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Gambling moves stealing headlines statewidecomment (0)

February 16, 2012

Gambling — specifically electronic bingo — is stealing headlines again as illegal gambling facilities have been discovered in two counties, officials in two areas are planning to open up new operations and the gambling corruption trial is back in full swing. 

In Walker County, 55 electronic slot machines were seized from three locations — Sumiton, Nauvoo and Eldridge — on Feb. 6. The Walker County sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office teamed up to make the raids, and the authorities hope they sent a message countywide.

“The law is very clear: Possession of these machines is illegal,” District Attorney Bill Adair said. “We are trying to keep pressure on these situations.”

Adair has elected to enforce the fines associated with illegal gambling in Walker County through a civil court system rather than prosecute anyone in this situation in the hopes of resolving things more quickly.   

Lucky Teague, director of missions for Walker Baptist Association, said the raids were not a shock to anyone in the community, since similar raids have happened in recent months. Though he is glad gambling has largely left the county, he worries that it will reappear since it is such a lucrative venture.

“Pretty much everybody was happy to hear that things were being exposed,” Teague said. 

“The people who care about those matters — the people who are against it — are pleased that people were being brought
to task about this. It’s a blight on our county.”

In Jefferson County, sheriff’s deputies and attorney general’s office investigators carried out a search warrant Feb. 7 for Church Upon the Rock Bingo in Grayson Valley. They seized 58 gambling machines, The Birmingham News reported. 

A similar raid occurred two weeks prior in Lipscomb, where authorities seized 80 gambling devices from Beulah Bell Lodge Bingo #49. Authorities will file all 138 machines in court to be condemned and destroyed, Chief Deputy Randy Christian told the News. 

While two bingo halls in Jefferson County have been effectively shut down, the Brighton City Council has paved the way for another to open. On Feb. 7, it granted a business license to an American Legion post to open a 300-machine bingo hall. According to the News, the goal is to open the hall Feb. 21. 

Earlier this year, an official with VictoryLand announced plans to reopen the casino side of the gambling operation, saying
it could be operational by the end of the year. 

But VictoryLand officials are currently focused on round two of the gambling corruption trial dealing with a vote-buying scheme that centered on electronic bingo legislation. The trial began Feb. 6. 

It was delayed a week following the death of one of the seven defendants, Ray Crosby. Crosby, who died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease Jan. 29, was a former analyst with the Legislative Reference Service and wrote bills on gambling legislation. He was accused of accepting bribes from VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson dismissed the charge.

By Feb. 8, the jury had been selected, and the next day, jurors heard opening statements from prosecutors and defense lawyers for McGregor, Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, former Sens. Larry Means and Jim Preuitt, lobbyist Tom Coker and former casino spokesman Jay Walker. 

Testimony began Feb. 10 in the case that originally went to trial last summer but ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. 


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