In Alabama things can get pretty weird especially if you’re a bingo player. For years the state has been waging an intense war against electronic bingo in the state. Former Governor Riley started the great bingo wars to pander to religious extremists. Current attorney general Luther Strange has continued this ridiculous war wasting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Now a local sheriff has joined the ranks of anti-gambling extremists in Alabama.
Last month publicity mad Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin staged a highly publicized raid on Center Stage casino. Two electronic bingo machines were seized and one woman was arrested on charges of promoting gambling and possession of a gambling device. The charges have since been dropped. Now the sheriff wants to destroy the seized machines and has refused to release the machines and a computer. Sheriff Todd Entrekin has begun the process to have the bingo machines destroyed. Entrekin said he does not know how much the machines are worth but says they are probably valuable.
The machines were tested at a reputable lab and experts said the machines conformed to Alabama’s bingo laws. Evidently that wasn’t enough for Entrekin who said “I still believe it’s an illegal machine, and based on that, I’m going to file forfeiture proceedings on it to have it destroyed.” The sheriff added “I look forward to running over them with a bulldozer.” Attorney Roy McCord is representing Michelle Garbe, the woman who was arrested in the raid. McCord said he asked the sheriff to release the machines since the charges had been withdrawn and no crime had been committed.
In a letter to McCord Entrekin said that the machines had been seized because his office had reason to believe they had been used “in a manner inconsistent with Alabama law (i.e. in furtherance of illegal gambling).” District attorney Harp actually accused the woman and her attorney of staging the event to obtain a license through the courts. Harp said seizing of illegal materials is routine and added “Just because we don’t prosecute the criminal act doesn’t mean we can’t do a civil forfeiture. That happens all the time.” Evidently what Harp is saying is that government agencies can seize property without cause and then force owners to fight for their property in court.
Harp told reporters “We can do a civil forfeiture case, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve destroyed a bunch of gambling devices.” Hopefully McCord and his client will challenge the forfeiture and prevail in a court of law. In the meantime bingo fans in Alabama can still play online bingo from the privacy of their own homes free from the prying eyes of professional bluenoses like Entrekin and Harp.