Brother of Jefferson County sheriff permitted for ‘slot machines’ in Graysville
After reporting Friday morning that new Jefferson County sheriff Mark Pettway is under intense scrutiny for not enforcing state law against illegal gambling in his jurisdiction, Yellowhammer News can now confirm that Bruce Pettway, the sheriff’s brother, has been permitted to operate electronic bingo by the City of Graysville.
Electronic bingo machines, which are essentially slot machines, have been confirmed as illegal by the Alabama Supreme Court.
However, the City of Graysville recently passed an ordinance establishing a permitting process for proprietors wanting to conduct electronic bingo in the municipality. That ordinance was passed at the council’s meeting on February 7, less than a month after longtime sheriff Mike Hale turned over the keys to the office to Mark Pettway.
Since then, the City of Graysville has permitted four proprietors to conduct electronic bingo. Yellowhammer News has obtained copies of all four permits, one of which was granted to Bruce Pettway on March 1.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office handles law enforcement duties for Graysville, which does not have a police department. This means that Mark Pettway is responsible for enforcing the law against his brother’s permitted electronic bingo location.
In the last few weeks, Attorney General Steve Marshall has repeatedly called on the sheriff to enforce the gaming law in his county, saying, “I don’t understand why when Sheriff Hale had the opportunity to be able to do it with the resources available to him, that the new sheriff can’t do the same thing.”
Appearing on The Dale Jackson Show on Friday, Marshall said of Pettway, “[W]e have a sheriff right now that’s refusing to act.”
The attorney general advised, “Bingo is something that’s played on a card with a group of people against one another, with somebody calling out letters and numbers like we all know. Electronic bingo is simply a fiction, and all it is is a slot machine.”
Marshall added, “If you look at where [electronic bingo facilities are] going in Jefferson County, it’s in an area where there’s limited local law enforcement – if any at all – and it’s why the sheriff’s role is so important.”
Bruce Pettway’s newly permitted location is the recently closed Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Graysville. Mayor Julio Davis told WBRC that this huge gaming facility has been estimated at 3,000 electronic bingo machines when it gets up and running, paying the city alone $300,000 per month ($100 per machine per month).
The permit granted to Bruce Pettway lists his “qualified organization” as “Bulle, LLC” in Birmingham.
This same company has been registered in his name with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office since 2008 and is listed as “Business/Consulting/Lobbying Services” when it comes to its “Nature of Business.” It is not clear how the company fits the City of Graysville’s definition of a “qualified organization,” which is a “bona fide religious, educational, service, senior citizens’, fraternal, or veterans’ organization which operates without profit for its members and which either has been in existence continuously as such an organization for a period of two years or is exempt from taxation by virtue of having been classified as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization by the Internal Revenue Service.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn