Bingo battle: Judge hears from both sides' experts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A judge says he will rule quickly on whether the White Hall gambling center can reopen without the threat of another raid.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mark Kennedy wrapped up a two-day hearing Thursday in which the gambling hall sought a restraining order to prevent another raid if it reopens.

Governor Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling raided the White Hall center a week ago, seizing more than 100 machines and more than $500,000.

The center's attorneys told the judge it is losing about $100,000 a day in revenue while its doors are shuttered.

While Judge Kennedy's court will not decide the legality of the machines, it is hearing testimony on whether or not there is a substantial likelyhood that White Hall could win the case.

Both sides presented expert witnesses who, not surprisingly, gave starkly different opinions as to whether or not the seized machines were bingo or slot machines. A state expert said after an examination he believed all the machines were slot machines, while lawyers for the defense put forth an expert on bingo machines who said they were all bingo machines.

Task Force leader David Barber said," If it is bingo, if you're playing it on what' a slot machine that doesn't negate the fact that it's a slot machine."

An attorney for White Hall, Joe Espy, went after the state's expert saying, "They're so-called expert has said a coke machine is a slot machine, that toys being sold at Toys-R-Us is a slot machine and he testified in one case that a cabinet is a slot machine." Espy says he thinks the state has admitted on the stand that they are not slot machines.

White Hall lawyers contend bingo has moved into the 21 century where it can be played electronically. The state isn't budging from its stance that a machine that can be converted to a slot machine is a slot machine and therefore illegal in Alabama.

Judge Kennedy will recuse himself from the actual hearings, but will remain on the bench through the preliminary hearings. He has yet to make a ruling on the motion before him to reopen the White Hall gaming center.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. WSFA 12 News contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.)