By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—A letter exchange between Gov. Robert Bentley, Macon County District Attorney E. Paul Jones, and Sheriff Andre’ Brunson seems to clear a path for the reopening of VictoryLand. It also serves as an assurance to those companies supplying bingo machines, that the State will not confiscate them as in the past.
The December 4 letter from Jones and Brunson began, “We appreciate the full faith and confidence you have expressed in us to enforce the law in our county. We assure you that every law will be enforced equally as it applies to each of our citizens and all those doing business in our county.” This is a direct acknowledgement of the Governor’s Executive Order returning the power to enforce State gaming laws to local law-enforcement.
The letter continues: “There are a number of nationally recognized, reputable companies that now desire to provide bingo games in Macon County. We have advised them that they are welcome to do business with us as long as they cooperate with our offices and fully comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations governing bingo in our county.”
Jones and Brunson pledge to Gov. Bentley, that they will have each machine, “examined, tested and certified by a reputable independent testing laboratory,” to ensure that are in compliance with the constitutional amendment making bingo in any form legal in Macon County.
Three days later, Bentley wrote Jones and Brunson, stating, “I am satisfied with the terms and conditions you outlined in your letter to me with respect to the inspection and legal compliance for any bingo machine brought to Macon County. I have every confidence that you will enforce the law in your county as it applied to this important issue.”
Attorney General Luther Strange has challenged the assertion, as did former Gov. Bob Riley, that VictoryLand should be under the jurisdiction of local law-enforcement.
Both men raided VictoryLand, in what was seen by Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy as selective prosecution, which violated VictoryLand’s federal equal protection clause.
In October, Shashy ruled that the electronic bingo machines being played at VictoryLand Casino were legal, according to a Constitutional Amendment passed by the people of Macon County, and should be returned to their owners. Judge Shashy also said, that the State has unevenly prosecuted the case with VictoryLand being the target, while others continue to operate unmolested.
General Strange has appealed the ruling to the State Supreme Court.
Spenser Collier, Secretary of ALEA the State’s unified law-enforcement agency, has made it clear, that he would not supply troopers for bingo raids.
If Strange wants to close VictoryLand a third time, he will have to began the process anew. No matter how the Supreme Court rules on Judge Shashy’s order, a scenario is now in place were VictoryLand can reopen, and the burden will fall to the Attorney General, not only to raid the bingo hall with his personnel, but also pick a fight with Bentley over who has the ultimate authority.
VictoryLand owner, Milton McGregor, said he hopes to be fully operational in January.