Lowndes residents favor ruling

Published 12:32 am Sunday, April 19, 2009

Citizens across Lowndes County are pleased with the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling to keep money and machines seized from the White Hall gaming center.

“I thought it was a good ruling because we don’t need gambling anyway,” said Bill McCurdy of Lowndesboro.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court granted Gov. Bob Riley’s request to stay an order issued in the Lowndes County Case by retired Justice Mark Kennedy. Kennedy’s order had required the governor’s task force to return more than 100 machines and more than $500,000 seized in a raid March 19.

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The governor’s office released a statement from the Concerned Citizens of Lowndes County condemned illegal slot machines and applauded the governor’s efforts.

“We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today regarding the law enforcement action taken by the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling at the White Hall gambling center,” the statement said. “A judge with no ties to gambling has no business hearing this case, and today the Supreme Court ruled that Judge Kennedy’s order should be stayed. Our ‘sweet home Alabama’ doesn’t need to be polluted with illegal gambling and Governor Riley and the Task Force should be allowed to continue their work to rid our state of illegal slot machines.”

Collins Pettaway, the gaming center’s attorney, said no illegal gambling occurs at White Hall.

“These concerned citizens are misguided,” Pettaway said. “If something is illegal, I’m against it myself. The machines in White Hall are not illegal.”

Pettaway said the stay could hinder White Hall’s day-to-day operations by allowing the Governor’s Task Force to potentially perform another raid.

“We didn’t want the task force bothering us as we operated,” he said.

Mayor Don Cooper of Benton said the task force should be allowed to monitor White Hall’s operations. He said he was glad to hear the stay would allow that, too.

“If you’re on the up and up, you shouldn’t be worried about someone coming in,” Cooper said.

McCurdy said it was time for action to be taken at White Hall.

“We always thought it was illegal anyway,” he said of the gaming center.

The White Hall gaming center, which sits 20 miles west of Montgomery, replaced some of the seized equipment and reopened March 31. While closed, officials said they lost $100,000 per day in revenue.

Cooper said while he did not know what the future holds for White Hall, he hopes the task force will continue to monitor the gaming center. The debate will continue for some time, he said.

“Ever since it has been in White Hall there’s been an ongoing discussion about whether that was a casino or not,” Cooper said. “I hope finally they’ll get to the bottom of the pretense under which that facility was established.”