At least one Alabama casino isn’t giving up its legal fight to maintain its electronic bingo games after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the machines constitute illegal gambling.
Patrons at Victoryland Casino in Shorter, Al., play electronic bingo machines in September 2022. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last month that electronic bingo games are illegal in the state unless operated on tribal lands by a Native American community that is federally recognized. (Image: WIAT)
In a unanimous 7-0 decision published late last month, the Alabama Supreme Court sided with state Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) in his belief that the electronic bingo machines operating in Macon and Lowndes counties are prohibited by state law.
Voters in those two counties 25 years ago passed local ordinances allowing charitable gaming. Both counties are among the state’s poorest in terms of median household income.
Attorneys representing Victoryland, an electronic bingo casino in the town of Shorter in Macon, said the court ruling will result in the county’s largest employer being forced to lay off workers. The casino also claims that the many charities its bingo machines support will also pay the price of the Supreme Court verdict.
The White Hall Entertainment Center in White Hall and Southern Star Entertainment Center in Hayneville — both in Lowndes — are also impacted by the high court ruling.
Plea for Reconsideration
Alabama does not allow commercial casino gambling or tribal casinos with Las Vegas-style slot machines, table games, or sports betting. Only the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are legally allowed under federal and state laws to operate Class I and II gaming, which includes bingo-based games, on their sovereign lands.
The Alabama Supreme Court determined that the charitable gaming being played at the three commercial electronic bingo parlors in Macon and Lowndes are essentially illegal slot machines. Victoryland’s legal defense team has requested that the court reconsider its conclusion and not rush to a judgment.
Victoryland respectfully requests the opportunity to be heard by the Court on its motion to extend the time for the entry of preliminary injunction, which is warranted given the severe and catastrophic impact that will flow from the Court’s Opinion,” the application pleaded.
The bingo casino says it regularly supports 75 charities, including schools, churches, and first responders. Victoryland also says gaming at its property benefits county and city resources, including the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce, Tuskegee Housing Authority, and Macon County Health Care Authority.
Bingo Machine Misnomer
Marshall contends that the bingo terminals at the casino and entertainment centers should be called slot machines.
Under the current law of Alabama, there is no such thing as electronic bingo. These in fact are slot machines, and slot machines are illegal under Alabama law,” Marshall said previously.
In its September ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with Marshall. The court opined that Victoryland, White Hall, and Southern Star offer guests “illegal gambling activities.”
In its ruling, the state Supreme Court ordered lower circuit courts to necessitate the three businesses cease their electronic gaming machines within 30 days. Victoryland’s plea for reconsideration includes asking the court to grant a stay of its September ruling through at least Christmas.
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