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Center Stage to give up some bingo games

Josh Moon

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Center Stage is giving up its electronic bingo operations.

Attorneys for the Houston County Economic Development Association (HEDA), which conducts the charitable bingo operation out of the Dothan-area casino, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement in the state’s lawsuit.

Marshall’s office sued Center Stage last year over its electronic games and “two-ball” table games, alleging that those games violated the state’s ban on gambling and did not meet the Alabama Supreme Court’s definition of traditional bingo.

HEDA on Thursday agreed to remove those games, but said in a statement that it will continue to offer traditional paper bingo. The statement from HEDA attorneys states that Center Stage does not expect layoffs because of the decision.

This is the second “illegal casino” that has agreed to close following Marshall’s surprise lawsuits against several entities allegedly offering illegal games. A Morgan County casino also closed last year.

But the lawsuits filed by Marshall have yet to take on the big three — casinos operating in Macon County (VictoryLand), Greene County (GreeneTrack) and Lowndes County (Southern Star, White Hall). Those three counties passed bingo amendments after the invention of electronic bingo, and voters in all three counties voted specifically to legalize the electronic machines.

The Alabama Supreme Court rewrote state law in order to make the electronic machines illegal, despite the federal government authorizing their use in Native American casinos. Marshall’s lawsuits would first have to go through county courts, where juries would be unlikely to find against the casinos — the main sources of jobs and county revenue.

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