A struggle over constitutional powers may ensue in Alabama as various government entities sort out the legality of bingo and bingo-like games in the state – with a likely result being a change in law or appeals to even higher courts. On Monday the Alabama Supreme Court granted Attorney General Luther Strange’s request to stay an order from a circuit court judge that said the state must return assets seized from VictoryLand during a 2013 raid on the popular Macon County racetrack and electronic bingo facility.
For now, the stay allows the state to keep control of the 1,615 electronic bingo machines and about $260,000 in cash, due to be returned by November 16th, until the high court can rule on the AG’s appeal filed in response to Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy dismissing their case against VictoryLand.
“The high court’s decision will prevent the release of all illegal electronic bingo machines seized at VictoryLand until the Supreme Court is able to rule on the state’s appeal,” Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement about the high court’s decision. “It is important that the case be allowed to progress through the entire judicial process so the legality of electronic bingo at VictoryLand can be settled once and for all,” Strange said.
Throughout the course of several governor’s tenures, including mandated task forces assembled to shut down the practice of electronic bingo gaming in the state, some law enforcement officials in Alabama have contended that the slot-like machines are illegal. Others. mostly county sheriffs and district attorneys, have determined they are legal. The Supreme Court ruling comes as no surprise to some as the body actually forced a lower court judge to sign search warrants related to the 2013 raid on VictoryLand. The judge did so “with the greatest judicial resistance.” Further action saw every judge in the circuit recuse themselves from proceedings and Judge Shashy was eventually appointed to the case.
Last week Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued an executive order instructing the AG’s office to leave enforcement of the state’s gambling laws up to local officials, but many legal experts have argued that it would be a violation of the separation of powers for the Governor to make the order more than a suggestion.
The attorney general’s office has said that they have consulted with legal advisers inside the governors administration and that the order has no effect on current litigation. Former task force commander, John Tyson told al.com last week, “There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind and more importantly in the mind of the Alabama Supreme Court that electronic bingo is illegal and the slot machines used to play it are illegal and if somebody does that and local law enforcement entities don’t move to stop it, then Luther Strange will,” Tyson said. “I don’t think for a moment the governor’s executive order prevents that or could. And I don’t think the governor would seek to prevent the enforcement of the law.”