinos, they will go on a regular basis," he said. "They will go every day and sit and gamble all day and lose everything they have."

While many in Alabama travel to other states to gamble, it's not as much a drain as if gambling were more available closer to home, Godfrey believes.

Gambling revenues mainly benefit casino owners, he said.

"The gambling bosses will own this state," Godfrey said.

"A very small amount goes to state government," he said. "When they opened Birmingham Race Course, we were told Birmingham City Schools would never have to worry about revenues again. You see how that turned out. If you look at schools in Mississippi, they are at the bottom of the pile. It doesn't help their schools. Then people don't have money to spend on goods and services when they lose all their money gambling. You'll see more of that."

Although churches staunchly opposed past efforts to create a state lottery, a major factor in keeping them out of Alabama, church opposition has faded as gambling becomes more acceptable, Godfrey admits.

Even Baptist and Methodist churches that once held the line on gambling now see prominent members going across state lines to buy lottery tickets and play at casinos and questioning the traditional moral stance against it.

So the front line of defense in the past now may be vulnerable.

"It's going to be the churches that have to fight it," Godfrey said. "Churches don't have the money and reserves they did in the late 1990s. The recession has hit them hard."

Churches will be hit again if a lottery passes, he believes. "When gambling addicts go broke, they're going to come to the churches looking for help," Godfrey said.

Now Republicans looking for alternatives to income, sales and property tax increases are more likely to resort to a lottery as an alternative, he said.

"This is not going to be good for the economy," Godfrey said. "It sucks money out of the state. You have to raise taxes to sustain services. It's the worst way to raise money. It's still a tax. It's a regressive tax on the poor."

The real solution to state budget problems is courageous leadership, Godfrey said.

"We need to come up with a tax plan that's fair and equitable and cut the budget," Godfrey said. "If you're depending on gambling, you're in trouble. Gambling does not solve economic problems, it makes them worse. When the recession hit, Nevada had some of the highest unemployment rates, foreclosure rates, suicide rates. People stopped going out there to gamble when they didn't have money. Our budget situation is bad, but It'd be worse if we had a lottery."

States that use lottery money for college scholarships have had to raise academic standards for earning the scholarships, which means that children who attend poor schools with few resources often have a lesser chance of getting scholarships, he said.

"In Georgia, poor people are buying lottery tickets to pay for rich kids to go to college," he said.

"It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's robbing from the poor to give to the rich."

Lottery income also pays for advertising that targets the poor, he said. "The government is asking citizens to invest in worthless lottery tickets," Godfrey said. "It's just sad."

Simulated gambling games leading to real-life problem gambling, report says

By ABC Social Affairs Correspondent, Norman Hermant 
April 21, 2016

People who play simulated gambling games for free online are more likely to become problem gamblers in real life, according to a report from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC).
Report's key findings:
  • Children are more exposed to gambling than ever before
  • Online games are blurring the lines between simulated and real gambling
  • The games create unrealistic expectations about real-life gambling
The report also said the easy access to free gambling games on smart phones and tablets was a major concern.

The AGRC — part of Federal Government's Australian Institute of Family Studies — said more and more people saw gambling as a part of everyday life and they were being exposed to gambling at younger ages than ever before.
"Young people today are growing up around these electronic games," said Anna Thomas, one of the authors of the Is It Gambling Or A Game? report.
"This is introducing gambling to them at a much younger age than you'd normally expect."
The report — a compilation of online gambling related research over the last 15 years — said the proliferation of gambling games raised a number of red flags: 
  • Because the online games are so realistic, the lines between simulated gambling and real life "commercial" gambling are increasingly blurred. 
  • Simulated gambling is accessed increasingly through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Players are heavily exposed to commercial gambling site advertising on these sites. 
  • In simulated games, players are protected from the consequences of losing — they can just play again if their luck turns. That creates unrealistic expectations of gambling in real life.
"That's the danger of these kinds of games," said Jake Newstadt, who sought help for his gambling problems two years ago.

"They kind of plant potential messages inside of us that we're not really aware of."

'It can become quite addictive': reformed gambler

Mr Newstadt, 25, started gambling at age 12.

He now works as a project worker helping problem gamblers. He is not surprised by the popularity of simulated gambling games — everything from slot machines, to roulette, to online poker.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Alabama Christian leader warns ‘Illegal gambling is again taking over this state’

by Cliff Sims
December 15, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The leader of an interdenominational organization that lobbies the Alabama legislature on behalf of the Christian community issued a stern warning on Tuesday: “Illegal gambling is taking over this state.”
Dr. Joe Godfrey is the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), an almost 80-year-old organization that describes itself as “Alabama’s moral compass” and has long been one of the state’s most active anti-gambling groups.

Dr. Godfrey’s latest comments came in response to the imminent re-opening of VictoryLand, a Macon County casino that has opened and closed time and again since 2010 when the State first raided the facility and seized its electronic bingo machines.

Alabama’s Constitution contains amendments declaring gambling illegal statewide, but also includes other county-specific amendments legalizing certain types of gambling — most notably “bingo” and dog racing — in a handful of counties, while they remain forbidden in others.

Then-Gov. Bob Riley issued executive orders empowering the attorney general’s office to enforce Alabama’s gambling laws during his tenure, but later rescinded the authority, establishing instead the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Gov. Bentley renewed the AG’s authority in his first official act as governor in 2011.

But in October of this year, Circuit Judge William Shashy ruled these orders unconstitutional because he said they led to unequal enforcement of the laws in different areas of the state.

The rub revolved around Victoryland, which had been repeatedly shut down by state authorities, while other similar casinos in Greene and Lowndes Counties remained open.

In response to the judge’s ruling, Gov. Bentley issued another executive order, stripping the attorney general’s office of the authority to enforce gambling laws and paving the way for gambling to take place in local areas under the supervision of sheriffs and district attorneys.

Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson and District Attorney E. Paul Jones wrote to Bentley on Dec. 4 thanking him for the order and, according to a report by the Montgomery Advertiser, “outlined their plans” for inspecting VictoryLand’s bingo machines and getting them prepared to re-open. 

“I am satisfied with the terms and conditions you outlined in your letter to me with respect to the inspection and legal compliance for any bingo machine brought to Macon County,” Bentley replied. “I have every confidence that you will enforce the law in your county as it applied to this important issue.”

In response to this series of events, ALCAP’s Dr. Godfrey sent the following statement to Yellowhammer (emphasis his):

The Governor of Alabama has abdicated his responsibility to enforce the laws of Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court clearly ruled that the machines at VictoryLand were illegal slot machines, but the Governor, instead of enforcing the laws of Alabama, has chosen to ignore those laws as interpreted by the State Supreme Court. If he allows (VictoryLand owner) Milton McGregor to bring back slot machine gambling and does not stop the slot machines currently operating at other locations in the state, then why do we need a governor or why do we need (the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency)? If local sheriff’s and DAs are going to be the only law enforcement in the state, then we might as well close the governor’s office.

As I understand it, the Attorney General has been handcuffed by the Governor. The Attorney General cannot mobilize State Troopers (ALEA) to shut down the illegal gambling operations without the Governor releasing those troopers to the AG, so illegal gambling is again taking over this state. During the 2016 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, the pro-gambling legislators will argue, “Well, gambling is already going on. We might as well legalize it and tax it.”

