31st of August 2011 Author: Ava Jackuard
Mayor knew about the raid
In relation to this week's raid of Lucky Duck Bingo in Midfield, statements seemed to spring all around the place, from many concerned parties, except the raided venue's owners. Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson was one of the vocal participants in this matter, stating that he knew about the raid before it happened, but that he personally believes the machines are legal.
"We inspected the machines. As far as we're concerned, they meet the Supreme Court's definition of bingo," he specified.
On the other side, Chief Deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Randy Christian, stated that the search and seizure of 250 bingo machines were conducted in cooperation with the Alabama Attorney General's office and the district attorneys for the county's Bessemer and Birmingham divisions, all of which consider the business to be an "illegal gambling establishment."
"I respect Mayor Richardson but we have an attorney general, two district attorneys, an expert and our own investigators that say otherwise," Christian said, adding that no arrests are expected.
"I don't know why these people continue to open and don't get it. I suspect that's because they can open even just a few days and make a ton of money off the backs of poor folks that have a dream of a jackpot and don't even realize they are being taken," he concluded.
The whole process started when Midfield police delivered a warning of a raid from the sheriff's office, after which the business owners decided to cease the operations from Aug. 21. However, according to Richardson, the hall re-opened over the weekend, even though the city's police chief earlier this week was informed the raid was coming.
"We passed that along to the hall's operators,' Richardson said. "They welcomed the raid so they could enter into some kind of legal fight."
In reports about the raid, it was stated that about a dozen sheriff's deputies minutes entered the hall -- in the Midfield Plaza Shopping Center -- shortly after 3 p.m. A patron that was caught in during the raid - Fairfield resident Jennette Bester, said they had to stand against a wall while deputies checked their IDs to make sure they were 21 or older, adding: "I don't think it's fair for them to do this. People should be able to spend their money however they want to."
Another punter, Larry Wyatt, reported that he got his last $23 dollars caught up in one of the machines, and that he wasn't allowed to cash out: "I'm 25 years old and I've got a baby. I'm just here trying to make some money to survive."
Another, perhaps controversial piece of information is that, only days after the raids of two electronic bingo halls in Birmingham and Pinson, the Midfield City Council granted a business license for a charity, Set Free Christian Outreach Center Inc., to operate the hall in Midfield Plaza Shopping Center. The conditions under which the license was granted on Aug. 8 involve a $15,000 license fee from the hall and a $100 a month fee for each machine in the establishment.
According to Richardson, the fee is non-refundable, even if the hall was later raided by law enforcement officials.
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