If you’ve watched TV, listened to the radio or gone to your mailbox lately you’ve no doubt seen or heard a massive advertising campaign aimed at convincing people to vote for a gambling bill that its supporters call the “Sweet Home Alabama” plan. Those of us who oppose illegal gambling don’t have millions to spend on ads, but we do have the facts on our side. When you really look at this plan you realize it should be called “Sweet Hoax Alabama” because that’s exactly what it is.

Supporters of this gambling plan claim it will legalize electronic “bingo” and bring a windfall of tax dollars into our state. But here are some things you probably don’t know about it. Did you know…

…the plan was hatched by a small group that will make millions of dollars off gambling? During testimony before a Senate committee, one of the plan’s supporters said “the group” wrote the bill and gave it to legislators. Who’s in “the group”? Well, they refuse to say even though the press and others have been asking. Anytime someone refuses to tell you who’s behind a proposal, that’s when a red flag should go up.

…the plan gives this unknown casino cartel a complete monopoly? Section four of the bill creates a monopoly for current gambling operators and prohibits any competition. This is their idea of “regulating” gambling: set up a monopoly. They’ll get mega-rich because this plan makes it illegal for anyone to compete with them.

…the plan makes slot machines legal in Alabama for the first time in our state’s history? Section four of the bill states that “bingo equipment” cannot be considered a slot machine, even if it is a slot machine.

..the plan gives casino operators immunity from Alabama’s laws against illegal gambling? It states that not even a Supreme Court judgment can stop them from using these machines. Not only that, section five of the bill specifically allows them to bring slot machines into Alabama from out of state without fear of running afoul of state laws against the transportation, installation, ownership or leasing of slot machines.

… while supporters of the bill praise it as a way to tax gambling, certain favored casino operators would get a special 10 percent tax break under the bill?

…this plan would limit taxes for the others in the monopoly to 20 percent, which is much, much less than the tax rates other states levy on similar operations? Other states that have such gambling operations have tax rates of 30 to 60 percent. Not only does “the group” give itself a monopoly, it makes sure they pay the lowest taxes in the country!

..supporters of this bill want you to believe you can play a game of bingo in six seconds? Seriously.

…a slot machine is illegal everywhere in Alabama, no matter what it’s called? State law defines what a slot machine is and the Supreme Court has made clear machines which “look like, sound like, and attract the same class of customers as conventional slot machines” and that serve essentially the same function as slot machines are illegal in Alabama. This plan would overturn existing law and the Supreme Court’s ruling.

…you are twice as likely to become addicted to gambling if you live within 50 miles of a casino? The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported this fact in its report to Congress. If the “Sweet Hoax Alabama” plan passes, millions of Alabamians would live within 50 miles of a casino. The great hoax being perpetrated by its supporters that this would somehow “limit” gambling is a farce. Almost our entire population would live within the bill’s casino zones.

…counties with casinos have higher crime rates than counties without casinos? Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice reports more than 30 percent of pathological gamblers committed a robbery within the past year.

Those are the facts and people need to know them. A slick ad campaign doesn’t give them to you. So I hope all Alabamians will really look into this so-called “Sweet Home Alabama” plan. Once they do, they’ll understand just what is at stake. For “the group” behind it, what’s at stake is the chance to become multi-millionaires through a gambling monopoly, a monopoly that will become part of our state constitution. No wonder they’re spending so much on their campaign but won’t disclose who they are. For Alabamians, what’s at stake is the untold billions of dollars taxpayers will lose because of the long-term economic and social costs that always come with casinos.

“Sweet Home Alabama”? Not if they win.

Bob Riley is governor of Alabama. He can be reached by email through the website www.governor.alabama.gov/.

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