Updated: Court orders that gambling machines be destroyed

Published 10:27 pm Monday, November 26, 2012

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

“Today the trial court ordered that the gambling devices seized at the White Hall casino in 2009 are to be destroyed pursuant to Alabama law,” Attorney General Strange said in a press release on Monday.

“This is exactly what the State has sought all along, and I am pleased that this controversy was successfully resolved in the courts,” he said.

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On Monday, the Attorney General’s Office obtained a final judgment for the State of Alabama in a so-called “electronic bingo” case arising out of the execution of a search warrant at a Lowndes County casino.

Earlier this year, Judge Robert Vance of the Jefferson County Circuit Court declared the seized money forfeited to the State’s General Fund.

Monday, Vance declared that the illegal gambling devices be forfeited to the State as well.

After several years of litigation, four slot machine manufacturers “consented to the relief sought by the State,” the attorney general’s office reported.

The slot machine manufacturers were AGS, Inc., Eclipse Gaming, Inc., Bally Gaming, Inc., and Nova Gaming, LLC.

Judge Vance held that “the State is entitled to the relief sought in the complaint, namely the forfeiture and condemnation of the ‘Gambling Devices’ identified therein. The State may promptly make the arrangements necessary for the destruction of such devices.”

Attorney General Strange said that he was pleased with Judge Vance’s decision to grant the State’s petition for forfeiture.

“The over half million dollars seized at the White Hall casino was previously ordered by the court to be forfeited to the State of Alabama’s General Fund,” said Attorney General Strange.

Attorney General Strange also stated that he hoped Judge Vance’s order would help end the attempts of organized gambling to bring illegal slot machines into the State.

“Since I took Office, I have worked hard to end illegal gambling in an orderly fashion through the court system. Today is a significant step in that direction. The slot-machine manufacturers’ willingness to consent to this forfeiture judgment should end this controversy once and for all, not only in Lowndes County, but throughout the State,” Attorney General Strange said. “There is no reasonable argument that these so-called ‘electronic bingo’ machines are legal anywhere in Alabama, and these manufacturers have effectively admitted as much by consenting to this judgment.”

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Robert Harris said whatever the judge ruled on the machines was between the owners and judge, “but we think that the money that was made off of it should go back into the community in which it was derived from.”

He said he was disappointed about the ruling regarding the legality of electronic bingo.

“I am definitely disappointed because we have less jobs now than we had before. We have less jobs than we had when the other casino, as well, was shut down. So, that just drives up our unemployment rate, and we’re struggling now to try to create jobs in the county so people can work,” Harris said.

He said the county seems to be running into headwalls trying to get jobs into the county and not having people go outside the county to work.

“I don’t have a comment on the owners’ decision they reached with the state,” said White Hall Mayor James Walker.

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that’s closing we don’t see the one that’s open,” he said. “I am optimistic the facility will once again offer economic growth to our community.”

In 2009, pursuant to a warrant, the State seized over 100 so-called “electronic bingo” machines from the White Hall Entertainment Center, along with more than a half million dollars in cash proceeds from illegal gambling at the casino.

The State then filed an action seeking their forfeiture under an Alabama law that makes illegal gambling devices and illegal gambling proceeds forfeited to the State.