Alabama Renews Electronic Bingo Machines War with Local Casinos

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is suing five commercial casinos located in five different counties over their operation of electronic bingo machines. AG Marshall, who assumed office in February, said in a Wednesday statement that electronic bingo machines were illegal in the state and that it was his responsibility to ensure that laws preventing the illegal distribution of gambling services were exercised properly.

The five separate lawsuits are putting an end to a two-year period of relative piece between casinos and state officials. During that timespan, the gambling venues were able to operate electronic bingo machines on their gaming floors.

Las Vegas-style gambling is prohibited in Alabama. However, local casinos have claimed that the electronic bingo machines were operated under different principles and that despite their resemblance to slot machines, they should not be classified as such. Electronic bingo machines are indeed classified as Class II gaming devices under federal law, while slot machines are considered Class III devices.

However, the Alabama Supreme Court has issued multiple related rulings over the years that electronic bingo machines should be removed from casino premises as their operation breached state laws.

AG Marshall said in his Wednesday statement that the lawsuits were the result from prolonged investigations into the operations of the five casinos and that the venue’s owners were urged to close them as their provision of illegal gambling services presented “legal nuisance” to Alabama.

The state’s electronic bingo wars span back to 2009. As part of its previous attempts to end the operation of electronic bingo machines, the state raided the gambling venues and seized equipment and proceeds generated from the contentious machines.

AG Marshall has opted for a different approach this time. The official is suing the casinos, machine manufacturers and vendors, as well as authorities who had allowed the operation of the bingo devices across Alabama.

VictoryLand again under Fire

The five casinos currently sued by the Attorney General’s office are located in the Green, Macon, Lowndes, Houston, and Morgan countries in Alabama. VictoryLand in Macon County is one of the venues targeted by state officials.

The gambling venue was raided back in 2013 when 1,615 electronic bingo machines and $260,000 in gambling proceeds were seized. The venue was shuttered following the raid and was only allowed to reopen last September.

Prior to its closure, the casino featured gaming machines and a greyhound race track. It was a major employer of people from the host community and a tax contributor. According to Macon Country figures, the casino had generated more than $300 million in tax revenue over its years of operation.

VictoryLand first fell victim to the state’s crackdown on illegal gambling back in 2010, when it was forced to close doors. It was allowed to reopen for a very brief period of time and was shuttered again following the 2013 raid.

The casino as well as the other four gambling venues sued by Alabama’s current Attorney General may be forced to cease operations while a ruling is issued as the motions are revealed to be seeking preliminary injunctions.

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