Authorities seizing machines at White Hall

Published 12:14 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

WHITE HALL — ABI and Lowndes County Sheriff’s deputies are confiscating around 200 gaming machines and hundreds of thousands of dollars Thursday, according to authorities.

Governor Bob Riley’s press secretary Todd Stacy said the raid was part of the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling.

“The governor’s task force on illegal gambling conducted a raid on a facility in Whitehall suspected of using slot machines,” Stacy said. “The initial investigation shows the task force will confiscate around 200 slot machines and hundred of thousands of dollars of cash.”

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Stacy said the process should take nearly all day.

STJ Managing Editor George Jones said David Barber, who heads the governor’s task force. told reporters on the scene that officers with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation had taken one machine so far. Barber said the task force would not take all the machines because there are more than 900 in the gaming center. Instead, the force will take at least one of every type of machine.

Jones said he saw rental trucks pulling into the gaming center’s parking lot shortly before noon. More than 100 people are employed at White Hall Gaming Center.

Whitehall Entertainment, 6999 U.S. Highway 80, is part of a crack down on illegal slot machines being used in Alabama, Stacy said.

“Last year due to the fact that so called bingo halls all over the state used slot machines, Gov. Riley said enough is enough,” he said. “Unfortunately the laws had not been really enforced in the state before, but now we are cracking down on violators.”

In a press release from Jan. 11, Gov. Bob Riley announced his campaign on illegal gambling.

He cited two cases, which ruled gaming machines that appear to be slot machines illegal.

“Well, the Alabama Supreme Court has already ruled that slot machine gambling, no matter if it’s called “bingo” or something else, is illegal (Barber v. Jefferson County Racing Association, 2006),” he said. “After this ruling, another court ruled specifically that electronic bingo was an illegal slot machine (VFW v. Green, 2008).”

Stacy said a press conference will be held Friday morning in Montgomery to notify the public of the exact findings from the Whitehall raid.

In Riley’s Jan. 11 press release he pointed to the past votes where Alabama residents have voted down gambling in the state.

“The people of Alabama have spoken time and again about gambling, he said. “Every time its expansion has been brought before all the voters, they have overwhelmingly rejected it. What the people want is for our laws against gambling to be uniformly enforced. With the help of this task force, our local law enforcement officers will have the help they need to consistently enforce these laws throughout the state.”