Macon County-based Victoryland Casino was forced to part ways with several hundred employees when it ceased its electronic bingo games earlier in January due to a court order, as announced by the casino’s president Dr. Lewis Benefield.
As Dr. Benefield shared, the venue is hoping to replace its lost business by adding new machines that would allow the casino patrons to bet on so-called historical horse races. Betting on the simulcast of greyhound and horse races held in other US states or countries would remain available. He further reminded that the Birmingham Race Course, to which he is also president, has already offered betting on historical horse races for a few years, along with the simulcast options.
As far as electronic bingo is concerned, he explained that the long-time dispute between the state and Victoryland Casino regarding the legality of the aforementioned games is through, or at least for the time being. For more than 10 years, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that the historical horse racing constituted illegal slot machines and not bingo. As a result, the bingo operations of Victoryland Casino have been shut and resumed more than once following the enforcement efforts of the office of the state attorney general.
Alabama Lawmakers Still Making Efforts to Expand the State’s Legal Gambling Sector
Most forms of gambling and lotteries are currently banned under the provisions of the Alabama Constitution, with the local Legislature and voters having previously approved a limited number of exceptions.
In the 1970s and 1980s, local lawmakers gave their approval to pieces of legislation allowing pari-mutuel live and simulcast betting on greyhound and horse racing in the counties of Jefferson, Greene, Macon, and Mobile.
In 2003, the voters in Macon County gave the green light to a constitutional amendment seeking to allow bingo, and, according to Dr. Benefield, the intent of the amendment involved electronic bingo. At the time, 76% of the county voters supported the proposal. However, the Alabama Supreme Court has described bingo only as the conventional paper form of the game, with electronic bingo machines, pretty much resemble slot machines when it comes to looks and operation, being defined as illegal gambling devices.
Most recently, on September 30th, 2022, the state’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that resulted in the discontinuation of electronic bingo at Lowndes County-based White Hall Entertainment and Southern Star casinos, and at Macon County-based Victoryland Casino.
On the other hand, electronic bingo is offered by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ casinos in Montgomery, Atmore, and Wetumpka. Former Attorney General of the state, Luther Strange, sought to have those games ceased about 10 ago, but the federal court put an end to his effort by ruling that the state had no jurisdiction over the tribe’s reservation lands.
Dr. Benefield now remains hopeful that the Alabama Legislature will still give its approval to a constitutional amendment seeking a lottery, casinos and the establishment of a gambling regulatory body similar to the one that was previously proposed by some lawmakers but the bills have been unsuccessful. Alabama voters would have the final word on the proposed changes in case the Legislature approved the proposal. For the time being, it remains unclear how much support the bill will have during the upcoming legislative session that is set to begin on March 7th.