NO! What we should do is ENFORCE THE CONSTITUTION AND THE LAWS OF ALABAMA! We need a governor who will stand up and do what is right, not what Milton McGregor tells him to do! I guess one might surmise that Milton McGregor is the real Governor of Alabama.

An effort to legalize a state-sponsored lottery and expand casino gambling briefly gained momentum in the Alabama legislature in 2015, but ultimately did not have enough support to pass. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), the legislation’s most prominent proponent, has said he will not renew the effort in 2016.

“I will not block an effort by anyone who wants to try to do it,” Marsh said. “I’m just saying that as of today I won’t be pushing it.”

Alabama has a long and sordid history with gambling.

Phenix City, a small town on Alabama’s eastern border, in the 1940s and 1950s was overrun by gambling and prostitution rings handled by organized crime figures. Al Patterson, a local attorney, won the Democratic nomination for Alabama attorney general on a platform of cleaning up the city, but was gunned down outside of his office before being elected.

In 2010, 11 individuals, including casino owners Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley and multiple legislators and lobbyists, were indicted in an alleged scheme to buy votes for a gambling bill in the Alabama legislature.

Mr. McGregor and most of the accused were acquitted, but Mr. Gilley, a state representative and a lobbyist all took plea deals that included time in prison.

A spokesperson for Governor Bentley told Yellowhammer the governor remains personally opposed to gambling.

“The Governor did not make the decision to reopen VictoryLand,” said Bentley communications director Jennifer Ardis. “The Governor directed the enforcement of the State’s gambling laws be done at the local level with Sheriff’s and DAs.

“The Governor’s position on gaming hasn’t changed,” she reiterated. “Milton McGregor is reopening VictoryLand–not Governor Bentley.”

Lottery Lawsuit Pulls in 38 States

Motion asks judge to put prizes in account controlled by court.
by Matthew Walberg Chicago Tribune

Click here to read the article.

Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling with Dan Daily, Capitol Journal

Recently, Stop Predatory Gambling's national director, Les Bernal, was in Alabama helping ALCAP speak out against several pro-gambling bills that have been introduced in this 2015 Legislative Session.  He sat down with APT's Dan Daily, host of the Capitol Journal, to discuss the issue.  The interview begins at nine minutes and thirty seconds (9:30) into the program.


$14.4 million Medicaid fraud may be state's largest ever

September 30, 2015
By Joe Duggan

LINCOLN — The pharmacist lost his composure in court Tuesday as he admitted to pulling off perhaps the biggest Medicaid fraud ever in Nebraska.
As Scott Tran tearfully uttered the words "guilty, your honor," he was confronted by the reality that he will spend up to 10 years in prison before spending the rest of his life trying to pay back the $14.4 million he stole from the state and federal health care program.
"It's the biggest one I'm aware of in Nebraska," Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Everett said after the hearing in U.S. District Court in Lincoln.
Most of that staggering sum ended up in the casinos of Council Bluffs, according to Omaha attorney Clarence Mock, who represents Tran. His client once paraded as a high roller at the blackjack table, but he was really consumed by addiction, Mock said.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


September 20-27 has been designated as the  "National Stop Predatory Gambling Week of Prayer" by the national organization, Stop Predatory Gambling (SPG).  ALCAP's Director Emeritus, Dr. Dan Ireland, helped to organize this movement in the 1990s and ALCAP's Executive Director, Dr. Joe Godfrey, currently serves on the Board of Directors.
Given the fact that many Republican legislators are beginning to push the idea of expanding gambling in our state, we need for God's people to fervently pray that God will help these legislators, opinion writers, business leaders and others to see that gambling is an evil force that can potentially hurt every citizen in our state.  Gambling is both a moral issue and it is a failed public policy everywhere it has been tried - it does not work!  Please go to and to read the facts.
ALCAP is calling on churches and concerned individuals to plan one or more prayer events during the week of September 20-27, 2015 for the purpose of praying for God's help in fighting predatory gambling in our state and nation.  Click here for a SUGGESTED PRAYER GUIDE for you to use.  You can connect this special season of prayer to your regular Sunday morning, Sunday evening or Wednesday evening worship services, or you may encourage your small groups (Sunday School classes or discipleship classes) to hold a season of prayer.  If you want to partner with other churches in your community and host a prayer rally or use social media to hold a "virtual reality" prayer event, feel free to do that.
We would ask that you please send a brief description of your event, pictures and, especially, a count of how many people participated to  We would like to send this information to SPG for them to include in their national report.

Jackpot fatigue keeps lottery sales in slump for 18 states
Michael Symons, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press 4:43 p.m. EDT May 26, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Lottery is suffering from jackpot fatigue, but the entire state budget is feeling run down.

States with jackpot fatigue need increasingly bigger jackpots to lure in casual players who buy lottery tickets only when a prize is huge.

People once impressed with a $100 million payout shrug until it reaches $300 million. Then fewer people play, so it takes longer to get to staggering prizes.

Sales of Mega Millions and Powerball multistate games were down 30% through the end of March, New Jersey officials said. At that pace, sales of those games, which have accounted for around 15% of all New Jersey Lottery sales in recent years, would drop by $130 million this fiscal year.

"It appears to be a national phenomenon," said David Rosen, the Legislature's budget officer. "Maybe it's gambling fatigue."

Total lottery sales in 18 states and the District of Columbia — led by a more than 15% decline in Texas — decreased in fiscal 2014 compared with fiscal 2013, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, a trade group that represents 52 lotteries across the USA and Canada. Fiscal years in all but four states — Alabama, Michigan, New York and Texas — end June 30.

D.C. and 21 states transferred less money into budget coffers in the same period, according to association figures. New Jersey transferred exactly the same amount as the year before because the lottery took $8 million out of its surplus, pushing its balance below $1 million for the first time since at least 1980.

Revenue from the lottery for New Jersey's state budget last year, $965 million, missed its target by $55 million and would have missed by more without the infusion from the lottery's surplus account.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Gambling Creep: A Short History of Gambling in Florida 


Poarch Creeks open to Alabama gambling compact; say it's up to governor to initiate

By Mike Cason
November 13, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Alabama The vice chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians said it's up to the governor whether to open talks about an agreement to share revenue from expanded gambling.

Robert McGhee said the tribe has not heard from state officials and has not contacted any since talk has bubbled up in recent weeks about a state-tribal gambling compact.  "The Poarch Creeks will always be open to the possibility," McGhee said. "It just depends on if it's something that's favorable for the tribe and the state."

Gov. Robert Bentley has said he expected a compact to be one proposed solution to the state's General Fund budget problems.  The governor has said he does not think gambling is a good way to fund government but that he's open to considering a state-tribal compact and a lottery.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said today the governor has not made any decision on whether to pursue a compact with the Poarch Creeks.

The governor said today that he and legislative leaders still have time to figure out how to close a General Fund shortfall projected at $200 million or more. The legislative session starts in March.

