By PHILLIP RAWLS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
Alabama’s attorney general issued a strong warning Tuesday after what was once was Alabama’s largest casino announced plans to reopen soon.
VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor plans to reopen his casino in Shorter by the end of the year, but it’s not yet clear how large the operation will be, said Joe Espy, McGregor’s attorney.
Espy said VictoryLand would use different machines than before because some machine manufacturers have an agreement with state Attorney General Luther Strange not to put their machines in the state.
VictoryLand, 15 miles east of Montgomery, was once the state’s largest casino with more than 6,000 machines. McGregor closed the casino in August 2010 during a state crackdown on gambling. McGregor called his machines legal electronic bingo, but some state officials labeled them illegal slot machines.
The attorney general said Circuit Judge Robert Vance made the law clear last week when he allowed the destruction of gambling machines seized in 2009 from a now-closed casino in the small Lowndes County town of White Hall.
“Judge Vance’s ruling last week in the Lowndes County case emphasized that there is no reasonable argument that so-called electronic bingo machines are legal anywhere in Alabama. Slot machines are illegal in all 67 counties, including Macon County. This office will enforce the rule of law accordingly,” he said in a statement.
Since closing its casino, hotel and restaurants during the crackdown, VictoryLand has continued to offer simulcast horse and dog races, along with a small food and liquor operation. But the simulcast races only use part of the sprawling facility.
Espy said VictoryLand planned to reopen its restaurants and other attractions in stages.
The announcement was good news to the mayor of nearby Tuskegee, where many former employees live. Mayor Johnny Ford said VictoryLand has already started taking job applications in anticipation of reopening.
Ford said he and other officials in Macon County would fight any effort by the attorney general to thwart the reopening because VictoryLand used to be the rural county’s largest employer and largest taxpayer.
“They are going to have to march over us,” he said.
A federal court jury acquitted McGregor in March on charges accusing him of bribing legislators to support pro-gambling legislation. After the verdict, McGregor said he intended to get back in business. Tuesday’s announcement was the first update since then.
Currently, Alabama has privately operated gambling machines Greene County and operations by the Poarch Creek Indians in Montgomery, Elmore and Escambia counties.