Govenor’s task force seizes Greenetrack bingo machines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The governor’s gambling task force seized more than 800 electronic bingo machines at the Greenetrack casino Tuesday after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for state police to act.

A Greene County judge later ordered state troopers to return the equipment to the casino, prompting the task force to go back to the Supreme Court seeking to get that order vacated, too. The justices did not immediately rule.

Task Force Commander John Tyson said one person was arrested for trying to interfere with the state troopers’ assignment to inspect and secure the machines, which Tyson views as illegal slots. He said a crowd at the casino did not present any problems that Alabama Public Safety Director Christopher Murphy could not handle.

With the closing of Greenetrack, the only non-Indian casino still operating in Alabama is Victoryland in Macon County, the state’s largest with some 6,000 machines. Gov. Bob Riley’s task force is challenging a ruling by a judge in Macon County that bars any raid of Victoryland.

Tyson said he hopes the Alabama Supreme Court will rule in that case soon.

The justices issued an order late Monday that struck down Greene County Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway’s June 4 order that had prohibited any raid at Greenetrack. That order allowed 822 machines to operate at Greenetrack pending a hearing in his court.

The Alabama Supreme Court, however, vacated the June 4 order, ruling that the judge had no jurisdiction to stop law enforcement from carrying out its duties. Hardaway, however, issued a second order Monday afternoon for the machines to be returned to Greenetrack.

There had been concern that any raid at Greenetrack might be resisted, due to vocal opposition to the governor’s task force and anger that a shutdown would cost jobs in the rural, poor county. But the Greene County sheriff who opposed any raid, Ison Thomas, died in April and has been replaced by Riley’s choice, George Cook.

Cook’s office said he was at Greenetrack and not available for comment. The Greene County Commission is challenging his appointment in court.

Instead of bringing 100 state police to the casino, as the task force did in earlier raid attempts that drew criticism, a small unit of 10 state police was dispatched Tuesday about 8:30 a.m., task force officials said. Tyson said the “low-key approach” went smoothly. An attorney for the casino, John Bolton, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Pressure from the task force has led other casinos, including the bingo operation at the Country Crossing entertainment center at Dothan, to close voluntarily. The Creek Indian casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka, which also offer electronic bingo machines, are under federal control and not regulated by the state.