The Poarch Creeks operate casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. The facilities appear to be thriving.  PCI Gaming had net earnings of $322 million in 2012, according to the tribe's annual report.  The Poarch Creeks have opened a new hotel and casino in Wetumpka in the last year and recently announced plans to expand operations and build a hotel in Montgomery.  The three casinos offer electronic bingo on games that look like slot machines. The state does not regulate them or share in the revenue.

Attorney General Luther Strange sued the tribe to shut down the casinos, but lost in federal court in Montgomery earlier this year. The state has appealed.  From the tribe's point of view, the lawsuit does not have to be resolved before talks begin on a compact, McGhee said.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

State-run lottery grows government at the expense of the poor and uneducated: opinion

By Cameron Smith 
September 23, 2014 at 8:45 AM

With budgetary challenges again facing the State of Alabama, politicians are mulling the idea of a state-run lottery to provide an infusion of cash. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith has actively campaigned for a lottery to fund education. Governor Robert Bentley has responded by discussing how the proceeds of a lottery should be spent in the event that the Alabama Legislature and the people of Alabama decide to permit a state lottery. 

The appeal of a lottery is clear. Consenting adults play a game of chance, and a portion of the proceeds fund government programs, education or otherwise. 

Unfortunately, the reality of a state-run lottery is far less convenient.

The first problem is that state-run lotteries only return 20% to 40% of their sales for state programs. Consider the Missouri Lottery. In a state similar to Alabama in terms of population, the lottery generated slightly more than $1.1 billion in sales for 2013. Of that amount, about 25% actually went to funding public education. The remainder went to prizes, commissions, advertising and administration.

It might feel good to say that the lottery is helping fund government priorities without a tax increase, but it functions like a tax in that it takes money out of a state's economy and the government redistributes the proceeds. Unlike a tax, a lottery consolidates the revenue among relatively few individuals rather than spending it on public priorities. In 2013, Missouri saw more than $750 million pulled out of its economy and reallocated to a small subset of prizewinners.

The next issue is that people with less money and lower educational attainment are the ones spending the greatest portion of their income on lottery tickets.

A 1999 report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission conducted by professors at Duke University found that "the education category with the highest per capita spending [on lotteries] is those who did not complete high school, and the college graduates have the lowest." The study also noted "high-school dropouts and people in the lowest-income category are heavily over-represented among those who are in the top 20 percent of lottery players." 

While lottery participation is voluntary, there are plenty of evidence to believe it will have a negative fiscal impact on lower-income families and those with less educational attainment.

If pulling money out of the economy and generating revenues from the poor and uneducated were not enough to give Alabama's legislators second thoughts, how can politicians who campaigned on limiting the size of government create another bureaucracy with the sole purpose of running state gaming operations? Such a move seems to say, "We needed more money, so we decided to create more government."

Religious opposition to a lottery has often been cited as the reason for its failure to gain traction in Alabama, but some of the strongest reasons for questioning a lottery's merit have precious little to do with morality. Most Alabamians will not lose sleep about whether the state has a lottery or not, but the implications of such a policy shift are significant and worth a more developed conversation than Alabamians are hearing from current political sound bytes.      

(Cameron Smith writes a regular column for Alabama Media Group. He is the National Director of the Liberty Foundation of America and is a Senior Fellow with the R Street Institute in Washington, DC. He may be reached at or on Twitter @DCameronSmith.)


Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, I have long been opposed to any expansion of legalized gambling and have continually sought to raise awareness of the dangerous economic and social costs of gambling. That is why I want to submit for the RECORD a statement I received from two of the foremost experts on the harms of state-sponsored gambling, Tom Grey, and the National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, Les Bernal.

Statement by Les Bernal, National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling and Tom Grey, Senior Advisor to Stop Predatory Gambling

Today, we would seek to speak for the "losers.” The “losers” are those citizens sacrificed by our government in its failed experiment of sponsoring and promoting gambling to extract as much money as possible from the public. “Losers” isn’t a term we coined. That’s the word used by a slot machine designer at America’s biggest maker of electronic slot machines, International Gaming Technology (IGT), to describe the citizens who use the machines he makes, many of whom are your constituents. “When I asked one I.G.T. artist if he ever plays, he acted as if I had insulted him,” wrote New York Times reporter Gary Rivlin in his cover story on slot machines for The Times Sunday Magazine. “Slots are for losers,” he spat, and then, coming to his senses, begged me to consider that an off-the-record comment.”1

Scott Stevens of Steubenville, Ohio was one of these “losers” who we speak for today. Yet Scott Stevens was a success by nearly every measure we use in America. Through hard work and sacrifice, Scott became a very successful business executive, earning an upper-middle class income. He was happily married with three daughters and actively served his community in a variety of different volunteer leadership roles.

But the lives of Scott Stevens and his family changed forever when they intersected with a government program unlike any other. It is a government program that exists to extract as much money as possible from citizens to fund government itself. This program has been called “government-sponsored gambling” but a growing number of Americans in the public square today call it more accurately as “predatory gambling.”

Predatory gambling is when government uses gambling in the form of casinos and lotteries to cheat and exploit citizens. For-profit gambling is illegal unless the government gives its full support, and in nearly every instance operates in partnership with gambling interests whether in the form of state lotteries, commercial casinos or tribal casinos. Scott Stevens knew firsthand about predatory gambling.

Today, the electronic gambling machine has become government’s preferred method of extracting money from citizens. Slots make up to 80% of gambling profits. These gambling machines are literally designed so citizens cannot stop using them, exploiting aspects of human psychology and inducing irrational and irresponsible behavior. Every feature of a slot machine - its mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics - is designed to increase a player's "time on device" – which means how long a person plays.2 Gambling operators found that their profits were not about the size of the gamblers’ stakes but rather the volume of their play. “If you provide them with the right time-on-device, they will stay and play,’” one slot designer said to MIT Professor Dr. Natasha Schull in her recent book on slot machine technology titled Addiction By Design. “If you take it too quickly and they lose, they’re going to leave.’”3 In the actual language of the casino business, the goal is to get every user “to play to extinction’’ — until all their money is gone, Dr. Schull quotes a slot marketing expert. 4 “I want to keep you there as long as humanly possible,” another slot operator told her. “That’s the whole trick, that’s what makes you lose.”5

The slot machine is designed to be so effective at extracting money from people, wrote Dr. Schull, that it is “a product that, for all intents and purposes, approaches every player as a potential addict - in other words, someone who won't stop playing until his or her means are depleted.”

Scott Stevens was one of the “losers” who used a slot machine. He became someone who used the slot machine the way its maker and promoter intended: he could not stop using it. Aggressively marketed to the public as “fun” and actively promoted by public officials, why would Scott ever possess any concerns about using a modern slot machine?

Citizens like Scott Stevens who use slot machines as intended are the most lucrative “losers” of all for government and the gambling operators it partners with. Over the last decade there are 11 different independent studies – studies not funded by gambling interests - that show 40%-60% of slot machine profits are taken from citizens like Scott Stevens. Citizens who have been turned into gambling addicts.6

In America today, at least 10 million citizens are gambling addicts; citizens who have become addicted to what is, literally, a government program. We call these millions of citizens who have ruined their lives and painfully wounded their families so our government can extract more money, “The Expendable Americans.”

