State lawsuit against casinos reinstated

Published 12:19 pm Friday, October 2, 2020

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Casinos in Lowndes and Macon counties could be at risk of closing once again.

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced last Friday that the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Alabama, allowing its litigation to proceed against electronic gambling machines in Macon and Lowndes counties.

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The Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings to dismiss the Attorney General’s lawsuits against Epic Tech Inc., doing business in Lowndes County and Macon County; White Hall Entertainment, Southern Star Casino and the Town of White Hall in Lowndes County; and Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson and Victoryland Casino in Macon County.

Attorney General Marshall’s lawsuits asserted that the electronic gambling operations in Lowndes and Macon Counties use illegal slot machines and thus are unlawful gambling activities.

Marshall sought court orders to have these slot machines deemed an illegal public nuisance back in 2019; however, the cases were dismissed by the Lowndes and Macon County circuit courts. The AG appealed these dismissals.

On Friday, Marshall made it clear where he stands on the issue.

“For too long, these individuals, businesses, and even elected officials have flagrantly violated Alabama’s laws,” Marshall said. “Today’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is an important victory for the rule of law. We will now move forward to uphold the State’s laws and provide justice for the people of Alabama.”

But where do the people of White Hall stand on the issue? For town of some 1,000 residents and a poverty rate of 31.7 percent, electronic gambling could bring a much-needed boost to the economy – at least that’s what Viola McBride, employee at White Hall entertainment, believes.

“I saw what happened this past Friday and I just don’t agree with it all,” McBride said. “Both our casinos employ so many people from this town. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have them anymore.”

Lowndes County had an August unemployment rate of 13.8 percent, second only to Wilcox County.

White Hall Mayor Elizabeth Davis said she didn’t have a lot of information about the litigation.

“I don’t really know a whole lot about situation,” Davis said. “I’m leaving office in November so that’s going to be an issue that the next mayor is going to have to deal with.”

Davis also had a different opinion on the economic impact that the casinos bring to the area.

“As far as I know, we haven’t really benefited much from them,” Davis said. “I don’t think it’s that great of a source of income.”

The cases will return to the Lowndes and Macon County circuit courts for further proceedings in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Attorney General Marshall said his office will seek injunctions to permanently halt the illegal gambling practices by these entities.