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AG Marshall: ‘I don’t accept the premise that we need to legalize gambling to enhance enforcement’

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said when it comes to gambling in Alabama, the first priority of lawmakers needs to be enforcement against facilities acting illegally.

The debate over gambling continues in the Legislature as the House is set to look at a bill that was recently passed by the Senate. The Senate bill ended up being a toned-down version of the gambling legislation passed in the House earlier this session.

Marshall gave his thoughts on the legislation during a recent appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal.”

“I don’t accept the premise that we need to legalize gambling to enhance enforcement, because there are enforcement mechanisms that exist separate and apart from how broadly we’re considering gambling in the state,” Marshall said. “And so, from an enforcement side, I fully embrace the idea of raising the consequences of engaging in illegal gambling activity, want to make sure that there is an effective deterrent because one of the feedbacks we’ve gotten in many of the places that we’ve shut down is they just weren’t worried about the risk when it’s a misdemeanor and all these are misdemeanor offenses. They’re not worried about the consequences of what they’re doing. Let’s raise those up to felony offenses.”

The attorney general said there needs to be a real threat of jail time to stop illegal gambling.

“But let’s make the penalty itself have some consequence that somebody could face jail time as a result of what they’ve done,” he said. “And then they clearly can enhance the law enforcement resources that are out there to be able to investigate illegal activity across the state. One of the things that you’ve heard me talk about before is that we need local law enforcement to do their jobs that we can’t turn a blind eye to this activity simply because I’m I know that we may be saying that it’s a misdemeanor and it’s not important.”

Marshall also said the illegal gambling operations have damaging effects on communities.

“The reality is that I’ve heard those personal stories,” he said. “I vividly remember being in Macon County early on in my tenure as Attorney General, where one of their elected officials came up and said, ‘what are you going to do about that facility?’ And literally that was right before we had filed our first action against VictoryLand. And that individual came up and said, ‘all the child support for our kids are going into that facility and they’re not making it into the families that desperately need it.’ I mean, there are consequences to this that we have to acknowledge and we face. But we can do enforcement effectively. You don’t have to legalize other aspects of gambling in order to do enforcement right.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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