Authorities raided four bingo halls across Jefferson County and arrested at least 11 people Tuesday morning.
Officials from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office raided the Spin It and Win It Charity Bingo hall in Graysville. The hall is located in the northwest part of the county, off Graysville’s Main Street in the Park West shopping center.
State officials raided three other gambling halls in the county on Tuesday morning, amid an ongoing disagreement between Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway’s stance on the issue. Those raids happened at Super Highway Bingo in Brighton, Fun-N-Games Arcade in Brighton and Southwind Bingo in Midfield.
According to a statement from the A.G.’s Office, the four search warrants led to the seizure of more than 1,100 electronic bingo machines, records, and an unspecified amount of money from the gambling halls.
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, officials from the A.G.’s Office said the warrants were executed by agents from their office and the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation. Several people were arrested and charged with multiple counts of promoting gambling and possession of illegal gambling devices, according to the statement.
The names of those arrested were not released in Marshall’s statement. However, at least 11 people were booked into the Jefferson County Jail just before 2 p.m. Tuesday. Some were almost immediately released.
Those arrested are:
- Kelly Headley, promoting gambling
- Sherita Gunter, promoting gambling
- Tina Marie Anthony, promoting gambling
- Latista Marlell Gates, promoting gambling
- William Thomas Manning, promoting gambling and possession of a gambling device
- Amber Marie Marello, promoting gambling
- Danielle Rena McNeely, promoting gambling and possession of a gambling device
- Shaunta Charlesse Smith, promoting gambling
- Madge Rowena Warren, promoting gambling and possession of a gambling device
- Sharon Young, promoting gambling
- Walidah Young, promoting gambling
Bond for each charge, all misdemeanors, was set at $300 apiece.
“The involvement of state law enforcement was necessary due to the opening of multiple facilities offering illegal electronic games and the failure of local law enforcement to enforce the law,” the statement read.
“Over the past several weeks, Attorney General Marshall and Lynneice Washington, District Attorney for the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County, attempted to curb these illegal establishments from opening or operating in Jefferson County. Cease and desist letters were issued to the facilities, as well as the municipalities that permitted them to open,” the statement said.
Graysville Mayor Julio Davis said he sent Marshall a letter Friday, stating the city wants to obey the law and that he believed the city was following state rules when setting up the bingo hall. He didn’t hear back before the raid Tuesday morning.
“I hate to see us losing the revenue,” he said, “I thought this was a good outlet.” Davis said city attorneys had approved plans and permits for the bingo machines and he believed the establishment was legal. But, Davis said he understands Marshall must enforce state laws and that Graysville will have to find another outlet for revenue.
“I hate it for our city… but we’re going to keep striving to do better,” he said.
Davis said last month a new city ordinance allowed residents to buy a business license for charitable electronic bingo and he hoped revenue from those licenses will help replace revenue lost as the city’s Lowe’s Home Improvement store closed earlier this year.
The ordinance allows qualified nonprofit organizations to buy a bingo hall permit, to be renewed on Oct. 1 of each year. Two different types of permits were created. A $250 Class A permit for only paper card bingo and a $2,500 Class B permit for “any and all games of bingo.” Each holder of a Class B permit must pay $100 per month per machine. The city council unanimously approved the ordinance in early February.
Bruce Pettway’s name is listed on a business license obtained in Graysville for the site of the old Lowe’s building. Bruce Pettway is the brother of Mark Pettway.
Mark Pettway has repeatedly said enforcing gambling laws is not a priority for his office, but Marshall sent the sheriff a letter last month requesting Mark Pettway advise him, Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr, and Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington if he learns of any electronic bingo halls opening or planning to open in the county.
Washington recently sent cease and desist letters to two bingo halls – Super Highway Bingo on Bessemer Super Highway and Fun-N-Games in Brighton – on the grounds the businesses are operating illegally. At least one of those halls was raided during Tuesday’s operation.
The sheriff said he would assist any mayors or police chiefs who find illegal bingo taking place in their cities, but would not provide manpower nor make shutting down the illegal businesses a priority. Mark Pettway said it’s not his job to “hunt down” electronic bingo operators, adding he’s more focused on stopping serious crimes.
The A.G.’s Office said the raids were part of an “ongoing and multifaceted criminal investigation” and that no further details will be released at this time.