Last week in a 6-3 vote, the Alabama Supreme Court granted a stay on the St. Clair electronic bingo issue. The court voted to temporarily halt electronic bingo in the county.

St. Clair District Attorney Richard Minor said that the 600 electronic bingo machines already in use in Ashville were to be removed until the high court makes its final ruling.

An ongoing legal battle has been fought in the halls of justice over the last three months between Shooting Starr, LLC, the City of Ashville, District Attorney Minor and Sheriff Terry Surles regarding the legality of electronic bingo in the county. The D.A. and sheriff asked last week for an immediate ruling on the case.

The pressing issue brought before the court by the D.A. and sheriff was the wording of a state amendment passed in the 1980s that allowed for traditional card bingo to be played in St. Clair County. Minor and Surles argued that “electronic card bingo” was not legal based on the wording of the original amendment.

Electronic bingo was allowed in the county for nearly two weeks before the ruling. Many of the cities in the county began passing bingo ordinances after Circuit Judge Charles Robinson gave the green light for electronic bingo last month.

In its motion, the Supreme Court granted Governor Bob Riley the ability to intervene in the case as an appellant and/or defendant.

The Supreme Court’s motion also gave Alabama Attorney General Troy King the right to be a part in the case, but it did not grant him the authority to take control of the pending appeal.

Depending on the Supreme Court’s final ruling, Ashville’s case may end up affecting other electronic bingo halls.

Minor and Sheriff Surles asked two weeks ago for the Supreme Court to rule on whether electronic bingo machines are legal or illegal in Alabama. The pair has the governor’s backing.

“That kind of decision would potentially have a statewide impact, resolving all these issues around the state,” Bryan Taylor, the governor’s policy director was quoted as saying in the Gadsden Times on Sunday.

Attorney General King has said publically that the Ashville case should be confined to the machines in use at the American Legion Post 170 alone. King said that Minor and Surles are trying to get a ruling that applies to machines across the entire state and that shows “judicial activism.”

Minor has contended all along that the question at hand regards the paper card verses electronic card issue. The state amendment passed in the late 1980s allowed for traditional, paper card bingo to be played in Ashville at the American Legion.

Judge Robinson’s ruling stated that electronic bingo can be certified as “card bingo” so long as the machines in place at any charity bingo hall in the county are shown—by experts—to be playing the game of bingo and that they collect the 10-cent-per-card bingo tax put in place by the original state amendment.

Ashville Mayor Robert McKay has stated on several occasions that he is unsure why Gov. Riley would want to pick and choose which areas paper card or electronic card bingo are legal.

For more on the continuing saga and the fallout for St. Clair County be sure to check as news happens.

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