- Legal States
Julie Moraine September 29, 2020 3 min read
Alabama’s Supreme Court Revives Electronic Bingo Lawsuits
The Alabama Supreme Court has sided with the state and asked for a restart of previously dismissed lawsuits by the state against Lowndes County and Macon County electronic gambling casinos.
Alabama Supreme Court Restarts Wrongfully Dismissed Lawsuits against Casinos
Electronic gambling casinos are coming under the cross-hair of the law once again. On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that judges in Lowndes County and Macon County have wrongfully dismissed the lawsuits aimed at shutting down the gambling properties in each county.
According to the Supreme Court, the lawsuits filed by Attorney General Steve Marshall back in 2017 must continue. At the time, Marshall argued that electronic bingo games at Victoryland and other casino properties were operating illegal slot machines and had to be suspended immediately.
However, Marshall’s lawsuit was met with a snag when it reached circuit court judges in Lowndes and Macon, with both courts dismissing the lawsuits at the behest of defendants. At the time, the courts motivated their decision with the lack of action against the Poarch Band of Greek Indians casinos in Wetumpka and Montgomery.
More importantly, the courts held hearings at the request of defendants but didn’t offer the same opportunities to the state to deliver arguments for why the lawsuits were necessary in the first place.
What’s Next for Casinos in Alabama and How Would They Be Affected?
According to Victoryland attorney Joe Espy, the state will now have the opportunity to argue its case in court, but that won’t affect the operations of casinos immediately. He explained that the previous decision to dismiss the state’s case without a hearing had prompted the Supreme Court to reverse that decision.
“The case at some point will be set for further hearings, and then we’ll proceed,” Espy added. Counties with approved video bingo amendments and the states have been litigating for years.
The state argues that electronic bingo machines are reminiscent of video slots, and they are, in fact, video slots and should be treated as such by law. According to sources, the Alabama Supreme Court unofficially sides with the state’s view of electronic bingo.
Are Poarch Creeks’ Casinos a Public Nuisance?
However, opponents to the state’s decision have argued that it was wrongful of lawmakers to try and dismiss video bingo as slots since the state was selectively omitting Poarch Creeks’ casinos in the lawsuit.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court argued that there was no need for the state to bring up the same charges against the Poarch Creeks-owned casinos.
Interestingly, Marshall’s predecessor, Attorney General Luther Strange, did bring a case against the tribal operators in 2013, arguing that they were a “public nuisance.” Strange argued that the casinos were providing the public with slots machines in the form of electronic bingo.
His case was dismissed in 2015 but then renewed in 2019. Meanwhile, Marshall has proven adamant in his resolve to suspend what he considers illegal operations. Here is what he added:
“For too long, these individuals, businesses, and even elected officials have flagrantly violated Alabama’s laws. Today’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is an important victory for the rule of law. We will now move forward to uphold the State’s laws and provide justice for the people of Alabama.”
It all points that Marshall will look to quickly revive the lawsuits and bring them to court where a new round of hearings will be set. At the same time, Alabama is planning an expansion of its existing gambling framework.