Scott Stevens was an Expendable American. He lost his job because he took company money and poured it into slot machines sponsored by the government. He maxed out his credit cards to tens of thousands of dollars. He emptied his daughters’ college savings accounts and his 401k retirement funds. He owed huge debts to the IRS for not paying taxes on what government labeled his “winnings,” despite losing far greater money than he won.

On August 13, 2012, even though he had already given almost everything he had to this public policy, Scott Stevens made one last sacrifice. He drove to a children’s soccer park in his town that he raised money to build. He sat down on a park bench. He called 911 on his cell phone and told them what he was planning to do. When the police and ambulance arrived at the park he said, “You’re not here to stop me, you’re here to take me home” and then shot himself in front of them. In the days afterward, a letter arrived in the mail addressed to his wife Stacy. Scott mailed it before taking his own life. It said, in part:

“I know you don’t believe it but I love you so much! I have hurt you so much. Our family only has a chance if I’m not around to bring us down any further. You’re such an unbelievable wife and mother. I know you will hold the family together…”

While millions of men and women like Scott Stevens and their families have sacrificed and hurt so much to provide needed revenues to American government, no one has ever thanked them for their “service.” There are no parades with fluttering American flags in the breeze. No yellow ribbons. Our country simply renders them failures.

Failure is the right description but it is directed toward the wrong participant. Government’s experiment with gambling is the definition of failure, representing one of the biggest public policy busts of the modern era. Over the past four decades, government’s partnership with gambling has failed in a multitude of ways.
  • It has transformed gambling from a private and local activity into the public voice of American government, such that ever-increasing appeals to gamble, and ever-expanding opportunities to gamble, now constitute the main ways that our government communicates with us on a daily basis.
  • It has broken its promise to remain a small component of our government and a small part of our society. In the brave new world envisioned by this power structure–where every cell phone is a “casino in your pocket” and every bar, gas station, convenience store, computer, and home in the nation is a place to place a bet– the essential driving message from the American government to the American people is “All gambling, all good, all the time.”
  • It has fueled irresponsibility and non-accountability in government by imposing a giant excise tax on the citizenry that politicians never have to call a “tax.”
  • It has failed to deliver on its over-hyped promises to fund education, lower taxes, or pay for needed public services.
  • It has taken political power away from the people and handed it over to gambling lobbyists.
  • It has perpetrated a phony model of economic development–a model with a jobs multiplier effect of approximately zero, since, in this model, nothing of value is produced.
  • It has promulgated the very economic attitudes and practices– short-term is more important than sustainable, wealth can come from ever-growing debt, something can come from nothing, slickness trumps honesty–that led us into the debt bubble and the Great Recession of 2008 and beyond.
  • It has caused neighboring states to compete against each other in a race to the bottom.
  • It has taken dollars from the poor to fund programs for the better-off.
  • It has spread addiction into our population, using the new science of machine design to produce out-of-control behavior that, according to scientists, closely resembles addictive behavior from cocaine.
  • It has spread debt and bankruptcy into our population.
  • It has led to serious gambling-related problems among young people.
  • It has contributed to broken families and child neglect and other social messes everywhere it goes, and has taken little or no responsibility to clean them up.
  • It has turned many law-abiding citizens into criminals who cheat, steal, and embezzle in order to continue to gamble.
  • It has arrogantly exempted itself from truth-in-advertising laws so that it can use taxpayer money to create and spread deceptive advertising.
  • It has corrupted our sense of community and undermined our faith that we’re all in this together.
  • It has deliberately changed the word “gambling” to “gaming” in order to make this often destructive activity sound as innocent as child’s play.
  • It has fueled cynicism about the motives of our government.
  • It has repudiated the value of thrift by creating mass incentives to turn potential savers into habitual bettors.
  • It has repudiated the virtue of “love your neighbor” and replaced it with a government endorsement of predatory practices, or preying on human weakness for gain.
  • It has withered our capacity as a people to confront forthrightly our reluctance to pay taxes for the public services we desire.
  • It has trampled on the ideal of “justice for all.”
  • It has broken faith with the wisdom and leaders of earlier generations who, seeing the failure of gambling in the past, amended state constitutions to ban gambling activities.
  • It has lied to us about how the government actually uses the money it gets from gambling.
  • It has lied to us by repeating again and again that luck–rather than work–is the key to the American dream.
This is a critical moment. How our generation responds to the reach and arrogance of the government-gambling power complex will largely determine the legacy we pass on to the next generation. Politically, economically, ethically, and spiritually, the stakes are extraordinarily high.

POLITICALLY: Government’s partnership with gambling fundamentally changes the compact between government and the governed. It pits government’s interests against the best interests of its people. For government to win, its citizens must lose.

ECONOMICALLY: No great nation has ever built prosperity on the foundations of personal debt, addiction, and the steady expansion of “businesses” that produce no new wealth. Relying on gambling as an economic development strategy is a sign of surrender and defeat on the part of leaders who have failed to lead.

ETHICALLY: A decent government does not finance its activities by playing its most vulnerable citizens for suckers, thus rendering the lives of millions expendable, exploitable, and unworthy of protection.

SPIRITUALLY: We mock the higher values that any good society depends on–honesty, mutual trust, self-discipline, sacrifice, concern for others, and a belief in a work ethic that connects effort and reward –when government tells its citizens every day that it is committed to providing “fun” instead of opportunity; that a rigged bet is the way to achieve the American dream; and that spending one’s hard-earned dollars on scratch tickets is a form of good citizenship.

This is America. Surely we can do better than this. Surely we must. The choice is not–it has never been–between tying our future to gambling and accepting economic decline. Government-sponsored gambling is itself a form of economic decline. The alternative is to muster the courage to chart a path to true prosperity. An America freed from the yoke of government-sponsored gambling would be an America once again on the move–an America with broader and more sustainable economic growth, more honesty in government, more social trust, and the rekindling of the optimism that has long been our defining national strength.

While many leaders on both sides of the political aisle loudly proclaim they are committed to fighting unfairness and inequality of opportunity in America, their support of sponsoring and promoting gambling is actually intensifying the very unfairness and inequality that they decry. Many forces currently contributing to the rise of inequality, such as globalization and technological change, cannot be directly controlled by public policy. But government-sponsored gambling is a public policy – and it exists only because policy makers want it to exist.

A mounting pile of independent evidence further confirms this reality. Government-sponsored gambling is harming health, draining wealth from people in the lower ranks of the income distribution, and contributing to economic inequality. These are among the findings of Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences, a report released from the Council on Casinos in September 2013, an independent group of scholars and public policy leaders convened by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan New York City-based think tank.7

After four decades of unfulfilled promises, corrupt deals and broken dreams, it is time for our government to end its partnership with organized gambling interests and to embrace a fundamentally different and higher vision of the path to American prosperity.

In short, after four decades of consistent failure, it is time for our government to get out of gambling and for gambling to get out of our government. Stop Predatory Gambling is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, trans-partisan network of individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds, political convictions and religious faiths dedicated to this fundamental national reform. We are committed to end the unfairness and inequality of opportunity created by government-sponsored casinos and lotteries.

