EUTAW, Ala. — The governor’s bid to shut down electronic bingo in Alabama set off a nightlong standoff at a rural casino and the arrest yesterday of 16 protesters angry over the loss of jobs in a poor county.
The protest grew into a political rally as 10 black legislators, as well as the white Democratic nominee for governor, arrived at the Greenetrack casino to voice support for the demonstrators and some 400 laid-off casino workers.
Scores of the workers remained outside the casino, which had its entrance blocked off by state troopers securing more than 800 electronic bingo machines inside. In sweltering heat, onlookers cheered loudly as the 16 were released.
“We went to jail for poor folks. We went to jail for justice,’’ said Democratic state Senator Bobby Singleton of Greensboro, one of the 16 arrested.
Alabama Public Safety Director Christopher Murphy said the 16 were arrested without incident after blocking the entrance to Greenetrack for 12 hours after the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for state troopers to enter and secure more than 800 bingo machines.
The 16, accused of trespassing, were released later on signature bonds of $1,000.
Republican Governor Bob Riley and gambling task force commander John Tyson Jr. contend that court rulings in recent months have made clear that electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines.