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DOTHAN, AL -- Three weeks after a judge's restraining order blocked the Alabama governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling from raiding the County Crossings resort and bingo operation here, the unit tried it again on Jan. 29 and failed again.
About 140 Alabama state troopers arrived at County Crossings around 4 a.m., ready to haul way the facility's 1,703 electronic bingo machines. Simultaneously, more troopers prepared to raid the VictoryLand resort in Shorter, which operates 6,400 electronic bingo machines.
But it was not to be. Both facilities had received advance tip-offs and had closed their doors -- chaining them shut -- two hours earlier. Meanwhile, a Macon County judge issued an order blocking the raids.
Police waited for several hours while taskforce commander John Tyson went around the state shopping for sympathetic judges who would reverse the restraining order and allow the raids. Unable to find any compliant judges, Tyson finally went to Montgomery, the state capital, to petition to the Supreme Court to void the restraining order and appoint a new local judge who would permit raids to go forward. He was unsuccessful. Police finally withdrew from both VictoryLand and County Crossings by 9 a.m. that morning. VictoryLand later reopened and County Crossings remained shut.
Electronic bingo's legality has been a matter of dispute in Alabama for years. Disagreements on the issue escalated sharply after the state Supreme Court ruled on the question last year. Gov. Bob Riley said the high court's verdict established all bingos are illegal. Attorney General Troy King, numerous local officials and much of the state's media said the ruling meant some bingos may be legal.
Following the Jan. 29 raid, a County Crossings spokesman said the governor "took the Constitution of the State of Alabama, ripped it up, threw it in the trash can and wrote his own."
The Supreme Court was set to begin reviewing the matter this week. Separately, another hearing on electronic bingo is set for March 3 in the Etowah County Circuit Court.
California Shuts Down Charitable Electronic Bingos
SACRAMENTO, CA -- Charitable organizations here unplugged and removed hundreds of previously permitted slot machine-style bingo games at three locations this week.
For years, the devices had raised nearly a million dollars annually for community groups and programs to help the blind and disabled. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1369 outlawing electronic bingo on Jan. 1, 2009. Under the bill, tribes agreed to pay into a fund to help offset some of the losses faced by the charities last year.
In addition, California's attorney general and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department opposed the machines, calling them illegal gambling devices. Officials spent years fighting them in court, finally winning their case late last year in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.