Alabama Charitable Gaming

Charitable gaming is legal in those Alabama counties and cities that have adopted a constitutional amendment authorizing bingo for charitable purposes. A county sheriff or chief of police is responsible for charitable gaming within their constituency.

In 1980, Jefferson County voted for limited charitable bingo following an amendment to the Alabama state constitution. An amendment to the constitution was needed to allow a county to host a bingo hall. Since 1980, 18 such amendments have been passed. As of October 2009, there were 44 bingo halls operating in Jefferson County in the name of charity.

In 2000, Alabama voters approved a statewide constitutional amendment that allowed charity-operated bingo in White Hall. Later, in November 2003, an amendment allowing businesses to operate the games for the charity was approved.

In 2004, the attorney general raided Alabama's gambling facilities and confiscated illegal slot machines. Following the raids and a review of the state’s gambling statutes, the attorney general announced new criteria for electronic bingo machines. An announcement was made that all bingo machines should use the traditional five-by-five grid for bingo cards. Each track was given an appropriate amount of time to remove or reprogram the machines that did not meet the criteria.

By January 2005, electronic gaming machines at the dog and horse tracks in Macon and Greene counties were deemed in compliance with state law, but not for long. A series of raids and confiscation of electronic gaming machines have taken place from 2009 through February 2013, with VictoryLand the most recent target. Many charitable bingo properties voluntarily closed their doors as they awaited a resolution to this matter.

The patchwork of constitutional amendments, rather than a cohesive legal definition has some state officials contending that the electronic games are illegal and were not what charity bingo laws intended. On the other hand, bingo hall operators have maintained the games are legal. In 2009 and 2010, the Alabama Supreme Court issued opinions specifying six requirements to determine if a game is “legal” bingo.
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