By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Wednesday, Attorney General Luther Strange with the cooperations of Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska and Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes seized several hundred machines gaming and an undisclosed amount of cash from Center Stage.
Center Stage, located inn Cottonwood, AL, is the former Country Crossings Casino once owned by convicted felony Ronnie Giiley.
The search warrant was served early Wednesday morning after the operators of Center Stage refused to voluntarily turn over the gambling devices.
“Today’s actions are the culmination of an investigative process over the last several months,” said Attorney General Strange.at the announcement of the warrants, “From my first day in office, I have worked to ensure that illegal gambling laws are enforced consistently across the state.”
As a result of the Attorney General’s efforts, the country’s largest gambling machine manufacturers removed their machines from Alabama last year, including the removal of all gambling machines at the shuttered Country Crossing casino. The casino, however, changed its name to Center Stage and reopened with new machines that state law enforcement agents determined were illegal.
“My office, along with Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska, worked to try to resolve this matter with minimal controversy,” said Attorney General Strange. “We offered Center Stage an opportunity to resolve this matter by surrendering its machines to the State and to allow a court to determine the legality of the machines. After Center Stage simply refused to compromise or discuss this matter in good faith, we sent the casino a written order to cease and desist its illegal operations. Unfortunately, the casino continued to operate in open defiance of the rule of law and we have been left with no alternative but to treat this as we would any other law enforcement matter.”
The machine seized at Center Stage, along with the cash, will be held as evidence and will be subject to a forfeiture procedure in the Circuit Court of Houston County.
“Going forward, the Legislature can put an end to this type of illegal activity by simply increasing the penalty for the existing crime of operating an illegal slot machine from a misdemeanor to a felony. Until then, these individuals stand to make millions of dollars in illegal gambling profits while risking only a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor charge and law enforcement will continue to be forced to expend valuable resources to deal with the growing problem,” said Attorney General Strange.