Posted by Mark Wilder - email
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The state's largest casino, VictoryLand in Shorter, has reopened despite the possibility of a raid.
Milton McGregor, owner of the complex, closed the casino's 6,400 machines Feb. 1 and the entire complex Feb. 4 to prevent a raid. Two large casinos in Dothan and White Hall and about 15 smaller ones in Jefferson County also closed that week.
Victoryland reopened after surrendering its liquor license to the Alabama Beverage Control board at 9:05am. Without a liquor license, it will be harder for the Task Force to raid the complex without a search warrant.
The commander of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling, John Tyson, said McGregor can expect a visit at some point. Tyson has said the machines are illegal slots.
"If the machines are legal, then fine. If they are not legal, you can count on us to enforce the law," John Tyson Jr. said early Friday morning.
Tyson's task force tried to raid VictoryLand on Jan. 29, but was blocked by a court order that was later thrown out by the Alabama Supreme Court. At the time, Tyson and Gov. Bob Riley said what VictoryLand advertised as legal electronic bingo machines were really illegal slot machines.
"We're extremely thankful to be back in business," McGregor said in a statement early Friday morning.
McGregor's decision to reopen comes one day after the Macon County sheriff and district attorney watched a demonstration of the games by a gambling engineering expert. Sheriff David Warren and District Attorney E. Paul Jones declared the games legal electronic bingo.
Rich LaBrocca, director of lottery and bingo testing for Gaming Laboratories International in Lakewood, N.J., said the company certified the machines in December as operating with guidelines for electronic bingo that the Alabama Supreme Court set out in a case involving a closed casino in Lowndes County. He said there was no indication the machines had been changed since then.
Jones said Thursday he is preparing to ask a Macon County judge to rule on the legality of the machines. The governor sent Jones a letter questioning his authority to do that and saying that "could be viewed as interfering with the ongoing work of the task force as it battles illegal gambling in the state."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Here is the official statement from Victoryland about Friday's reopening:
VictoryLand Reopens Today
Shorter, Ala.— VictoryLand reopens today, Friday, March 5, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. with its largest venues, Quincy's Triple Seven and The Oasis Hotel, back in operation. Also opening today will be the Oasis Buffet & Restaurant, Luigi's Ice Cream Shoppe and LuLu's Gift Shoppe.
The majority of the remaining facilities will begin operating Monday, March 8, at 11:00 a.m. These include simulcast dog and horse racing with pari-mutual wagering, the Kennel Club restaurant, Willie's Cafe and the SportsBook Bar. Live greyhound racing will return Friday, March 19, at 7:35 p.m.
"We're extremely thankful to be back in business and owe a huge debt of gratitude to our many loyal supporters and patrons," said VictoryLand President Milton McGregor. "Our employees are enthusiastic about returning to their jobs and are looking forward to giving our customers the friendly, helpful service they've come to expect from us.
"This weekend is going to be a special occasion for us, and we invite everyone to come out and share it with us."
VictoryLand closed temporarily February 4, following an unsuccessful raid on the facilities ordered by Governor Bob Riley. As a result, some 1,800 VictoryLand employees were put out of work. The governor's continuing war on bingo led to the closing of other bingo establishments around the state, eventually leaving a total of 5,000 people without jobs.
McGregor extended special thanks to the VictoryLand employees. "During the layoff they did an amazing job of pulling together. They were especially helpful to those families facing dire financial hardship.
"What's more, they kept their faith in us and believed we were doing everything possible to bring about this reopening, which we were," said McGregor. "This is indeed a special time for all of us in the VictoryLand family."