Developers hoped to make Macon County a major gaming destination

Published: May. 15, 2012 at 8:57 PM CDT|Updated: May. 25, 2012 at 8:57 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On the sixth day of testimony in the Macon County Casino civil trial, potential Lucky Palace Developers explained that they hoped to turn Macon County into a destination for gaming similar to Tunica, Mississippi.

Lucky Palace President Paul Bracy Jr. wrapped up his third day on the stand early Tuesday morning. Following Bracy on the stand was Silver Slipper CEO Paul Alanis. Silver Slipper was a company Lucky Palace had been interested in contracting with to assist in developing and managing the casino.

Alanis was intended to testify as to his experience in developing and building other casinos as well as his work with Bracy and investor Jess Ravich on the Lucky Palace project.

Alanis explained his past work with the development of some of his casino projects. Those projects include casinos in Tunica as well as various parts of the U.S. Alanis even did some work with Southern Star Casino in Lowndes County in his capacity as the CEO of Silver Slipper.

He testified that Jess Ravich, a Lucky Palace investor and a friend of his approached him about working with Paul Bracy Jr. on the Lucky Palace project. A contract was drafted for Silver Slipper to assist in the development and management of Lucky Palace. Alanis had experience with working with larger corporations and helped Bracy develop Lucky Palace as a Planet Hollywood Casino.

"I tried to move [the project] forward," explained Alanis. "I thought I could help keep the budget reasonable and get it done quickly."

Alanis said he viewed Macon County as a great opportunity and location to open a venture like Lucky Palace.

"I wasn't interested in getting into a project that would be an uphill battle. Looking at how well other Alabama facilities were doing, I thought we could get involved," testified Alanis.

He told the court he toured the nearby facilities including the Native American facilities and even VictoryLand itself. Alanis discussed with Ravich that the Macon County area, especially with its proximity to Atlanta, had a "high propensity" towards gaming. Alanis told the court he thought Lucky Palace, along with VictoryLand, could be part of a "cluster effect" that would draw large groups of people to a number of facilities. In this way there would be competition, but the facilities would also play off of each other. This would essentially turn Macon County into the electronic bingo "Tunica of Alabama."

Alanis told the court that in his experience, a casino the size of Lucky Palace would take 15 months to build - three months to complete the site work and a year to 'go vertical' and construct the facility.

Alanis explained that this plan never happened. He testified that because of issues with cooperation from Macon County Sheriff David Warren, investors, including Ravich, were wary of releasing money to start work on the facility site without the guarantee of Class B bingo licenses for charities associated with Lucky Palace.

"You can't get the financing [without the approval] and it would be foolhardy to give money without the approval," explained Alanis. "You need to have the approvals to move forward and build and certainly to get the financing."

Alanis understood that the lenders wanted to be certain that should they lend the money, the building would open as a casino and not as a bowling alley.

Alanis cited the process used in Mississippi to obtain a casino license.

"In most states you have a hearing," he explained. "At the hearing you're granted a permit. When you begin the process of construction, if you follow the conditions it's understood that the actual license would be forthcoming after inspection."

Alanis explained that he only read the first rules briefly - he was never made aware of any changes in those rules while he was working on the project.

Following Alanis on the stand was attorney Stan Gregory. Gregory works for the Bradley, Arant law firm out of Birmingham. Gregory was contacted on behalf of attorney Bobby Segall and his client Frank Thomas who was also looking at constructing an electronic bingo facility in Macon County.

Gregory testified that he drafted what was meant to be an additional amendment to the rules that Thomas and Bracy would have wanted to submit to Sheriff Warren. The language added included the ability to get a "build-out letter" as a pre-qualification to approving Class B bingo licenses. Gregory added that it was perfectly common for other parties to draft rules and regulations for consideration. His testimony was brought in to demonstrate that Lucky Palace was working to alter the rules for its own specific venture. Bracy told the court last week that he had no knowledge of the involvement of Thomas or Segall.

Lucky Palace investor Jess Ravich finished the day on the witness stand detailing his involvement in the project. During opening statements, McGregor's attorneys described Ravich as "the guy behind this litigation." Ravich's testimony will stretch into Wednesday.

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