AG takes on PCI, VictoryLand

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Locals: It’s a waste of resources; takes away many jobs

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange took two stabs at stopping what he calls illegal gaming in Alabama on Tuesday – a move that is being met with disagreement from many Star-News followers.

Strange first filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Elmore County, halting the operation of slot machines at casinos owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The lawsuit alleges that the Poarch Band is “operating, advancing and profiting from unlawful gambling activity at the Creek Casino in Wetumpka, the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, and the Creek Casino in Montgomery in violation of Article IV, Section 65 of the Alabama Constitution (1901) and Ala. Code § 13A-12-20 et seq.”

Strange said that he decided to file the lawsuit after his other efforts to stop the Poarch Tribe’s gambling activities failed and because state officers cannot seize gambling devices on Indian land.

“Unlawful gambling is a statewide problem, and I have worked with local authorities to enforce Alabama law consistently and fairly throughout the state,” Strange said. “I have sent two letters to the National Indian Gaming Commission, asking them to stop the Poarch Band’s unlawful gambling, but the Commission has refused to do anything about it. The Commission’s inaction has left me with no choice but to file this lawsuit.”

Strange sent letters to the National Indian Gaming Commission on Feb. 11, 2011, and again on April 25, 2012, which asked the Commission to take action against the Poarch Tribe.

Secondly, Strange announced that a search warrant was served Tuesday at VictoryLand casino in Macon County. The casino had recently reopened in December.

Strange said that the months of investigation found that VictoryLand’s electronic bingo machines are illegal under state law.

Law enforcement seized several hundred gambling machines and an undisclosed amount of cash from VictoryLand. These machines, along with the seized money, will be held as evidence and will be subject to a forfeiture procedure in the Circuit Court of Macon County.

VictoryLand Attorney Joe Espy maintained, “No court and no expert have ever ruled that the machines used at VictoryLand are illegal gaming devices.”

Many Alabamians, including several Star-News’ Facebook friends, called the actions “a waste of taxpayer money.”

“First off, he is just wasting all of our hard-earned tax dollars and time,” said Elizabeth Hughes. “Secondly, Poarch has worked and fought really hard to get where they are today.”

Patrick Broder said he’s not a gambler, but “I find it absolutely unimaginable that any resources are going toward shutting down slot machines. It’s pretty bad when Mississippi LOLs at Alabama.”

For others like Michael Szczekot, the importance lies with taking jobs away.

“These casinos provide jobs and generate revenue for the state,” he said. “If the casino is against your faith, simply don’t go.”

Several “friends” were upset that if Strange were successful in his suit, that more money would leave Alabama.

“It is a joke,” Beth Bullard-Simpson said. “So again, our money will be going to our neighboring states.”

Marilyn Denson said she thinks the casinos should be left alone or the state should “get the lottery.”