Illegal gambling: State Supreme Court says ‘MegaSweeps’ must go

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

A unanimous Alabama Supreme Court ruling defining video sweepstakes games as illegal gambling devices will soon take effect in Dallas, Wilcox, Perry, Hale and Bibb counties, said District Attorney Michael Jackson on Wednesday.

“Within the next couple of weeks I’m going to send a memo out to all the sheriffs in our five county circuit telling them that if any gambling machines similar to the ones in Birmingham are operating in this circuit then the sheriff in that county needs to tell the people to shut it down,” Jackson said. “The gambling the Supreme Court voted on is illegal in our circuit.”

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On Dec. 1 the state’s highest court ruled the “MegaSweeps” video sweepstakes games at the Birmingham Race Course are illegal. The 8-0 decision reversed a January ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Scott Vowell, who concluded the games were not slot machines in disguise.

In an Associated Press report, Gov. Bob Riley praised the court’s ruling.

“These so-called sweepstakes machines are nothing more than dressed-up slot machines. It is time we rid Alabama of these illegal gambling operations, and I’m very pleased the Supreme Court agrees,” Riley said.

Jackson will wait 14 days before sending out the memos to law enforcement agencies, citing a re-hearing requested by Birmingham Race Course owner Milton McGregor.

McGregor argues the ruling will result in the loss of several jobs.

“I’m waiting a few days until they file a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court, but it’s not likely the Supreme Court will overturn the decision since it was unanimous,” he said.

Both Jackson and Lowndes County District Attorney John Andrews said the court opinion would not affect the White Hall Gaming Center located on U.S. Highway 80 – the result of a referendum.

“White Hall is different. The voters voted on whether they wanted gambling or not in their county. That’s totally different than a situation where people just start opening up gambling operations,” Jackson said.

But outside of White Hall, other gaming operations in Lowndes County should adhere to the court’s ruling.

“We had (a gaming operation) up there in Benton that was not done by referendum, but I guess they got a head start. On Wednesday they backed the truck up and pulled all the machines out,” Andrews said.