Gaming devices will be destroyed

Published 1:02 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office obtained a final judgment for the State of Alabama regarding the execution of a search warrant at the White Hall casino in Lowndes County in 2009.

“The trial court ordered that the gambling devices seized at the White Hall casino in 2009 are to be destroyed pursuant to Alabama law,” Attorney General Luther Strange said. “This is exactly what the state has sought all along, and I am pleased that this controversy was successfully resolved in the courts.”

On Monday, the final judgment was made in a so-called “electronic bingo” case arising out of the execution of a search warrant at a Lowndes County casino.

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In 2009, pursuant to a warrant, the State seized over 100 so-called “electronic bingo” machines from the White Hall Entertainment Center, along with more than a half million dollars in cash proceeds from illegal gambling at the casino.

Suits against the state claimed the machines were legal “electronic bingo” machines and should not have been seized.

The state filed an action seeking forfeiture under an Alabama law that makes illegal gambling devices and illegal gambling proceeds forfeited to the State.

Earlier this year, Judge Robert Vance of the Jefferson County Circuit Court declared the seized money be forfeited to the State’s General Fund.

Monday, Vance declared that the illegal gambling devices be forfeited to the state as well.

After several years of litigation, four slot machine manufacturers “consented to the relief sought by the State,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The slot machine manufacturers were AGS, Inc., Eclipse Gaming, Inc., Bally Gaming, Inc., and Nova Gaming, LLC.

Vance ruled that “the state is entitled to the relief sought in the complaint, namely the forfeiture and condemnation of the ‘gambling devices’ identified therein. The state may promptly make the arrangements necessary for the destruction of such devices.”

Strange said that he was pleased with Vance’s decision to grant the state’s petition for forfeiture.

Strange also said he hoped Vance’s order would help end the attempts of organized gambling to bring illegal slot machines into the state.

“Since I took office, I have worked hard to end illegal gambling in an orderly fashion through the court system,” Strange said. “Today is a significant step in that direction. The slot-machine manufacturers’ willingness to consent to this forfeiture judgment should end this controversy once and for all, not only in Lowndes County, but throughout the state. There is no reasonable argument that these so-called ‘electronic bingo’ machines are legal anywhere in Alabama, and these manufacturers have effectively admitted as much by consenting to this judgment.”

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Robert Harris said whatever the judge ruled on the machines was between the owners and judge, but that he believed the money that was made at the gaming center should go back into the community in which it was derived from.

He said he was disappointed about the ruling regarding the legality of electronic bingo.

“I am definitely disappointed because we have less jobs now than we had before,” he said.  “We have less jobs than we had when the other casino, as well, was shut down. So, that just drives up our unemployment rate, and we’re struggling now to try to create jobs in the county so people can work.”

He said the county seems to be running into headwalls trying to get jobs into the county and not having people go outside the county to work.

White Hall Mayor James Walker declined to comment on the ruling, instead choosing to focus on the future.

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that’s closing we don’t see the one that’s open,” he said. “I am optimistic the facility will once again offer economic growth to our community.”

For three years White Hall Entertainment has been closed.  After three years of litigation with the State of Alabama, the owners have decided not to pursue reopening the business.

“My client and also our partner who supplied us with gaming machines, we all decided that this litigation was actually taking a toll on them financially,” attorney Collins Pettaway, Jr. said.