Casinos Close Over Raid Risks

A handful of casinos in Alabama recently closed their doors voluntarily over fears of raids by a state task force, and it’s unclear when they’ll reopen.

Times are tough for the VictoryLand, Country Crossing and White Hall casinos as the facilities wait for state legislators, and possibly voters, to weigh in on the legality of electronic bingo gaming machines.

The task force on illegal gambling reportedly began cracking down on such machines in state-regulated facilities last year, and until new legislation passes or courts issue a new ruling, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is prepared to keep his casino closed.

McGregor told the Montgomery Advertiser that besides the gaming areas of the casino, he opted to close the new Oasis Hotel, restaurants and bars in light of the raids, as those areas would not profit without the gaming component.

“The idea isn’t for them to make money. It’s to offer amenities to our customers,” he said. “It’s the same way Walmart will offer loss leaders to get people in. We are a gaming facility and all the other things, such as restaurants, lounges, hotels and the sports book area, they are just amenities. Gaming is the engine.”

McGregor also noted that following the raid threats, business dropped off immediately as patrons feared they may be arrested during such an event.

State legislators introduced a bill that would allow voters to decide in a Nov. 2 general election whether to allow electronic bingo at Country Crossing, White Hall, several dog tracks and other select locations throughout the state.

Meanwhile, Indian casinos in Alabama, which are federally regulated, have remained untouched during the raids to the chagrin of some officials and casino operators, the Press-Register reported.

“They just happen to be the lucky recipient of [a] monopoly that’s been created by the governor’s task force,” Country Crossing’s Ronnie Gilley told the paper. “The governor is not going to eliminate bingo … under any stretch of the imagination. He’s going to create monopolies for an untaxed industry.”

The Country Crossing entertainment complex in Dothan closed after the task force attempted to seize allegedly illegal bingo machines at the facility, forcing officials to shutter Jan. 29.

“Because of recent threats from the governor’s task force, Country Crossing has closed its doors to protect its employees and patrons,” according to a message on the facility’s Web site. “We are working diligently to solve the issue once and for all and will release more information as we move forward.”

Hundreds of employees have reportedly filed for unemployment as a result of the feud involving complex developer Ronnie Gilley and the Houston Economic Development Association and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.