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No electronic bingo, no problem for VictoryLand

After replacing the electronic bingo machines with historical horse racing machines, business at the venue has picked up.

Victoryland in Macon County, Alabama.
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The demise of Victoryland has been a bit exaggerated. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a press release on Tuesday touting a recent Macon County Circuit Court order effectively ending electronic bingo at the casino and racetrack. The order from the court was the final step – more of a paperwork issue than anything else – in a years-long legal battle over the legality of electronic bingo in the county. 

While there was nothing inaccurate in the release, some of the resulting media coverage appeared to put Victoryland on the doorstep of bankruptcy. 

The fact is the opposite is true.  

Victoryland officials had removed all electronic bingo machines months ago, following an opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court, and replaced them with historical horse racing machines – a pari-mutuel machine that uses previously run horse races to allow customers to place wagers. The pari-mutuel machines have been deemed legal by Alabama’s AG at facilities that possess a pari-mutuel gaming license, which Victoryland holds. 

“We followed the law months ago and moved to the HHR machines,” said Victoryland president Lewis Benefield. “Those machines are legal, pari-mutuel wagering according to opinions from the AG’s office, and we pay all the applicable taxes on the pari-mutuel wagering. Our business has picked up over the last few months.”

After some initial layoffs in January, while the casino changed out the machines, Benefield said Victoryland has hired 250 employees over the last month and that he’d “hire another 250 today if I could find the employees.”  

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The action by the court was part of a multi-lawsuit attack by Marshall on electronic bingo establishments around Alabama. He filed several nuisance lawsuits – against Victoryland, GreeneTrack and facilities in Lowndes County – with the goal of shuttering their electronic bingo casinos. 

Benefield said he disagreed with the idea that the machines are illegal in Macon County, but he said it was always his goal to follow the rule of law. 

“It’s a shame that we’ve had to go through this and take these hits while others across the state are still playing these same games,” Benefield said. “There’s a lot of illegal gaming going on in Jefferson and Greene counties, and really all over the state. But I notice that the three minority-owned businesses were the targets of the lawsuits.

“But we’re going to follow the laws and what the courts say, even if it is unfair to us. We’re going to be fine.”

A nuisance lawsuit is still pending against the former GreeneTrack location, although that establishment closed its doors several weeks ago. A new company has since reopened, but like Victoryland, has replaced electronic bingo with historical horse racing machines. 

It’s unclear what fate might await other locations in Greene County or other electronic bingo casinos in Jefferson and around the state. Marshall raided several of the Jefferson County locations earlier this year, but some of those have reopened.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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