We are part of the most diverse movement in the nation, an affirmation that most Americans share basic principles and values regardless of their position along the political spectrum. Today, we also provide a voice to all of these citizens from coast-to-coast who have bravely and selflessly fought in recent decades on behalf of our core belief that no taxpayer dollar should be used by government to lure citizens into gambling away their money and becoming slaves to debt; no agency or entity of government should depend on gambling to fund its activities; and no legislature, whether in the name of economic development or raising revenue, should pass laws to promote or sponsor gambling.

Some of you may ask what if government stopped sponsoring and promoting gambling? A better question that leads to a more revealing answer would be how did our nation educate children prior to introducing the lottery? Did not our parents as stakeholders fund government to provide the educational pathways to citizenship and potential prosperity? After World War II, how did America pivot from waging battle to creating jobs for a prosperous peacetime and enabling its citizens to become economic winners? Did not our government invest in not only roads and our infrastructure but more important, in breadwinners and families?

Already underway is a reclaiming of America from the devastation and heartbreak of government-sponsored casinos and lotteries.

It began in earnest with the establishment of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission by Congress in 1996 and its subsequent report in 1999 provided citizens with clear cut recommendations. The bipartisan commitment and courage by Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman John LaFalce, Senator Richard Lugar and the late Senator Paul Simon to determine the truth about government-sponsored gambling, sustained and nourished the bottom-up growth of a national citizen movement opposing this dishonest and harmful public policy. What began as a diverse national coalition of groups and individuals, ultimately led to the organization of Stop Predatory Gambling, where today empowered citizens are challenging the gambling promoters with ever increasing intensity at the local, state and now, with the push for internet gambling, the federal level.

Perhaps the most visible challenge in 2014 is happening at the ballot box, that sacred public place where citizens can vote out of their best hopes or their worst fears for a common future. Citizens in Massachusetts have inspiringly waged a relentless fight against government-sponsored casinos for almost four years running. These citizens succeeded against overwhelming odds to achieve the first ever ballot question in a major state attempting to repeal state gambling laws in modern American history. Regardless of the outcome, the repeal drive signifies the unavoidable rising tide bringing a surge of major national reform on this issue.

Over the long-term, the most profound and lasting change may happen in our justice system. The family of Scott Stevens is ensuring he is no longer voiceless by bringing the facts of their story to federal court. Such litigation is bolstered by the rapidly-growing awareness of gambling addiction as a major public health issue, evidenced by the national story published last week by The Columbia University School of Public Health about the massive public health impacts of government-sponsored casinos and lotteries.
It spotlights how predatory gambling is harming millions of Americans and the communities they live in.

It’s inevitable that government-sponsored gambling will be phased out in most places across the United States. It is not a question of if but when. It’s inevitable because we are a people who believe government should promote fairness and equality of opportunity for all. The speed of reform is up to all of us because it is we who will decide how many more “losers” like Scott Stevens we are willing to sacrifice from our own families and communities. Please join us in this good fight. Thank you.

1 The Tug of the Newfangled Slot Machines by Gary Rivlin, The NY Times Magazine, May 9, 2004
2 Schull, Beware: Machine Zone Ahead, supra.
4 Schull, Beware: Machine Zone Ahead, supra.
6 Institute for American Values, Why Casinos Matter, supra, at 18.
7 “Why Casinos Matter” by Barbara Whitehead, Institute for American Values, Sept. 2013

Stop Predatory Gambling
100 Maryland Avenue NE, Room 310, Washington, DC 20002
(202) 567-6996

The Argument Against a Lottery… In the Words of Liberals

Alabama Citizens for Media Accountability
Jun 19, 2014

There has been a distinct resurrection of discussion in Alabama’s media about allowing a vote on a state lottery as we consider whom we will elect in November.
Proponents of a state lottery argue that it is a way to make up the shortfall in higher education budgets, both providing for more scholarships and lowering tuition rates without directly increasing taxes.

Many states, including our neighbor Georgia, have used the lottery to fund scholarships for qualifying college students as well as primary and secondary education classrooms.

But are the promises of a lottery too good to be true?

As much as lottery proponents in Alabama like to tout the benefits that may come from extending the lottery into our state, they are seemingly reluctant to share many of the negatives that often accompany lotteries.

Interestingly enough, reporters at several liberal media outlets are more forthcoming in detailing the cons of a lottery. So without further ado, the argument against a lottery… in the words of liberals:
From Think Progress:
  • “With odds stacked sky high against actually winning a jackpot, lottery players lose an average of 47 cents on the dollar for each ticket. With such low payouts, tickets act as an implicit tax of 38 percent.”
  • “One study found that a reason for this is that “lotteries set off a vicious cycle that not only exploits low-income individuals’ desires to escape poverty but also directly prevents them from improving upon their financial situations.” The loss in income of buying tickets that provide no reward is harder to bear on a slim budget.”
  • “The revenues from lottery tickets act as a regressive tax because states use them to fund many public services, such as education. Lotteries netted 11 states more revenue than their corporate income tax in in 2009. But states don’t fare well either in the long run. While states that have lotteries increased per-capita spending on education at first, after some time they ended up decreasing overall spending, while states without them increased investment.”
  • “One study found that “non-lottery states spend, on average, 10 percent more of their budgets on education than lottery states.” In fact, lottery revenues may not end up increasing funds and could actually increase budget imbalances. There are only so many tickets that a state’s population can buy, making it a short or medium term fix but not a long term source of revenue.”
Hmmm… Not good news so far. Let’s look at another news source popular among progressives.
  • “State lotteries amount to a hidden tax on the poor. They eat up about 9 percent of take-home incomes from households making less than $13,000 a year. They siphon $50 billion a year away from local businesses—besides stores where they’re sold. And they are encouraged by state-sponsored ads suggesting everyone can win, win, win!”
  • “What many people don’t know about lotteries is that they prey on those who can least afford it; most people never win anything big; and 11 states raise more money from lotteries than from corporate taxes. Beyond the moral, mental health or religious debates over gambling, lotteries are another example of how society preys on the poor and the working-class.”
  • “They redistribute money up the economic ladder.” Most people buy tickets and win little or nothing. This is taking more money from the poor, working and lower middle-classes than from those most able to pay taxes. These billions also are diverted away from local businesses—with the exception of the stores where tickets are sold. “This is exacty [sic] the opposite of the kind of economic stimulus a depressed economy needs,” wrote
 economist Wolff.”
So, not only is the lottery a de facto tax on those least able to afford it, it is often bad news for those who do win.

But what about the constant comparisons to Georgia? Well they aren't doing so hot either. A 2011 study showed that Georgia’s lottery-funded HOPE scholarship was “hemorrhaging money,” generating $37 million less than expected and leaving the programs it funds in the lurch.

