VictoryLand Wins Court Battle in Alabama, Plans to Re-Open Its Casino
Milton McGregor is preparing to reopen VictoryLand’s gaming area after an Alabama judge said the state’s closure of its casino operators was discriminatory. Alabama Circuit Judge William Shashy used the term “cherry picking” to describe Alabama’s enforcement of its own gambling laws. The state shut down VictoryLand in 2013.
VictoryLand was operating 1,615 bingo machines on the racetrack’s ground when the state shut down the operation in 2013. The Alabama Attorney General’s office ordered the racetrack to surrender those 1600+ gaming machines as confiscated property. Alabama also seized $263,000 from the casino at the same time. The state said it was punishing VictoryLand for running an illegal gambling operation, in violation of a longstanding statute.
Judge William Shashy
Judge Shashy did not see it that way. Shashy cited “substantial evidence” that electronic bingo had been legalized in 2003 through a charity bingo amendment. The judge further cited that 1,798 electronic bingo machines are in operation in the state of Alabama at present. Those EGMs are located in a four casinos in Greene County, as well as two casinos in Lowndes County.
The judge filed a report supporting his findings. In that report, Shashy wrote, “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 opened or closed, and this court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment.”
45 Days to Reconcile Alabama’s Policies
In stating his ruling, William Shashy gave the state 45 days to initiate a shutdown of those 6 casinos in Greene and Lowndes counties. Its only other course of action would be to hand back to VictoryLand its 1600+ bingo machines and its $263 thousand in operating cash. Meanwhile, VictoryLand is free to continue to begin operating its bingo machines on the complex grounds.
WTVM News reports that the Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has filed a motion of appeal. Luther Strange also was quoted by the news report that Judge Shashy’s ruling is “very unusual” and “silly”. The Alabama AG says that the gaming machines used by VictoryLand are not bingo machines, but instead are slot machines.
Differences in Bingo Gaming and Slot Machines
U.S. federal gaming laws make a difference between bingo-style gaming machines and slot machines. Class II gaming machines use game mechanic similar to bingo, in which the gambler is playing against all other players in the field. If one bettor wins a jackpot, it means no other gambler has a chance to win the pot.
Class III gaming machines do not use the player-versus-player format. Instead, they use random number generators to arrange true randomness. If a player wins a jackpot, the next player would have the same chance of winning the jackpot.
Luther Strange’s Tactics
When Alabama’s Attorney General moved against VictoryLand in February 2013, the AG thought he had the bases covered from a legal standpoint. The same day, Alabama filed a lawsuit against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to keep them from operating gaming machines in Elmore County.
When the raid happened the same day as the lawsuit, it was reported that the two legal incidents were related. Governor Robert Bentley said at the time that it was unfair for one form of gaming machine to operate, if the other was not allowed. Joe Espy III, who represents VictoryLand, called the lawsuit a “smokescreen”.
Since that time, the fate of Milton McGregor’s gaming machine operation has been tied up in court. VictoryLand won a key ruling in June 25, 2015, but this week’s ruling is seen as the key moment in the process.
Governor vs. Attorney General
It is uncommon for a governor and his attorney general to have such a public disagreement, but it is not unheard-of. Brian Sandoval, the current governor of Nevada, has been critical of his attorney general, Adam Laxalt, because Mr. Laxalt has supported Restore America’s Wire Act. Since Nevada passed a law legalizing online poker, Gov. Sandoval felt it was not a good idea for the attorney general of Nevada to be against a law passed under the AG’s watch.