MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Casino operators and attorneys lashed out Thursday at lawsuits filed by the state attorney general in the newest state effort try to shut down electronic gambling operations in Alabama.
The lawsuits by Attorney General Steve Marshall are the latest development in the state’s long-running legal battle over the slot machine-lookalikes whose spinning displays make them appear nearly identical to games at Las Vegas casinos and other places.
Casino representatives said the lawsuits threaten the jobs of the hundreds of people who work at the gambling establishments while the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which offer similar games, remain under no threat of closure.
“I think he is going to be find people in this state are outraged by this,” VictoryLand attorney Joe Espy said.
Greenetrack CEO Luther Winn said in a statement that the lawsuit jeopardizes the jobs of the more than 100 people employed there and questioned if political motives were involved.
“Marshall’s actions have real-life consequences. By his own hand, Marshall has now jeopardized the jobs of 115 mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers,” Winn said.
Marshall on Wednesday announced that civil lawsuits were filed in five counties.
“Through multiple rulings in recent years, the Alabama Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that electronic bingo and the use of slot machines are illegal in all Alabama counties. Therefore, we have taken action to hold accountable those who defy the laws of our state,” Marshall said.
Alabama law forbids casino games, such as slot machines, but allows bingo in some counties. Casino operators have argued the computerized machines play rapid-fire electronic bingo, and that the displays and chimes are only for ambience.
The lawsuits likely kick off an increasingly familiar legal battle where the litigation eventually winds upward to the state Supreme Court which has taken a dim view of the machines.
In 2013, the state seized 1,615 gambling machines and $260,000 in cash from VictoryLand during a raid. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last year that the machines were illegal and chided casino owners trying to masquerade the devices as “bingo.”
VictoryLand reopened last September with new machines.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians offers similar machines at its three casinos in Alabama. However, the federally recognized tribe is not under the jurisdiction of the state.