So at ACMA we find ourselves asking the question, why are social-justice minded Alabama reporters, who generally advocate against regressive taxes, such ardent proponents of a lottery? Surely, balancing the state budget while ensuring education is adequately funded should be one of the state legislature’s top priorities, and the lottery will continue to be brought up as a potential solution. But as the ThinkProgress and Salon stories above demonstrate, there is more to the story than some supporters of the lottery are willing to admit

How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling

Scientific American
Addictive drugs and gambling rewire neural circuits in similar ways
By Ferris Jabr
When Shirley was in her mid-20s she and some friends road-tripped to Las Vegas on a lark. That was the first time she gambled. Around a decade later, while working as an attorney on the East Coast, she would occasionally sojourn in Atlantic City. By her late 40s, however, she was skipping work four times a week to visit newly opened casinos in Connecticut. She played blackjack almost exclusively, often risking thousands of dollars each round—then scrounging under her car seat for 35 cents to pay the toll on the way home. Ultimately, Shirley bet every dime she earned and maxed out multiple credit cards. “I wanted to gamble all the time,” she says. “I loved it—I loved that high I felt.”
In 2001 the law intervened. Shirley was convicted of stealing a great deal of money from her clients and spent two years in prison. Along the way she started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, seeing a therapist and remaking her life. “I realized I had become addicted,” she says. “It took me a long time to say I was an addict, but I was, just like any other.”

Ten years ago the idea that someone could become addicted to a habit like gambling the way a person gets hooked on a drug was controversial. Back then, Shirley's counselors never told her she was an addict; she decided that for herself. Now researchers agree that in some cases gambling is a true addiction.

In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction—a behavior primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. In the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—a fuzzy label for a group of somewhat related illnesses that, at the time, included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hairpulling). In what has come to be regarded as a landmark decision, the association moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter in the manual's latest edition, theDSM-5, published this past May. The decision, which followed 15 years of deliberation, reflects a new understanding of the biology underlying addiction and has already changed the way psychiatrists help people who cannot stop gambling.
To read the rest of the story click on the link below:

Attorney General Luther Strange Announces Decisive Court Victory In Gambling Case

(MONTGOMERY)- Attorney General Luther Strange is pleased to announce that Houston County Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Conaway has issued a decisive ruling in a case involving so-called "electronic bingo." The final ruling today was the culmination of a joint law enforcement effort by the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes, District Attorney Doug Valeska and Attorney General Luther Strange.
Law enforcement officers seized 691 illegal slot machines and gambling devices and $288,668.62 in cash proceeds from the Center Stage casino in Houston County last year. The Judge's ruling today came after prosecutors from Attorney General Strange's Office presented evidence in a three day trial in Houston County. The machines will be destroyed and the money forfeited to the General Fund.
"The decision from Judge Conaway in Houston County Circuit Court marks a good day for the rule of law," said Attorney General Strange. "In a detailed analysis, the Court held that machines masquerading as electronic bingo are in fact illegal slot machines. Bingo operators have tried to create confusion in the law but this ruling ends the nonsense. Only the traditional paper version of the game commonly known as bingo is authorized by the Houston County bingo amendment, and slot machines cannot be used to play bingo."
The Court concluded the gambling devices seized at the Center Stage casino were "nothing more than illegal gambling cloaked in a 'Bingo' costume" and "not the game traditional game known as 'Bingo' as defined by the Supreme Court." In the ruling, the Court specifically found that the machines being used to play so-called "electronic bingo" were nothing more than illegal slot machines playing an illegal game that lasted only a matter of seconds. The Court found the game being played did not meet the six mandatory characteristics of bingo set forth by the Alabama Supreme Court in the 2010 Cornerstone case, which plainly requires that the human elements of the traditional game of bingo must be fully preserved in order for a game to potentially qualify as legal bingo.
Attorney General Strange also notes that "the fundamental legal principles which underlie today's ruling apply not only to Houston County, but in all counties subject to local bingo amendments. Since taking office, I have said that I will resolve the debate over electronic bingo in the courts. Today, another court has spoken and I hope this opinion will serve as a warning for those currently engaged in illegal gambling activities or contemplating operating slot machines in Houston County and throughout the state."
"Until the Alabama Legislature acts to create an effective deterrent for large scale illegal gambling, individuals will continue to engage in illegal gambling activity and openly defy the law. These individuals stand to make thousands of dollars in illegal gambling profits while risking only a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor charge. Law enforcement will continue to be forced to expend valuable resources to deal with this problem. The Legislature must change our law and create a badly needed deterrent for large scale illegal gambling by increasing the penalty for operating an illegal slot machine casino to a felony," said Attorney General Strange.

Click here for a copy of the Attorney General's news release.

How Often Do Gamblers Really Win?

October 11, 2013, 1:56 p.m. ET
New data provide some answers on the real odds on gambling

The casino billboards lining America's roadways tantalize with the lure of riches. "Easy Street. It's Only a Play Away," screams one in Arizona. "$7.1 Million Every Day. We're a Payout Machine," reads another.
But how often do gamblers really win? What are the chances that a gambler will win on a single day or over a longer period? Don't bother to ask the casinos. Although they gather vast quantities of data about their customers for marketing purposes, including win and loss tallies for many regulars, casinos keep such information a closely-guarded secret.

Now, thanks to an unprecedented trove of public data detailing the behavior of thousands of Internet gamblers over a two-year period, The Wall Street Journal can provide some answers.
Click here to read the entire article.

Three-star admiral fired as No. 2 nuclear commander

October 09, 2013
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Navy says a three-star admiral was notified Wednesday that he has been relieved of duty as second-in-command at the military organization that oversees all U.S. nuclear forces. He is under investigation in a gambling matter.

The Navy's top spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said that Vice Adm. Tim Giardina will drop in rank to two-star admiral as a consequence of being removed from his position at U.S. Strategic Command.
Giardina is being reassigned to the Navy staff pending the outcome of a Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe of allegations that he used counterfeit gambling chips at a casino in Iowa, not far from his base in eastern Nebraska.

The removal of such a high-ranking commander of nuclear forces is extremely rare in the U.S. military.

ALCAP Alert!

My friend, Eunie Smith, President of the Eagle Forum of Alabama, brought the following video to my attention. It is an open letter from Jay Dennis, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lakeland, FL (a.k.a., The Church at the Mall).
I would add one important point to Pastor Dennis’s message. When he talks about the Commandment, “Do not steal,” he addresses the “redistribution of wealth” concept. I would add that America’s growing addiction to gambling (both by individual citizens and by local, state and the federal governments), runs counter to this Commandment, as well as several other Commandments.


