Sheriff, expert say machines at VictoryLand play legal bingo, are not slots

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An expert hired by the Macon County sheriff said Wednesday that the machines at VictoryLand play electronic bingo, are not slot machines, and are legal in Macon County.

“I accept these machines as legal. How clear can it be that these machines play bingo?” Sheriff David Warren said Wednesday.

Macon County Sheriff David Warren, from left, his attorney James Anderson and BMM Compliance representative Rich Williamson present the electronic bingo machines as legal at Victoryland in Shorter on Wednesday. (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser)

Rich Williamson of BMM, which tests electronic gambling machines throughout the world, said “these games meet all the standards that are required for a device to be operable in this county.”

Williamson, who directed the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s testing laboratory for 22 years, demonstrated how the machines operate to the media and to local officials on Wednesday.

“These games are different from slot machines,” he said.

Williamson said the sheriff wants to ensure play is with a minimum of two players and, along with attorney James Anderson, who represents Warren, demonstrated the machines not working without at least two people playing. Also, he said, the reels and other entertainment have nothing to do with the outcome.

“You don’t need this part … The outcome of the game is on the bingo card,” Williamson said. He said the cards are not paper, but are electronic.

Anderson said some people cannot get past the appearance, but he compared it to a truck and said someone cannot tell if it is a diesel or gasoline vehicle without looking under the hood.

But Attorney General Luther Strange, former Gov. Bob Riley and some other officials believe the machines at VictoryLand and other casinos in the state are slot machines, which are illegal in the state. Strange, as VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and his attorneys have continued with plans to reopen the casino by the end of this month, has said he will enforce the rule of law in the state.

In a statement released Wednesday by his office, Strange said “my duty as attorney general is not to make the law. My duty is to enforce the law, as the Alabama Supreme Court has defined it.”

“Before I was elected to this office, the Supreme Court held that the ‘bingo’ game allowed by the local amendments to the Alabama Constitution is only the game ‘commonly known as bingo,’” Strange said. “The definition of this term ‘bingo,’ which is the language the Macon County amendment uses, does not include the slot machines that previously have been used at VictoryLand and other casinos. Since I took office, I have worked hard to enforce the Alabama Supreme Court’s decisions and to end illegal gambling in an orderly fashion through the court system. I will continue to enforce the rule of law in a consistent manner statewide.”

Anderson, when asked whether the machines met the requirements set by the Alabama Supreme Court in the Cornerstone case, said those requirements applied to Lowndes County, which he said had a faulty constitutional amendment. He said the court did not indicate whether or not electronic bingo could be played in the state.

“These are not slot machines. They cannot become slot machines,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Warren wanted to ensure that when VictoryLand reopened that there was no question the machines were legal and that they were playing bingo. The sheriff, by law, promulgates the rules in Macon County.

“This style of gambling, electronic bingo, it’s pretty wide spread,” Williamson said. He said there are about 80,000 units at about 250 locations in the United States. The machines have been around for about 20 years, Williamson said.

He said the style of machine is used “where bingo is permitted and slot machines are not.”

“It is bingo and it has passed many tests that it is bingo,” Williamson said

When asked if the machines are similar to those used at casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Williamson said “Yes, they work exactly like those games.”

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