On Thursday, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling issued in June 2015 and ruled against Milton McGregor’s VictoryLand in a forfeiture case. The high Court found that the raid conducted on the casino’s electronic bingo hall by the State of Alabama was within the law.
The decision was unanimous and allows the state to keep the approximately $260,000 in cash and destroy the more than 1,200 electronic bingo machines that were confiscated from VictoryLand in the 2013 raid. The written ruling left no doubt where the Court stands on the issue, stating that, “(Thursday’s) decision is the latest, and hopefully the last, chapter in the more than six years’ worth of attempts to defy the Alabama Constitution’s ban on ‘lotteries,’” the Court went on to say, “It is the latest, and hopefully the last, chapter in the ongoing saga of attempts to defy the clear and repeated holdings of this Court beginning in 2009 that electronic machines like those at issue here are not the ‘bingo’ referenced in local bingo amendments. All that is left is for the law of this State to be enforced,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
In its decision, the Court found that the application of an equal protection ruling in the case by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William Shashy was in error. The Supreme Court also disagreed with the assessment by Shashy that when Macon County voters passed a bingo referendum in 2003 they intended to approve electronic bingo. The Court stated that determining voter intent in a constitutional amendment was improper and all but impossible.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange praised the Supreme Court’s decision and said he considers the issue of electronic gambling to be complete. He went on to say that the job of ensuring that the law is properly enforced is now up to local authorities, the Governor, and ALEA. After Judge Shashy’s ruling in June, on November 9, the Supreme Court granted AG Strange’s request and blocked the order from the lower court stating the state must return the gambling machines seized from VictoryLand during the 2013 raid.
Thursday’s ruling far from settles the issue of electronic bingo, however. Currently, a bill that would clarify that voters in Greene and Macon counties did intend to vote for electronic bingo in 2003 when they passed bingo amendments, is working its way through the legislature. It also came as no surprise. After none would sign a warrant for the raid in question, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to issue the warrant. 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 from another circuit.
Last year, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order saying that gambling enforcement should be handled by district attorneys and local sheriffs, removing the power to police gambling from the AG’s office. Sheriffs in both counties have stated in no uncertain terms that they believe the types of games being played at casinos in their respective counties are included in the constitutional amendments the citizens passed.