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SHORTER, AL (WSFA) -
The reopening announcement Tuesday that Victoryland, a sprawling gaming complex along Interstate 85 in Macon County, is drawing cheers from local residents and officials.
But Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is not pleased, calling the move "disappointing" and saying Victoryland "has chosen the path of confrontation".
Victoryland owner Milton McGregor has been promising for some time to reopen the facility, and Tuesday morning his attorney, Joe Espy, made it official. The center will open at 2:00pm.
Espy released the following statement:
"I am proud to announce that VictoryLand will reopen today, December 18, at 2:00 PM. We welcome back all of our many loyal customers and friends who enjoyed the fun and entertainment Victoryland provided for more than seven years. The real winners today are the employees we've been able to rehire, the charities who need our financial support and all of the people of Macon County who will benefit from the tax dollars generated by VictoryLand. Pat and I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers and we look forward to seeing all our friends soon at VictoryLand."
Strange said McGregor's path of confrontation comes, "rather than accept our offer to prove their operations are legal in court." The attorney general's office contends that illegal gambling is a statewide problem and that the office will enforce law consistently across the state.
Victoryland was raided by former Governor Bob Riley's Illegal Gambling Task Force, but McGregor subsequently closed the facility in 2010 in order to keep its gaming machines from being seized. Victoryland gave up its liquor license in the process to keep the Task Force from using the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board's ability to inspect the facility.
The facility does not currently have a liquor license, though the process of obtaining one is under way. Strange's office is petitioning the ABC Board to deny the license. A hearing on the license is set for January 23, 2013.
Victoryland still has the liquor license for the parimuteul betting side of the facility, which never closed. Drinking is allowed there.
Victoryland's closure cost thousands of jobs in rural, poor Macon County and ended charity funding for some organizations. Residents and elected officials have been trying to get the county's largest employer to reopen ever since.
New electronic bingo machines, which McGregor says are totally legal, have been installed.
WSFA 12 News will continue to follow this developing story.