In yet another expensive legal-political lap more futile than those greyhounds’ pursuit of that mechanical rabbit, Alabama authorities are again going after VictoryLand, the racetrack and casino in Macon County.
Apparently not quite enough Alabama taxpayers’ money has been wasted on this yet.
Gov. Robert Bentley and state Attorney General Luther Strange have sent letters to Macon and Lowndes county law enforcement authorities instructing them to shut down “illegal electronic bingo” in casinos there.
To understand any of this, you have to understand gambling laws in Alabama — which means it’s beyond understanding, because nobody understands gambling laws in Alabama, because the law in Alabama as far as anybody can figure is that gambling is illegal except when it isn’t.
VictoryLand was closed in 2010 when owner Milton McGregor and a group of lawmakers and lobbyists were charged with conspiracy and violation of state gambling laws. Acquitted of all charges, McGregor reopened the casino in 2012, only to be raided the next year on a search warrant from Strange’s office, resulting in the “civil forfeiture” seizure of cash and 1,615 bingo machines. That case was dismissed in 2015 by Judge William Shashy, who wrote, “It is apparent at the present time that the State of Alabama is cherrypicking which facilities should remain open or closed.”
Now it’s open again, the governor and the attorney general want it closed again, and the taxpayers’ meter just keeps running.
The whole gambling issue has long been a sore point for lawmakers, who see casino money flowing into Mississippi on the west and lottery money into Georgia on the east. Worse, there are the Poarch Creek Indian casinos right there in Alabama which, because they’re on Indian lands, are not subject to state authority.
The political benefit of “free” money as an alternative to the political taboo of taxes is tempting indeed. Of course, legal gambling of any kind is still rightly called an “idiot tax” — casinos don’t flourish, and HOPE doesn’t pay for kids to go to college, because players routinely pocket big winnings.
If Alabama authorities want to clarify and settle the gambling issue once and for all as a matter of law, then do it legislatively — in a regular session, please — or just let it go. Alabamians have already lost millions on gambling, and without ever placing a bet.