By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
SHORTER–On Wednesday, Macon County Sheriff David Warren held a demonstration of bingo machines given by the manufacturers, BMM, for the press and a few officials at Victoryland, owned by Milton McGregor. After the demonstration, the sheriff declared the machines legal citing Constitutional Amendment 744.
“As the Sheriff of Macon County and the person who has been authorized by Constitutional Amendment 744, I accept these machines as legal,” said Warren.
Before the presentation began, Joe Espy, attorney for McGregor, assured all that were in attendance that this demonstration was at the request of the sheriff and that the McGregor organization has no involvement.
Richard Williamson, who has been with BMM Compliance since 200, presented machines and explained how they work.
He said, “BMM has been around since 1981 it’s the original private electronic test lab founded in Australia we are a global company at this point. We have offices and test labs around the world and our headquarters is in Las Vegas.”
Williamson said that these machines are different from slot machines because they are designed to meet the criteria established by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.
“These games operate with a minimum of 2 players. If this place were open and only one person came in they would not be able to play these games,” said Williamson.
In addition, he said that the “entertaining display” that a player sees upon winning must have “no impact in the game’s overall score.” There are as many as 60 script restrictions placed on the machines that are specifically outlined by the Macon County sheriff.
The machine screens show an “entertaining display” as well as a bingo card and the “random balls” display. All of the random balls that were chosen show in the “random balls” display. The ones that match the bingo card are highlighted on the bingo card.
“If you want to see if your bingo card is a winner or why it wasn’t a winner you can always go back into your help screen and look at the patterns and evaluate. All of the information is available to a player prior to play and after play. The machine evaluates you card, it matches the patterns and if you have a winning amount it puts it on your credit meter,” said Williamson
James Anderson, attorney for Warren, said, “Yes this is gambling, just like the dog track is. But the random selection where the dogs come in is the same random selection that these balls drop. It’s gambling but it is legalized and authorized by Constitutional Amendment 744 here in Macon County. It is different than anywhere else in the state other than in Greene County.”
Williamson insists that these machines are far different from slot machines. Slot machines are free standing, where Victoryland machines are operated from a series of servers.
According to BMM’s SVP Business Development–Americas’ Drew Pawlak, in order to convert the bingo machines into slot machines would required the complete rewiring and programming of each machine. He explained it this way, “The whole insides and the guts would have to change. The button boards would have to change. It depends on the motherboard, depends if it is a server-based system the motherboard may not have enough processing power. When you see a real slot machine it has to process the RNG, all of the graphics, all of the sound. It has to drive everything independently. This [bingo machine] is all dependent on the server, so the content gets pushed down from the server with very, very minimal technology. It is not like the technology is residing within the box itself.”
Gambling revenues are taxable just like any other source of income. Winnings at casinos are no different. “If a person has a win of $1200 or greater that is a taxable event. That is a W2G event, a federal tax.”
These machines automatically lock up upon reaching that threshold requiring an attendant to assist before allowing the patron to continue play. They are asked for identification, the proper paperwork is filled out, and they are given the balance after taxes. However, Williamson said that at times a patron will opt to pay their taxes with their end-of-the-year return.
When asked if these machines could be programmed to automatically deduct any state taxes that might be imposed and apply, Williamson’s answer was yes.
“It is probably easier with these systems than a traditional casino where they have slot machines with bill validators because you don’t have to identify yourself when you put a bill into the game,” he said.
Sheriff Warren’s greatest concern involved the loss of jobs for the people of Macon County since the closing of Victoryland, “I have seen personally people who have lost their houses, people who have had to pull their children out of school, out of college. People who had to move that were gainfully employed.
“You know what our economic situation is statewide. To have these people not to be able to work is really a shame and especially when the Indians are doing it. What is so different about what the Indians are doing and what these machines at Victoryland are doing? Could you have that explained to you any simpler?
“I just hope and pray that we are able to resume this industry here and that the people of Macon County are given their jobs back so that they can take care of their families, do everything that they need to do.
“When I speak today, as the sheriff, I speak for David Warren and the citizens of this county. I don’t have any special agenda. I am the sheriff, I love this county and I love the people, every one of them. That’s it. I don’t think I could put it any simpler.”