Dallas NAACP Seeks End To Texas Lottery

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Sat June 30, 2012
(CNN) -- The NAACP chapter in Dallas is calling for an end to the Texas state lottery, saying the game drains the finances of low-income ticket-buyers who can least afford it, especially minorities.
"It's an addiction," chapter President Juanita Wallace said. "Many, many people have actually spent all their money in hope of getting out of a situation, when in fact, they're getting themselves into a worse situation." She said one man she knew died last week without health insurance. "He had an insurance policy," she said, "and he withdrew all of the funds from the policy, actually, to play the lottery."
Wallace also believes that minorities are disproportionately drawn to playing the lottery. "The way things are set up in the store is targeted for black people and poor people," she said. A spokeswoman with the Texas Lottery Commission rejected that assertion, saying the Texas lottery does not target low-income areas specifically and does not market any differently from one demographic to another.
"Our marketing and advertising efforts are designed to reach a broad audience of adult Texans," spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said. Wallace says her NAACP chapter is already lobbying lawmakers, as are organizations like the Baptist General Convention of Texas that were already opposed to the lottery.
But at a convenience store in Dallas this week, some ticket-buyers did not appreciate the idea of losing the option of playing. "It's up to me," David Anderson told CNN affiliate station KTVT as he stood in line. "If I make a certain amount, it's up to me: Should I spend this $5 (on a ticket)? Or should I go buy a loaf of bread and hamburger to feed the kids?"
Professor Irwin Morris of the University of Maryland says low-income people are more likely to play the lottery, not necessarily because they are targeted but because they have more to gain. "It's an opportunity to change your living circumstances," he said. "So for someone who's already wealthy, it would take a dramatic lottery win -- a Lotto, let's say -- to significantly change their living circumstances. If someone is of much more meager means, a much smaller win could literally change the character of their living circumstances." As a result, he said, "I think there is considerable evidence that the poor pay a greater portion of their income on lotteries than the wealthy."
Statistics show that for the Pick 3 lottery in Texas, a third of people who make less than $20,000 play, but only about a quarter or fewer of people making more than $20,000 do. And for instant scratch-off tickets, the most popular game, unemployed people were more likely to play than employed people or retirees. Wallace says that means the people who can least afford it are the most likely to splurge.
Lottery players point out that the games are fun to play, and they offer the hope of winning life-altering riches. The ticket sales also raise substantial revenues for state coffers. "Since the first ticket was sold in 1992, the Texas Lottery has generated $20 billion in revenue for the state," Cripe said, "and contributed more than $14 billion to the Foundation School Fund. These are not insignificant numbers."
Morris said he has not seen evidence that states with lotteries spend more on schools than states without. But now that states have come to rely on those revenues, he said, it would be difficult for a state to pull the plug on its lottery. "If that were eliminated," he said, "how difficult would it be politically to come up with the same amount of revenue through other taxes or fees?"
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Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
All Rights Reserved


Congress may OK online gambling

Last Updated: 4:10 AM, August 17, 2011
Americans appear closer than ever to being able to gamble online -- as a bill aimed at legalizing Internet casino gaming could find its way before Congress by the end of the year, people close to the matter tell The Post.

The confidence over the federal legalization of online poker and other games comes as momentum in Washington builds behind the effort.

“I think there is becoming a feeling in Congress that this is something that needs to be regulated and be done,” a source close to the discussions said. “I believe there is a possibility a bill will pass towards the end of the year.”

“The only question is how it is structured,” according to Roger Gross, the publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine.

The momentum is clear in at least three ways:
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Jon Kyl in the last few weeks asked the Justice Department to stop state efforts to legalize gambling, sources said. If states act on their own, that could disrupt the federal effort.
  • Large Republican donor and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is now on board with such a federal move, Gross said. Adelson, he said, sees the move as a window of opportunity to grow sales. Adelson is close to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who will be important for gambling advocates to win over. Adelson did not return calls for comment.
  • House Speaker John Boehner is another important Congressional leader to get on board, and his long-time aide, Lee Askew, earlier this year became vice president of government affairs for the American Gaming Association.
The source close to the situation says he believes Adelson is neutral.

Kyl, essential for passage, also had a recent change of heart.

In July 2006, when the House passed a bill outlawing Internet gambling, Kyl likened the addictiveness of e-gaming to “crack cocaine.”

In April, Kyl changed his tune. His Web site said, “Efforts to carve out an exception for games like poker, which many believe is a game of skill, may be considered later this year.”

Many cash-strapped states would jump at the chance to add a new income stream.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller last month in an effort to win a debt ceiling extension proposed legalizing Internet gambling saying it could raise an estimated $41.8 billion over 10 years, and an estimated additional $30 billion for states, along with 17 other ideas.
While legalizing gambling would raise billions of dollars, Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, said, “This is a government policy that shrinks the middle class and pushes people in deeper debt at a time the government should be encouraging people to save more money.”

No Convictions in the Alabama bingo trial; judge to set new trial date on mistrials (updated)

Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 2:34 PM Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 4:20 PM
By Kim Chandler -- The Birmingham News
Milton-McGregor-Joe-Espy after trial.jpg
MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The jury in the Alabama bingo corruption trial handed down no convictions in the case. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on many charges, and it said defendants were not guilty on the rest.

The judge is declaring mistrials on the charges for which the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, and he said he would set a new trial date within a month. [Click here to read the entire story.]


Though the gambling corruption trial resulted in no convictions for the nine defendants and a mistrial has been declared on several of the counts, the fact remains that gambling and corruption go hand-in-hand. It is always difficult to prove intentions when money changes hands. The fact that the gambling bosses gave large sums of money to various legislators and candidates was never denied; all that happened is that the prosecution could not prove the money was associated with particular votes on gambling. It must also be remembered that two of the original eleven defendants pled guilty to the corruption charges.

We can be confident that the gambling bosses will likely continue to identify candidates, incumbent legislators and constitutional officers they can support financially in order to affect the laws of Alabama to be favorable to their multi-million dollar gambling establishments. If, eventually, they are not convicted on any of the counts, they are also likely to continue applying tremendous pressure on legislators in the hallways of the Alabama State House.

During the 2009 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, one particular pro-gambling bill tied up the Senate for an entire 10 days out of 30 total legislative days (one third of the Regular Session)! During the 2010 Regular Legislative Session, the gambling bill which led to the FBI investigation and the corruption charges, monopolized the entire session.

The citizens of Alabama must make sure to elect people who are pro-life, pro-family and pro-moral, and especially, men and women who oppose legislation that promotes gambling. ALCAP will continue to serve as the voice of the faith community in the Alabama Legislature. We will continue to keep you updated on the current issues facing our state, and we will continue to provide your church with quality resources concerning the issues confronting our state as, together, we stand for what is right and good in Alabama! ALCAP will also continue to represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the halls of the Alabama State House as your missionaries to the center of state government.

Please continue to pray for us and remember that we depend on your financial support in order to accomplish the ministry to which God has called us.

Georgia Facing a Hard Choice on Free Tuition

Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Robbie Ottley, left, Katie Black and Josh Delaney, Hope scholarship students at the University of Georgia, discussed the program.

ATHENS, Ga. — Students here at the University of Georgia have a name for some of the fancy cars parked in the lots around campus. They call them Hopemobiles. But there may soon be fewer of them.

The cars are gifts from parents who find themselves with extra cash because their children decided to take advantage of a cherished state perk — the Hope scholarship. The largest merit-based college scholarship program in the United States it offers any Georgia high school student with a B-average four years of free college tuition.

But the Hope scholarship program is about to be cut by a new governor and Legislature facing staggering financial troubles. [Click here to read the entire story of how the Georgia Lottery is failing!]

Milton McGregor, Alabama legislators indicted in bingo probe; lobbyists among 11 charged in federal vote-buying scheme

Published: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 5:30 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 12:48 PM
Charles J. Dean -- The Birmingham News
Country Crossings owner Ronnie Gilley is led away in handcuffs by U.S. Marshals as they leave the the U.S. Marshals' office for the federal courthouse. ( The Birmingham News / Joe Songer )

In one of the biggest investigations of corruption in the history of the Alabama State House, federal agents Monday arrested four state senators, several powerful lobbyists and Milton McGregor, who has dominated the world of Alabama gambling for a quarter century.

In all, 11 people were indicted in a broad vote-buying scheme in which federal prosecutors allege millions of dollars in campaign contributions, a $1 million-a-year job and election-year assistance were offered in exchange for critical yes votes on a gambling bill that went before legislators last spring.

Prosecutors said the casino owners, legislators and lobbyists formed a corrupt network to buy and sell votes in the Legislature. But some of the defendants called the indictment an overtly political move designed to influence the outcome of the Nov. 2 elections.

Announcing the indictments in a press conference in Washington, D.C., Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, said: "The people of Alabama, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public's interest, not for their own personal financial gain. Vote-buying, like the kind alleged in this indictment, corrodes the public's faith in our democratic institutions and cannot go unpunished."

In addition to McGregor, Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley was charged with trying to buy yes votes for a bill that could have allowed bingo casinos like his to continue operating.

Gilley's lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham, said politics are behind the indictments.

"The Department of Justice killed the bill back when it was in the Legislature. Now 30 days before an election they hustle this indictment up," Jones said.

McGregor lawyer Joe Espy of Montgomery said McGregor is innocent and he looks forward to proving it in court.

"We are supremely confident that a trial based on the truth will show that the government's allegations are wrong and that Mr. McGregor is innocent," Espy said.

The 39-count indictment charges that McGregor and Gilley conspired with some lawmakers and lobbyists to buy the votes of legislators on a bill that would have let voters go to the polls in November to decide whether to allow electronic bingo. The Senate passed the bill in March, but it died in the House after federal investigators told legislators about the corruption probe.

Sens. Jim Preuitt, a long time Talladega Democrat who switched over to the Republican Party this year, and Larry Means, an Etowah County Democrat, were two lawmakers McGregor and Gilley offered money for their yes votes, the indictment alleges.

One lobbyist who pleaded guilty last week to corruption charges said she offered Preuitt $2 million for his vote on the gambling legislation. Means was offered $100,000 for his vote by the same lobbyist, who said the offers were approved by fellow lobbyist Jarrod Massey. Massey's biggest client is Gilley.

Both Preuitt and Means provided critical yes votes for the gambling bill that passed the Senate.

In a written statement issued late Monday, Means denied he had done anything wrong.

"The accusations against me are false and offend every value I hold dear," Means said.

Massey, who also was indicted Monday, was named by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, earlier this year as the lobbyist who told him he could arrange a $250,000 campaign contribution if Sanford supported a yes vote on gambling. Sanford voted no on the bill.

The indictments identify three unnamed lawmakers who were offered bribes in exchange for yes votes on gambling. Earlier this year, The News reported that three lawmakers -- two House members and one senator -- agreed to wear wires for the FBI.

State senator

The state senator who cooperated with prosecutors is Gardendale Republican Scott Beason. In the indictment, Beason is identified as legislator 2. The indictment spells out a series of offers made to Beason if he would vote yes on the gambling legislation.

The indictment details meetings Beason had with Gilley, Massey, McGregor and fellow Sen. Harri Anne Smith, who also was indicted Monday. The indictment contends it was made clear to Beason that, in exchange for a yes vote on gambling, supporters were ready to offer him a $1 million-a-year contract to do public relations work and even to help him gain a leadership position in the Legislature.

Beason voted no on the bill.

Reached by phone Monday, Beason said he could not comment now.

"I can't confirm anything right now. I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize the investigation," Beason said.

Smith reacted strongly to her indictment.

"This is an outrage," Smith said. "This is a nakedly political move, coordinated by prosecutors in cahoots with the governor's office to deny the people of the Wiregrass their right to vote and their lawful representation."

Also indicted Monday were lobbyists Bob Geddie and Tom Coker, both of whom are among Montgomery's most influential lobbyists and both of whom count McGregor as a client.

Geddie released a prepared statement saying that he had committed no wrongdoing and was confident the charges against him would be proved false. Geddie also said he was taking a leave of absence from his lobbying firm, Fine Geddie & Associates.

Joseph Crosby, an analyst with the Legislative Reference Service, was indicted on charges he conspired with McGregor in the crafting of the gambling legislation. Prosecutors contend McGregor paid him $3,000 per month.

Monday afternoon, all 11 defendants were led into a Montgomery federal courtroom in shackles for their initial appearance in the case. All 11 were granted unsecured bonds and later released, including McGregor who as a condition of his bond has to wear a monitor.

Democrat response

Democrats were quick to dismiss the indictments as politics.

"It would seem to be very political in nature and if, in fact, they have been doing a 19-month investigation .¤.¤. . Why would they not wait three more weeks until after the elections if this wasn't designed to influence the outcome of an election?" said state Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who sponsored the gambling bill in the Senate.

Another powerful Senate Democrat echoed Bedford.

"Since this investigation has been going on for 19 months, I'm deeply bothered that it breaks 29 days before the election. That smacks of politics to me," said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma.

Breuer of the Justice Department was asked Monday about the political implication of the indictments and why they were announced so close to an election.

"In a case like this we had to go with where the facts and the law were and we had to make the decision at the appropriate time and that's 100 percent what dictated the timing on this case irrespective of whether (an) election may or may not occur," Breuer said. The indictments were handed down Friday but sealed until Monday.

DOJ policy does caution against bringing voter or election fraud charges close to an election, but gives no such guidance on public corruption cases.

The gambling issue has dominated the state's politics for much of the past three years. At stake has been potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in gambling profits and a seeming growing desire among Alabamians to vote on the issue.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Ron Sparks, has made legalizing and taxing gambling his signature issue in the campaign and his opponent, Republican Robert Bentley, while personally opposed to gambling, has supported a vote on the issue.

Asked during a Monday night forum whether the indictments mean Montgomery is corrupt, Sparks said, "Absolutely not," adding that the indictments were not convictions. "These people will have their day in court," Sparks said. "But it's pretty suspicious that you drop indictments 28-29 days before an important election."

McGregor's, Gilley's and the all of the state's non-Indian bingo casinos closed earlier this year under threat of raids by the state Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

Kim Chandler and Mary Orndorff also contributed reporting to this story.
[For a complete copy of the indictments, click here.]

Rendell’s something-for-nothing scheme leaves Pennsylvania in a fiscal mess

Outgoing Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s primary legacy will be the introduction of casinos across the state. To sell his predatory gambling plan politically, he tied it to “tax relief.”
So what does the future look like for the state’s taxpayers as Rendell leaves office? According to today’s Philadelphia Inquirer “the state’s budget gap could widen to $4 billion. The state also needs to fill a $472 million hole for highway capital projects. The extra pension costs, which escalate in 2013, could be from $3 billion to $5 billion.”
The government program of predatory gambling is a public policy failure. Pennsylvania will not meaningfully improve its fiscal situation until it pulls back from a policy that worsens budget deficits and leads to higher taxes for every citizen.
From blog on Stop Predatory Gambling website.

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