The controversial issue of casino gambling in Alabama came to a peak when the state’s governor, Bob Riley, ordered a raid on a new $87.5 million casino in the middle of the night and the action was halted in its tracks by a judges blocking order.
LA Times: Judge halts state raid of $87M bingo casino in latest round of Alabama’s fight over gambling
Near 40 Alabama state troopers gathered before sunrise, Wednesday, for a Gov. Bob Riley approved raid. The target: bingo machines at a new, allegedly illegal, $87 million casino near Dothan.
Local officials moved quickly to defend the targeted site, going to a judge’s home after midnight to get an order blocking the raid. The order was given to police before they could seize the 1,700 electronic bingo machines at Country Crossing.
County Commissioner Mark Culver denounced the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling’s attempt to shut down the bingo and entertainment complex, which created 1,300 jobs in the struggling community.
Bill Eadington, a University of Nevada at Reno gambling expert, said Alabama casino investors relied on questionable laws to build, but casinos are hard to close when restaurants and hotels, that produce lots of jobs, are added.
ABC News: Judge Halts State Raid of Big Alabama Bingo Center
A rural Alabama county hungry for economic development staved off a state raid on a new bingo and entertainment center despite Bob Riley’s wishes to close it. The county won a middle-of-the-night court order barring the raid as agents from the governor’s anti-gambling task force massed near Country Crossing, an $87 million complex near Dothan.
Houston County Commissioner Mark Culver got the order from a judge’s home at 1:30 a.m. delivered it to the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling assembling for a pre-dawn raid. He was trying to save 1,300 jobs in a county with 8.7 percent unemployment.
The Houston County Commission approved the construction of Country Crossing in 2008 and created a method for it to issue up to $70 million in bonds for construction. Country Crossing sought to stop the raid, claiming it would harm the bond issue that’s supposed to be paid off with bingo revenue.
Alabama gambling centers have been expanding with restaurants and other attractions and portraying themselves as economic development projects providing needed jobs in a recession.
AP News: Midnight order halts Ala. raid of $87M casino
A Gov. Riley approved raid on bingo machines at a new, $87 million casino by himself was stopped before dawn on Wednesday by judge’s order blocking it. Houston County Commissioner Mark Culver secured the judge’s approval and signature.
It was a blow for the governor in Alabama’s odd, ongoing struggle for control over the state’s mushrooming gambling industry. Culver said, “We are going to do everything we can to protect the jobs of the people of Houston County,” in reference to the incident. The governor claims the machines are illegal and simply an attempt to compete with Mississippi’s coastal casinos.
Circuit Judge P.B. McLauchlin agreed that seizing the machines “would do irreparable harm” to the bond transaction and blocked any raid pending a court hearing Jan. 20.