By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Attorney Genera Luther Strange’s (R) Office released a written statement to announce that they have obtained a final judgment for the State of Alabama versus the White Hall Casino in Lowndes County.
AG Luther Strange said in the statement, “Today the trial court ordered that the gambling devices seized at the White Hall casino in 2009 are to be destroyed pursuant to Alabama law. This is exactly what the State has sought all along and I am pleased that this controversy was successfully resolved in the courts,” he said. “The over half million dollars seized at the White Hall casino was previously ordered by the court to be forfeited to the State of Alabama’s General Fund.”
Former Attorney General Troy King was reluctant to deal with Alabama’s many casinos so then Governor Bob Riley (R) created an anti-illegal gambling task force and empowered John Tyson (D) to shut down casinos that he and Gov. Riley believed were illegal under Alabama law. One of those gambling operations targeted by the task force was the White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County.
In 2009, the State seized over 100 so-called “electronic bingo” machines from the White Hall Entertainment Center and more than a half million dollars in cash. The state of Alabama argued that the “electronic bingo” machines did not comply with the Alabama definition of “bingo”, which is legal under Alabama law thus the machines and the proceeds from gambling at the casino was illegal.
Alabama’s gambling magnates disagreed and argued that the electronic bingo machines were not slot machines they were “electronic bingo” machines and thus were legal. While some lower court judges agreed, to date the Alabama Supreme Court has consistently found in favor of the state of Alabama.
In the White Hall case, Judge Robert Vance (D) of the Jefferson County Circuit Court declared the seized money forfeited to the State’s General Fund. In Judge Vance’s final ruling he ruled that the illegal gambling devices would also be forfeited to the State of Alabama.
Luther Strange defeated AG Troy King in the 2010 Republican Primary. The task force has been disbanded but Strange has continued Riley’s policy on gaming. Attorney General Strange said, “Since I took Office, I have worked hard to end illegal gambling in an orderly fashion through the court system. Today is a significant step in that direction. The slot-machine manufacturers’ willingness to consent to this forfeiture judgment should end this controversy once and for all, not only in Lowndes County, but throughout the State. There is no reasonable argument that these so-called ‘electronic bingo’ machines are legal anywhere in Alabama, and these manufacturers have effectively admitted as much by consenting to this judgment.”
After years of litigation, the four slot machine manufacturers: AGS Inc., Eclipse Gaming, Bally Gaming Inc., and Nova Gaming LLC “consented to the relief sought by the State.” Judge Vance ruled that, “The State is entitled to the relief sought in the complaint, namely the forfeiture and condemnation of the ‘Gambling Devices’ identified therein. The State may promptly make the arrangements necessary for the destruction of such devices.”
The largest of the “illegal” casinos was Victoryland in Macon County. Victoryland owner, Milton McGregoer is reportedly working with attorneys to try to reopen Victoryland. Today’s ruling is yet another setback in that effort.