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Lobbyist denies having role in push to defeat bingo bill

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Lobbyist Dax Swatek, who managed Gov. Bob Riley's 2006 re-election campaign, has denied a legislator's claim that he's trying to defeat a measure that could allow high-stakes bingo machines at Mobile Greyhound Park and the Birmingham Race Course.

State Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, has accused Swatek of working for unnamed gambling entities and coordinating phone banks and a media campaign against the bill.

Black contends his measure will restrict gambling to a small number of locations in the state

But Swatek said he is not involved in a phone or media campaign against Black's bill and that it is backed by gambling interests.

Swatek is registered as a lobbyist with the Jones Group, a Montgomery-based lobbying firm whose clients include Greene Track in Greene County, according to filings with the State Ethics Commission.

Relationship

Neither Swatek nor Gregory Jones of the Jones Group would comment on what relationship, if any, existed between Swatek and Greene Track, the Press-Register reported Wednesday.

Greene and Macon counties are the only two counties in Alabama currently allowed to run bingo machines under state law.

In a recent statement, Swatek said he is opposed to gambling in Alabama and accused Milton McGregor — owner of the Birmingham Race Course and VictoryLand in Macon County — of being the driving force behind the bill.

"Make no mistake, this bill was drafted and concocted by the pro-gambling lobby," Swatek's statement said.

Riley, a Republican, opposes the expansion of gambling in Alabama.

Automated phone calls recently have been made in Mobile and Baldwin counties, urging people to ask local legislators to defeat Black's bill.

The source of the phone calls is unclear, the Press-Register said.

Amendment proposal

Black's legislation would put a constitutional amendment before voters on whether bingo machines should be permitted at the Mobile Greyhound Park and the Birmingham Race Course.

His accusation that Swatek was trying to defeat the bill was first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser.

Under Black's bill, 20 percent of the gross revenue from bingo machines at the racetracks would go to Alabama's Medicaid program.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the House on April 10, but Black withdrew it for lack of support.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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