Attorney General Troy King announced last month that he was taking control of the Governor’s Task Force on Gambling and said he was dismissing John Tyson Jr. as task force commander. The Attorney General instituted a “temporary moratorium on raids” of Alabama casinos and said he would ask Alabama courts to decide, through declaratory judgments, whether the gambling machines at such venues are legal. But Tyson, who seems to be enjoying the lime light, refused to give up control, and at press time this matter was still up in the air. We appear to have a constitutional crisis on our hands. Eventually, the Alabama Supreme Court will have to decide this very important issue.
Troy has criticized the task force’s attempted large-scale, pre-dawn raids of gambling venues throughout Alabama and has said that so-called electronic bingo machines may be legal. On the other hand, Gov. Riley has defended the raids and maintains that the machines – which he says look and play much like slots – are illegal and are against the law.
Birmingham Circuit Judge Robert Vance had previously ruled that the Attorney General had the authority to take over the task force. This question is before the Supreme Court and will ultimately be decided by that Court. Douglas McElvy, a well-respected Montgomery lawyer and former president of the Alabama State Bar Association, was selected by the Attorney General to be the state’s new lead lawyer in the bingo litigation. Tyson, the fulltime district attorney for Mobile County, may be walking on thin ice. He claims the Attorney General, who is the state’s top law enforcement officer, had no authority over the task force.
Troy said he strongly opposes gambling, and only took control of the task force because the law should be enforced “in the proper way and in the proper venues.” The Attorney General added that since the Alabama Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether or where in the state bingo can be played on electronic machines, he would wait for a definitive ruling by the High Court. Gov. Riley says the Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue, referring to an earlier Lowndes County decision. But since there are a number of separate constitutional amendments that relate to individual counties, it would seem that each amendment would stand on its own. Regardless how one feels about the gambling issue, it certainly would appear that the courts will have to resolve the conflict between the Governor and the Attorney General.
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