Despite Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Victoryland casino reopens

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Despite an Alabama Supreme Court ruling which shut down its electronic bingo operations for nearly three years, the controversial VictoryLand casino reopened Tuesday.

Located in Shorter, the casino has been shuttered since 2013, when a raid by the state took 1,615 gambling machines and $260,000 in cash.

In March, the state’s Supreme Court said the casino owners were passing off games as “bingo,” ruling the machines illegal.

Last month, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor announced the state closure was illegal, and the casino would reopen.

“While it has taken longer than we hoped,” McGregor said in a statement, “the time is now here, and we are pleased that hundreds of our people will have a new job, and VictoryLand will be generating a badly needed shot in the arm for Tuskegee and this entire region of Alabama.”

McGregor, who greeted customers at the reopening, said he was not concerned that the state would raid the facility again.

“My only concern is taking care of the customers and doing what we want to do for the county and the surrounding area,” McGregor told AL.com. Macon County sheriff and district attorney both say the new machines are legal, he added.

The dispute stems from a long-running legal battle over electronic bingo machines, where some say look and feel like slot machines.

A ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court said electronic bingo machines are not covered by state laws governing traditional paper bingo games used for charities and fundraisers.

The electronic games are much like ones found in three casinos run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which are not under the state’s jurisdiction.

As for Tuesday’s grand reopening, New Canaan News reports that VictoryLand does not appear to be under any immediate legal threat from local law enforcement. In a statement last month, Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson said the machines are in compliance with state law.

In November, Gov. Robert Bentley rescinded an executive order disbanding his predecessor’s gambling task force, transferring enforcement powers to the state attorney general’s office.

According to Bentley, local officials should be the ones handling enforcement of gambling laws.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange also weighed in, saying past rulings of the Supreme Court have determined that “electronic bingo is illegal.”

Strange released this statement Tuesday: “The governor has expressly told the sheriff and district attorney in Macon County that they need to do their job and enforce state gambling laws. If those local officials are disregarding the governor’s order and facilitating illegal activity, then I expect the governor to take action. I stand ready to work with the Governor and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to stop illegal gambling and other crimes.”

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