A casino that closed almost three years ago reopened Tuesday with over 1,000 gaming machines. The resurgence of Victoryland is certain to reignite a long running controversy over the legality of electronic bingo machines.
Victoryland owner Milton McGregor told WSFA-TV the casino will open even though it has yet to win approval of a liquor license and amid the possibility it may, once again, be shut down by the state.
The development, including a high rise hotel, was closed in 2010 to avert raid by a task force authorized by former governor Bob Riley to enforce Alabama gambling laws. Other casinos forced to shut down include those in Houston, Lowndes, and Greene Counties.
Scaled back versions of those casinos, with retooled machines, later reopened but two of the three were shut down a second time and machines confiscated. Among them, Center Stage Alabama located about eight miles south of Dothan. Attorney General Luther Strange confiscated about 600 machines and $283,000 in cash in July from the development formerly known as Country Crossing. The legality of the seizure and subsequent forfeiture is being challenged in court.
McGregor promised he'd reopen Victoryland following his acquittal earlier this year on federal corruption charges. He and several others were accused of attempting to bribe lawmakers to secure votes in favor of a gambling bill that was ultimately defeated.
A liquor license sought for Victoryland has been challenged by Strange and the request shelved until members of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board can decide whether to issue it. McGregor surrendered his ABC license prior to closing Victoryland in an effort to keep state agents out of the casino.
Machines at Victoryland were deemed legal last week by Macon County Sheriff David Warren who had a private company inspect them. Voters, in 2003, approved a constitutional amendment allowing electronic bingo.
Attorney Joe Espy, who represents McGregor, dismissed notions that the machines do not meet the six point bingo test spelled out by the Alabama Supreme Court. Espy said Macon County's amendment is a separate matter than the one involving the now-defunct White Hall Gaming Center on whose games of chance the decision was based.
In its ruling, the state's highest court said a bingo player must mark a card and be able to verbally acknowledge they have won the game. Machines at Victoryland and other casinos, including those operated by the Porch Band of Creek Indians, have limited player interaction and appear not to meet the test.
Strange and others contend electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines. The attorney general hints he'll try to seize the ones at Victoryland.