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Hartselle approves amendment to ban electronic bingo

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — If you have plans to bring electronic bingo machines to Hartselle, cancel them.

A unanimous City Council on Tuesday night amended its ordinance to make it illegal for electronic bingo machines to be in the city.

"This is something that we don't want in Hartselle, and this ordinance spells that out," Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

The amendment requires that all bingo cards be "manually marked and shall not be in electronic format," the ordinance states.

The city also is requiring people participating in bingo games to be present and not participate through any electronic media.

The council decided to amend the ordinance after Cullman attorney Gregory Johnson said he planned to file an application for his clients to bring electronic bingo to Hartselle.

His clients, Rick and Annette Graveman, operated sweepstakes games until a unanimous Alabama Supreme Court ruled those machines illegal in December 2006.

A second company that did not identify itself also called City Hall inquiring about electronic bingo, according to city officials.

Tankersley said the city's previous ordinance did not specifically address electronic bingo.

"We needed to clear that up to make sure people understood this is not allowed in Hartselle," he said.

City Attorney Larry Madison said a constitutional amendment approved by a vote of the people permits bingo in Hartselle, Falkville and in parts of Decatur within Morgan County.

American Legion Post 52 on Sparkman Street is the only non-profit organization licensed to operate bingo in Hartselle.

Bill Partridge, who is Legion chaplain, requested in August that the council allow the group to use more bingo profits for expenses.

The council approved his request, increasing the amount of money the Legion can use to cover expenses from 25 percent of net receipts to 49 percent.

In a two-page letter that was not part of the bingo ordinance, Madison cleared up confusion about whether an outside company could form a limited liability corporation with Hartselle charities for bingo purposes.

The city's ordinance says the organization seeking the permit must be a nonprofit established as a 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The organization also must have been in existence continuously for three years in the city limits and have owned or leased property for at least three years in Hartselle.

"It is my opinion that a qualified organization holding a duly issued permit cannot lawfully allow any other person or entity to operate any aspect of its games ..." Madison wrote.

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