Manufacturers agree to remove bingo machinesPublished 10:41pm Friday, February 18, 2011
MONTGOMERY (AP) — The nation’s three largest manufacturers of gambling machines have agreed to remove thousands of their games from closed casinos across Alabama, which will empty out the Vegas-styled attractions that once drew visitors from neighboring states.
Attorney General Luther Strange said Friday he had reached an agreement with International Gaming Technology, Bally Technologies and Multimedia Games for them to begin removing their games next week from the electronic bingo casinos at VictoryLand in Shorter, Country Crossing in Dothan and White Hall Entertainment Center in Lowndes County. The agreement calls for them to complete the removal of all their machines within 60 days, he said.
Strange said two other manufacturers, Cadillac Jack and Hest Technology, have already picked up their machines. The manufacturers own the machines, which were being leased to the casino operators.
The machines have flashing lights and graphics similar to slot machines and have been the subject of long-running legal disputes, with casino developers saying they are a modern-day version of paper bingo and state attorneys arguing they are illegal slots. None of the Alabama casinos had table games like blackjack or poker.
VictoryLand attorney Mark White of Birmingham said Friday he had not seen the agreement between the attorney general and the manufacturers.
VictoryLand, 15 miles east of Montgomery, once operated the state’s largest casino, with 6,000 machines.
Country Crossing attorney Sam Cherry told the Dothan Eagle that developers felt their machines were legal, but cooperating with the attorney general will allow them to try to reopen in a few months with a new type of machine.
that more closely resembles traditional bingo.
Bally spokeswoman Laura Olson-Reyes said the Las Vegas-based company will remove more than 1,600 machines from Alabama and take them to other sites around the world.
“It has become clear that the properties in Alabama are not going to reopen anytime soon. In that case, it makes business sense to redeploy our assets elsewhere, and we are working with the Alabama attorney general to arrange for that in an orderly manner,” she said Friday.
The attorney general’s agreement does not affect the three Creek Indian casinos which are operating in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. They are under federal control rather than state control.
The casinos at VictoryLand, Country Crossing and White Hall Entertainment Center closed last year under pressure from former Gov. Bob Riley’s gambling task force, but the games remained inside while the casino owners fought legal battles to try to reopen. The owners of VictoryLand and Country Crossing are also fighting federal indictments accusing them of buying and selling votes on pro-gambling legislation.
Another large casino, Greenetrack in Eutaw, was not involved in the attorney general’s agreement because the task force seized all its machines in a raid last year.
When Gov. Robert Bentley replaced Riley in January, he turned over all the task force’s court cases to Strange.
The new Republican attorney general said he met with machine manufacturers and casino attorneys and offered them a chance to have their day in court to test the legality of the machines.
To do that, he would bring forfeiture actions against their equipment. Then a judge would rule on whether the machines are a legal version of bingo or illegal slot machines, which the task force and Strange contended. If the manufacturers lost, all their equipment could be destroyed.
The manufacturers didn’t warm up to that idea. Strange then told them that he intended to enforce Alabama gambling laws, but they would have “a window of opportunity” to remove their games. That’s when the big three manufacturers agreed to pack up.
Some court cases are still pending, including one in Greene County over the legality of Greenetrack’s machines, and some small manufacturers still have a few games at closed casinos.
But Strange said he hoped they would follow the lead of the big manufacturers.
“It is my hope that this action will put an end to the electronic bingo controversy that has engulfed our state for far too long,” he said.