“I think the more guidance the court gives, the better off everyone will be,” Minor said Wednesday.
Recently in a 6-3 decision, the Alabama Supreme Court struck down a preliminary injunction order by a lower court which kept Gov. Bob Riley’s Task Force from conducting raids on the White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County, which advertised that the EC offered, “HOT SLOTS!” for its customers.
Minor said although last week’s ruling wasn’t an opinion rendered about a case that was tried and appealed from a circuit court, in his opinion the higher court’s ruling gives a sort of road map as to how the majority of the court views electronic bingo machines.
“In short, as the Riley defendants put it, the machines at issue ‘have none of the elements of human skill and interaction that are fundamental to the game of bingo,’” the high court’s opinion states.
The St. Clair County District Attorney also points to page 24 of the Alabama Supreme Court opinion which the court agrees that the legality of electronic bingo machine is “a matter of great public interest and importance and that there is a clear and pressing need for an authoritative determination as to that question.”
Minor said more guidance is needed from the Alabama Supreme Court.
“We have some people in the state who still argue that ‘electronic bingo’ machines are legal in Alabama,” Minor said. “I think our case pending before the court could go a long way in setting parameters as to what is a legal form of bingo by applying the high court’s six-point definition in the White Hall case.”
In its opinion, the Alabama Supreme Court defined the game of bingo, saying it must meet six criteria’s.
“I think it (the St. Clair County case) will give them another opportunity with a case that was tried in circuit court and whose final appeal is now before them,” Minor said. “Their opinion last week was for a preliminary injunction, not a final case ruling from a circuit court.”
One of the challenges by local St. Clair County authorities is that the local Constitutional Amendment 542 only allows bingo to be played on paper cards, not on electronic machines.
“They (the Alabama Supreme Court) did not address the issue whether or not under the Lowndes County amendment that only ‘paper cards’ can be used to play bingo,” Minor said. “That is one of the issues in our case.”
In the St. Clair County case involving electronic bingo machines, The city of Ashville, the American Legion Post 170, and Shooting Star Entertainment Group, LLC, plaintiffs in the case, asked the St. Clair County Circuit Courts for a declaratory judgment about whether the city of Ashville was in compliance with Amendment 542 of the Alabama Constitution. The city council passed an ordinance in December 2008 outlining the issuance of permits or licenses for electronic charity bingo.
St. Clair County Sheriff Terry Surles said publicly he would arrest anyone caught operating electronic bingo machines in St. Clair County.
Minor also contended the gaming devices were nothing more than slot machines dressed up as “purported bingo machines.”
St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson eventually ruled in favor of the city of Ashville and the other plaintiffs involved in the case.
The judge ruled electronic bingo machines were legal, and the city of Ashville could move forward with bringing electronic bingo to that city.
Robinson refused to order a stay in the case, and a motion for a stay was filed with the Alabama Supreme Court by the defendants, Minor and Surles.
While the emergency motion for stay was being considered by the high court, Robinson allowed Shooting Star Entertainment Group, LLC, to move electronic bingo machines into the American Legion Post 170 in Ashville.
People played electronic bingo for about 12 days before the plug was pulled on the electronic bingo machines.
The Alabama Supreme Court’s in a 6-3 decision issued a stay in the case, which temporarily halted electronic bingo operations in Ashville and throughout St. Clair County until the high court rendered its opinion about the legality of the electronic bingo machines in St. Clair County.
Minor said he was uncertain when the Alabama Supreme Court would make its ruling in the matter.
“I don’t have any indication as to when the court will release an opinion in the St. Clair County case,” Minor said.