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Riley sends gambling warning letters

MONTGOMERY – Gov. Bob Riley sent letters Wednesday to gambling machine manufacturers and suppliers, warning that some machines found in Alabama appear illegal and prosecutions will begin if they are not removed.

Riley said the letters are the result of a preliminary investigation by his new Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Riley said several suppliers and manufacturers “appear to be engaged in unlawful gambling activity in Alabama.”

The Republican governor said he was giving the companies fair warning so they can withdraw their machines, but if they don’t, “I fully intend to carry out my constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws of Alabama.”

The letters went to nine companies. When contacted by The Associated Press, two of the companies had no immediate comment. The others did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Riley’s letters were a surprise to Attorney General Troy King, who said he had not been notified they were being sent.

King said the governor’s letters read “like a directive from a state gaming commission director who is threatening gambling operations under his control. With all due respect, the governor is not a gambling commissioner and the law does not empower him to act as one.”

Riley’s letters were aimed at the machines found in gambling halls that feature electronic bingo. The halls, ranging from a few dozen machines to several thousand, are found in several counties where bingo is legal.

In addition, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates gambling halls in Wetumpka, Atmore and Montgomery, but they are not regulated by the state.

Riley did not name any gambling halls that might have illegal machines. Instead, he warned the suppliers and manufacturers that Alabama law prohibits Las Vegas-style slot machines and similar gambling devices, and calling them bingo machines doesn’t make them legal.

Former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber, who heads the governor’s task force, said it was “only fair” to give the manufacturers and suppliers notice because the task force’s work indicates they “have some potential exposure.”

Riley’s letters went to Gateway Gaming in Piedmont, S.C.; Hest Technology in Haltom City, Texas; Cadillac Jack in Duluth, Ga.; American Gaming Systems in Canoga Park, Calif.; Select Electronic Devices in Greenville, S.C.; Nova Gaming in Greenville, S.C.; Bally Technologies in Las Vegas, Nev.; International Gaming Technology in Reno, Nev.; and Multimedia Games in Austin, Texas.

Riley created his gambling task force Dec. 29. King does not serve on it.

Alabama’s constitution prohibits a lottery. The state Supreme Court has interpreted that prohibition broadly to limit gambling, but some counties have passed constitutional amendments to allow bingo.

King said where those exceptions exist, “no one can ignore the law.”