MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange have asked local law enforcement officials to shut down newly reopened electronic gambling operations, including one at VictoryLand.
The governor and attorney general sent letters to the sheriff and district attorney in Macon and Lowndes counties asking them to stop “the continued operation of the illegal electronic bingo” at VictoryLand in Macon County and at White Hall and Southern Star casinos in Lowndes county.
“This is a violation of state law,” Strange and Bentley wrote in the Sept. 20 memo about the reopening of the casinos. “Electronic bingo has clearly been disallowed by Alabama case law as a form of lottery prohibited under Alabama’s Constitution,” they wrote.
Strange and Bentley asked the local law enforcement officials to provide a written description of their enforcement plans by Sept. 30.
James Anderson, an attorney representing Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, said the sheriff had not seen the letter, but planned to discuss the matter with the district attorney.
“Any court order the sheriff gets, he is going to obey,” Anderson said. Brunson said last month that he believes the machines are in compliance with state law.
A telephone message left for an attorney for VictoryLand was not immediately returned.
The letters are the latest development in the state’s long-running legal war over electronic bingo machines which resemble slot machines with their whirling displays, chimes and rapid-fire games. Casino owners have argued the computerized games play bingo — albeit at a rapid pace— and are allowed by state laws authorizing bingo in some locations. The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled in previous cases that the slot-like devices machines were not what was intended by state bingo laws, saying those authorized card and paper type bingo games as charity fundraisers.
Bentley said last year that he wanted to local officials to enforce gambling laws instead of the state, although local law enforcement officials have often taken a more favorable view of the operations. Bentley in November rescinded an earlier executive order he signed that disbanded the previous governor’s gambling task force and turned over enforcement to the attorney general’s office.
VictoryLand’s bingo operations had been shuttered since 2013, when the attorney general’s office seized 1,615 gambling machines and $260,000 in cash during a raid. The Alabama Supreme Court in March ruled the machines were illegal.
The casino reopened on Sept 13 to a large and enthusiastic crowd, with scores of cars lining up outside the facility east of Montgomery hours ahead of the doors swinging open.
The casino did not appear to be under any immediate legal threat at the reopening.
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor said at the reopening that the sheriff and district attorney have assured him the games are legal.
“While it has taken longer than we hoped, the time is now here and we are pleased that hundreds of our people will have a new job and VictoryLand will be generating a badly needed shot in the arm for Tuskegee and this entire region of Alabama,” McGregor said in a previous statement announcing the casino’s reopening.