By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday June 25, Circuit Court Judge William A Shashy dismissed the Alabama Attorney General’s office’s case against Milton McGregor and his Victoryland Casino and Dog Track in Macon County.
Judge Shashy wrote in his ruling that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law and accused the AG’s office of “cherry picking” which casinos to raid and which to ignore. Specifically he referred to the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians (PCI) who run electronic bingo games in Wetumpka, Montgomery, and Atmore.
Judge Shashy wrote, “The court can not condone or perpetuate unequal treatment…This Court refuses to be used an instrument to perpetuate unfair treatment.”
The ruling opens up the possibility that Milton McGregor may be able to eventually reopen his embattled Victoryland Casino off of I-85.
Milton McGregor released the following statement on the ruling: “Today’s ruling is a victory for the people of Macon County and the entire State of Alabama. I am grateful that a respected Judge appointed by the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Victoryland. The decision paves the way for electronic bingo to resume at Victoryland and for the people of Macon County to once again go back to work and provide for their families.”
McGregor’s longtime attorney, Joe Espy said in a statement on the ruling: “Today’s ruling assures equality to the people of East Alabama and confirms the very basic principle that all people and businesses must be treated fairly. This decision does not in any way contradict previous court rulings. Evidence in this case made it clear that Macon County voters authorized electronic bingo in a manner that has been established by Alabama law and that must be respected under Alabama law. The decision today upholds the rule of law.”
The ruling is a major blow to state prosecutors. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said, “I am surprised at the court order because it fails to address the key question posed by both parties which is whether the VictoryLand gambling machines are illegal. We’re reviewing the order to determine how best to settle the issue once and for all.”
The ruling did not address the fate of the 1,615 electronic bingo machines and $263,105.81 in cash the state seized from Victoryland during the 2013 raid. Those assets were seized by the State and are technically forfeit, like an automobile used in a drug crime. McGregor’s attorneys will likely ask for a hearing for the return of the property.
The Attorney General’s office may pursue an appeal; but Governor Bentley (who opposes a vote on gambling) has said that the State will not spend any more money pursuing costly litigation against gambling bosses.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) has proposed a plan which would legalize both in exchange for tax revenue. Governor Bentley has announced that he is opposed to more gaming in Alabama as has the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.
AG Strange has attempted to bring action against the Poarch Creek’s casinos; but has been hampered to this point by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs which claims both jurisdiction and that the Indians are not doing anything wrong.