- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama won’t have to return seized gambling machines to VictoryLand after the state Supreme Court on Monday blocked a judge’s order to return the devices.

The justices stayed a circuit judge’s order to return the machines by Nov. 16. Lawyers with the attorney general’s office asked for the stay as they appeal a judge’s dismissal of their case against VictoryLand.

“The high court’s decision will prevent the release of all illegal electronic bingo machines seized at VictoryLand until the Supreme Court is able to rule on the state’s appeal,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange decision said in a statement.

“It is important that the case be allowed to progress through the entire judicial process so the legality of electronic bingo at VictoryLand can be settled once and for all,” Strange said.

The attorney general’s office seized 1,615 electronic bingo machines and $260,000 in cash during a 2013 raid at VictoryLand in Macon County.

However, Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy dismissed the case and ordered the state to return the machines by Nov. 16. Shashy said it was unfair to close one casino when others remained open.

A representative for VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor could not immediately be reached for comment.

McGregor has said he wants to reopen the shuttered Macon County casino as soon as possible, putting employees back to work.

The state has been in a long-running legal battle over the devices. The machines’ swirling electronic displays and chiming sounds are nearly identical to slot machines. However, casino operators have argued that the digital displays are just for entertainment, and the machines’ internal workings play bingo and are allowed by state laws allowing bingo in some counties.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said last week that he wants the state out of the business of trying to shut down bingo casinos. Bentley signed an executive order saying sheriffs and district attorneys, not the state, should be the primary enforcer of gambling laws. Local officials in Macon County, and other counties, have often taken a favorable view of the casinos.

The attorney general said the governor’s order had no impact on the state’s current lawsuits against the casinos.

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