Mr. Speaker Ledbetter, I read with great interest and frustration the 1819 News article, “‘Rampant' illegal gambling in Jefferson County shows need for enforcement arm, House Speaker Ledbetter says.” 

In the past, advocacy for legalized gambling was all about the need for additional revenues. Now that state coffers are overflowing with surplus revenue in the General and Education Trust Funds, however, the “new message” to legalize gambling has turned into the need for a Gaming Regulatory Commission. 

Let’s talk about this seriously flawed proposal. 

Gambling in Alabama is already unconstitutional and laws against it should be enforced. Are Attorney General Steve Marshall, the Alabama Supreme Court, a handful of conservative legislators, Greg Davis with Alabama Citizens Action Program (representing 3,500 churches statewide), and Becky Gerritson with Eagle Forum the only ones in this state that get it right? All these folks take the position that we should enforce the closure of these unconstitutional illegal operations and arrest the owners. 

Instead of following suit, Mr. Speaker, your solution is forming a commission? This is not a solution. You do not regulate an illegal operation, you close it down. 

Let’s break this down. First, you want to create a new commission, increasing the cost of government, legalizing and expanding current illegal gambling activity, and allowing new casinos – including one in Jackson County, right next door to your own house district. 

Second, according to the 1819 News article, there are 70 illegal gambling operations in Jefferson County that Sheriff Pettway refuses to close. He is the top law enforcement officer in Jefferson County. How does this new commission somehow fix irresponsible law enforcement? Such a situation sounds like President Joe Biden turning his head away from the illegal immigrants passing through our border every day. Illegal is illegal, just enforce it.      

Third, notice how these conversations always drift to the lottery, making the argument that it has been 25 years since Alabama voters rejected it. Polling back then hit a highwater mark of 60% in favor – until the public realized the lottery prohibition lifted out of the Alabama Constitution paves the way for casinos on every corner, making state corruption soar exponentially. 

Here is a tip for the readership, anytime a legislator uses the words, “it’s complicated,” that is your cue to dig deeper. On this gambling/casino issue alone, the complicated thing for legislators is that their pastors and the facts are pulling in one direction, while the gambling lobbyists funding their political futures are pulling in the opposite direction. Again, we must ask, “Who is driving Alabama’s legislative priorities?”        

John spent nearly 15 years as Executive Vice President in the family business, Giles Enterprises, and has served in various leadership and advisory roles in the State of Alabama. Today, John and his wife Deborah quietly reside at Agnus Dei Farm, enjoying visits from their children and 12 grandchildren.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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