After having been closed for three years, the VictoryLand casino in Macon County will once again welcome patrons beginning on September 6, according to an announcement by Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.
In the press release on Saturday, Mayor Ford said that Luther Curry, the chairman of the Macon County Racing Commission informed him of the decision by the commission to allow the casino to reopen. The casino, located in Shorter, Alabama has been closed since 2013 when it was shut down by the state’s attorney general’s office and $263,000 in cash and 1,615 machines were seized. The closure has devastated Macon County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
Ford said in the press release, “I’m calling on all the people in Macon County to stand with (VictoryLand owner) Milton McGregor and make sure that when VictoryLand is opened on Sept. 6 that it stays open,” Ford states in the release. “(McGregor) promised that VictoryLand would reopen before the end of the summer, and Sept. 6 is good enough for us in Tuskegee/Macon County who have waited so long for our homegrown industry, which was illegally closed by (Alabama Attorney General) Luther Strange, to be reopened,” according to the report by the Montgomery Advertiser.
In February 2013 Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange sent investigators and state troopers to raid VictoryLand and to remove electronic bingo machines his office believed were illegal. Then in October last year, Alabama Circuit Judge William Shashy ruled that voters in Macon County who approved Amendment 744 in 2003 intended that electronic bingo be included in the legalization of all forms of bingo and that VictoryLand casino had been treated unfairly and singled out by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office for prosecution while other similar businesses remained open in the state. Following that ruling, in November, 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. Since then a handful of appeals and planned reopening dates have come and gone.
On April 19, a proposed amendment sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), which would once and for all clarify that Greenetrack in Greene County and VictoryLand would be within the law to operate electronic bingo machines was shot down in the Alabama senate. However, Gov. Bentley is expected to introduce a new bill which if successful would bring the lottery to the state. In addition, after coming to the realization that a number of senators would oppose the lottery legislation if the proposal did not include electronic gaming machines at dog tracks, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville decided to prepare a rival bill, which will include electronic lottery terminals and will allow video terminals to be installed at dog tracks in Greene County, Mobile, Macon County and Birmingham.
It’s not clear whether McGregor will reopen VictoryLand with the new video lottery terminals (VLT) or electronic bingo machines. McGregor said recently, that he’ll reopen with around 1,000 employees, down from the 2,000-plus the casino once employed, and a few hundred bingo machines.