By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Circuit Court Judge William A. Shashy will hold a hearing on Tuesday, August 4, at 2:00 pm, that may settle the fate of VictoryLand Casino.
“We don’t anticipate any evidence. It will strictly be—we anticipate—oral arguments on the record that was made in September,” said VictoryLand attorney Joe Espy.
Attorney’s for the shuttered casino have asked the trial judge to make a declaration, that games used at VictoryLand are legal, and to determine the intent of the voters when they passed Amendment 744 to the State’s 1901 Constitution.
Recently, Judge Shashy dismissed the State’s case against the casino, ruling that the State had violated the equal protection clause in it prosecution. The Judge accused the State of “cherry picking” which casinos to raid and which to ignore. Specifically he referred to the Poarch 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, adding, “This court refuses to be used an instrument to perpetuate unfair treatment.”
Other casinos that use similar electronic bingo machines have also continued operations while VictoryLand remains closed.
The State’s Attorney General Luther Strange remains steadfast in pursuing his case against VictoryLand, despite an earlier announcement that the State would leave gambling investigations to local law-enforcement.
The State has argued that Judge Shashy’s ruling did not address the merits of the case and has appealed his findings.
“Two of the contentions that the Attorney General made public and in his appeal filings was the court didn’t rule on the legality of the amendment or the machines and also indicated that they didn’t think they had to return the machines. So, based upon that we filed the motion,” said Espy.
An official with knowledge of the AG’s inner workings believes the State is committed to finishing the case it began in 2013, to its final conclusion.
The State is holding 1,615 gambling machines and $263,105.81 that it seized from VictoryLand, and the casino wants them back.
Espy said he believes Judge Shashy’s ruling was clear and is asking the court to return the machines and money.
“We believe that he [Judge Shashy] would not have entered an equal protection order if the Court didn’t feel that the evidence made clear our machines and our amendment were legal. But to be safe they are asking for a declaration from the court.”