DA to collect video arcade machines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001

Butler County's district attorney has given notice to owners of video gambling machines: "get them out."

John Andrews, district attorney for the second judicial circuit, on Friday hand-delivered letters to establishments with the arcade devices, officially giving them a 14-day notice to remove the machines.

"These machines are prohibited by the laws of the State of Alabama," Andrews said in his letter.

In the letter, Andrews also cited the definition of a gambling device according to the Code of Alabama of 1975, in Title 13A-12-20(10).

"I understand the business owners' plights, many of them have put out a great deal of money for these machines," Andrews said. "But the laws have not been changed, and the machines must go."

Also in his letter, Andrews said misleading information has been provided to the businesses.

"Certain individuals who own, sell or lease these machines have misled local business people into believing that a 'stop button' on a slot machine and the giving of gift certificates bring slot machines and video poker machines into the protection of the 'Chuckie Cheese' exception (so-named for its reference to a restaurant and arcade chain for children, which limits prizes to an amount equal in value to less than $5) - this is absolutely incorrect," Andrews said.

The district also provided the following quotation from Alabama law.

"Slot machines and video poker machines are illegal in the State of Alabama, if they ultimately result in the player receiving 'something of value', this is defined as 'any money or property, any token, object or article exchangeable for money or property or any form of credit or promise directly or indirectly contemplating transfer of money or property or of any interest therein, or involving extension of a service entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge - Title 13A-12-20(11)."

"This also means gift certificates, or any other redeemable token for money of any amount resulting from the play of slot machine or video poker machine is not authorized by law," Andrews said.

"The law hasn't been changed; only the interpretation has been misunderstood," he said.

In the letter, Andrews also said he will take "appropriate measures" to enforce the law.

"If, after 14 days have expired, the machines have not been removed, I will be back - if in the City, I will bring the police chief, a truck and crew to seize and confiscate the machines, and arrest warrants for the owners of the establishments - if in the surrounding county, I will be bringing the sheriff," Andrews said.

"Several of the places we have been to today (Friday) have already removed the machines in anticipation of the efforts to have them eradicated from our state," Andrews said. "I understand it is not their (businesses) faults, but the law is clear, and must be enforced."

Andrews also said the action is not exclusive to Butler County and the City of Greenville.

"This action is being carried out in Lowndes and Crenshaw Counties also," Andrews said. "It affects the entire Second Judicial Circuit, of which I am responsible for upholding the law."