On Friday Alabama Circuit Judge William Shashy ordered the state to return 1,615 gaming machines and $260,000 in cash that it seized from the nation’s largest bingo casino in a 2013 raid on VictoryLand unless authorities take action to close all other bingo casinos within 45 days.
The judge ruled in June while denying the state’s request for forfeiture of the assets, that VictoryLand had been treated unfairly and singled out for enforcement actions while other similar businesses remained open in the state.
VictoryLand owner, Milton McGregor said in a statement, “Victoryland’s resurrection will mean jobs for thousands of Alabamians – and not just in Macon County. The ruling is a victory for communities across east Alabama.”
In Friday’s order the judge stated six other bingo casinos were operating in Greene and Lowndes counties, each with between 148 to 418 machines.
Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement,“We strongly disagree with the judge’s rulings in the VictoryLand case,” he added, “After the judge’s initial ruling in June, we filed an appeal that was stayed pending today’s decision. As we have done in previous cases, we are appealing the ruling and will be guided by the Supreme Court,” Strange said.
The state, under various administrations has been in a long-running battle to eradicate electronic bingo machines, which it contends are illegal. Several counties, including Macon County where Victoryland is located have passed constitutional amendments allowing bingo games. Macon’s referendum passed by an overwhelming majority in 2003, and McGregor’s lawyer argues that the law includes electronic bingo like the games on offer at VictoryLand until the casino and hotel were shuttered by the 2013 raid. The only betting still taking place at the state’s formerly largest “casino” is simulcast race betting.
“Today’s ruling clears the way for Victoryland to reopen and to fulfill the wishes of those voters,” said McGregor.
In the past the state has raided several establishments and attempted to shut down tribal casinos run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka by lawsuit. Those actions were dismissed by the courts who ruled that tribal lands are not under the state’s jurisdiction.