In the long running saga of jobs and free enterprise versus mandated morality and the protection of the less fortunate (aka “State vs VictoryLand Casino“) Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order today relieving his Attorney General’s office of the responsibility and authority to enforce the state’s gambling laws. Now local authorities will bear the burden of interpreting and deciding whether or not to enforce laws that have been the subject of confusion and conflicting rulings in the lower courts, circuit courts, and in the venue of the Alabama Supreme Court.
The executive order rescinds the first executive order issued after Bentley assumed office in 2011, directing the attorney general’s office to continue to handle the quagmire.
The attorney general’s office was recently ordered to return machines and cash seized in a 2013 raid on VictoryLand unless the top cop made moves to close other “bingo casinos” within 45 days. Circuit Judge William Shashy had earlier refused a request of forfeiture from the state saying, “The State did not deny the existence of these casinos or the electronic bingo machines. Thus, the Court reiterates its ruling that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed, and this Court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment.”
The governor seemed to agree saying, “[T]he State of Alabama has expended immense resources for the enforcement of Alabama’s anti-gambling laws, to date, more than nine million dollars,” he wrote. “[R]ecent judicial rulings have raised concern with the unequal enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws, including gambling laws, against individuals and businesses.”
The 45 day deadline would be November 16th. The governor, as Chief Magistrate of the State of Alabama, had already suggested to Attorney General Luther Strange in January to “[D]irect primary enforcement of the State’s gambling laws to local law enforcement, which holds the primary duty to investigate and enforce the State’s criminal laws;”
Further concerns noted by the governor today included his desire both to limit additional State spending on enforcement of the State’s anti-gambling laws and to direct enforcement of them to local authorities.
According to the Greenfield Reporter, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said moments ago that he plans to proceed with litigation against VictoryLand despite the governor’s order. Strange said he had received assurances from a legal adviser to the governor that today’s executive order has no bearing on pending litigation. The AG’s office is appealing Judge Shashy’s ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court, who in a bizarre legal turn actually ordered a Macon County judge to issue the warrant resulting in the Shorter gaming facility being raided the last time, in 2013. The judge did so, “with the greatest judicial resistance.”
Judge Shashy was assigned to the VictoryLand case after all other judges in the facility’s circuit recused themselves.
According to blog.al.com today, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said in a statement, “The state and federal courts have now settled the question about whether or not we are going to have gaming — it is legal and it is here to stay. The question is whether or not we are going to allow the people to vote and use it to generate badly needed tax revenue and badly needed jobs. Governor Bentley has taken the bull by the horns on this issue and he has my full support,” Marsh said. “My priority, like the Governor, is making sure we have a job for every Alabamian. I look forward to the next Regular Session when the Senate and House will work together with the Governor to further this jobs agenda.”