By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Thursday, Montgomery Super Attorney, Joe Espy convened with members of the Capitol press corps to brief them on the plans to reopen Victoryland.
Espy, who represents Victoryland owner Milton McGregor, said he wanted to answer the many questions that has been coming in from the news media. Espy said the reason for not answering questions earlier was, “Until our machines were declared certified and legal we could not continue to move forward and expend funds as you can imagine.” The machines were declared certified and legal on Wednesday has certified bingo machine.
Espy said that the request he had received from the press corps centered around three questions:
“One, the amendment itself, amendment, 774 of the Alabama Constitution”
(Two) “There have been questions about the machines, slot machines verse electronic bingo machines…”
(Three) “and then there are what I would call operational questions,” summarized Espy.
“The Amendment passed the state legislature in 2003, it passed without a descending vote; it passed unanimously,” said Espy. He then reminded everyone that the vote had to be approved by the US Justice department before it could be placed on the ballot, “They did that.” Afterwards an election was scheduled for the people to vote in November, 2003.
“I want to make it clear so that there is no misunderstanding about what the people were voting on in November in 2003,” said Espy.
At that point Mr. Espy, began systematically showing a series of newspaper ads, radio spots, handouts and flyers advertising for the vote prior to Novembers’ election.
The first chart —a blow up of an advertisement read, “Vote yes for electronic, card and machine bingo.” “This is what was advertised in advance of the November vote,” said Espy.
The second one read, “Vote yes on electronic bingo.”
“Now keep in mind that in 2003 there was electronic bingo being played in Alabama,” said Espy, “at Native American places.” He then reiterated that everyone knew what electronic bingo was because it was already being played in the state. He continued to point out the type of advertising the proponents of electronic bingo were advertising to the voters in Macon County.
Lastly, Espy showed an advertisement that was circulated by the Christian Coalition who was opposed to the amendment. It read in part,
“Gambling expansion, vote NO on electronic bingo.”
“If anyone says, the people of Macon County or law enforcement or the state were not on notice as to what kind of bingo they were voting on in Macon County, then as we say in South Alabama were I’m from, ‘They just ain’t telling you like it is.’”
In 2003 the voters in Macon County approved Constitutional Amendment 774 by an overwhelming 76 percent, according to Espy, these people knew and believed that they were choosing to allow electronic bingo to be played in their county.
Espy pointedly adds,”This Constitutional Amendment has never been challenged.”He also said, “That people can’t commingle cases,” because the other cases are not like what was passed in Macon County.
“We have tried to be totally transparent…we have never said that a slot machine is legal in Alabama,” Espy said, “The machines we will place in Victoryland are not slot machines.”
Espy said that the first act toward reopening Victroyland was to select vendors that manufactured electronic bingo machines, “The machines you saw yesterday, you cannot call up and say send me that machine…these machines are manufactured specifically for Macon County,” Espy said. He says that in the past one of the complaints was that machine were coming from the makers of slots. He said the machine to be used in Victoryland are only available as bingo machine and are certified by the manufacture as such. “Law enforcement officials have been advised of that,” Espy said.
The sheriff of Macon County has also conducted a independent audit of the machines. The audit was conducted by MMB the largest compliance company in the world. The company has certified that the machine are only bingo machines. The tech for MMB said that the machines would have to be totally gutted to make them into slots and went as far as to say he could not see how such a reverse-engineering would be desirable or cost effective.
Espy say that Victoryland will open sometime in December, perhaps before Christmas but that there are many things left to complete to be ready for the public. When Victroyland reopens there will be with around 1200 bingo machines and certain food and refreshment venues.
Espy said, as time progresses, they will open other parts of the facility.