House Speaker Ledbetter Call for Enforcement Arm to Curb ‘Rampant’ Illegal Gambling in Jefferson County

Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) has been focusing on addressing illegal gambling activities as the dominant issue in the state’s gaming industry.

According to Ledbetter, the extent of illegal gambling operations in Alabama has surpassed initial estimates. A special committee discovered close to 70 bingo operations in Jefferson County alone, indicating that the issue is more widespread than previously believed.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation in Jefferson County during the summer, resulting in the raid of multiple bingo halls by state law enforcement. However, at the time, Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway did not take action to shut down the illegal operations, citing a focus on more serious and violent crimes in the area.

Subsequent to the raids, the Jefferson County Commission opted not to renew business licenses for bingo halls, and Pettway announced plans to begin shutting them down.

Ledbetter emphasized the urgency of addressing illegal bingo halls due to the commission of more serious crimes within these establishments. He highlighted a recent incident in which a woman died in North Alabama after consuming drugs laced with fentanyl, sold to her by a dealer involved in gambling who refrained from contacting emergency services to avoid arrest.

In response to the escalating problem, the committee has been considering the establishment of a regulatory body to oversee gaming activities, with a specific enforcement arm. Ledbetter stressed the necessity of enforcement to effectively combat the proliferation of illegal operations.

As the 2024 legislative session is scheduled to commence in February, gambling legislation remains a top priority for Ledbetter and the Alabama House, aiming to address the widespread issue of illegal gambling in the state.

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