- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Supreme Court reversed a lower court Friday and revived the state’s attempt to keep about $94,000 in cash and hundreds of alleged gambling machines seized from a west Alabama gaming center.

The nine-member court, in an unsigned opinion without dissent, overturned a judge’s decision that dismissed the state’s attempt to confiscate $93,917 and 376 machines from Greenetrack Inc., located in Eutaw.

Attorney General Luther Strange’s office had no immediate comment.

Greenetrack lawyer John Bolton criticized the decision, which said in part that a mistake on a signature line of a court document didn’t mean the whole case had to be dismissed.

“Basically what the court said today is an unsigned complaint is good enough for government work,” said Bolton.

The state has been trying for years to close Greenetrack, which the attorney general’s office contends is an illegal gambling operation. Operators say Greenetrack offers electronic bingo that is legal in Greene County, and they argue the poor county needs the jobs and funding it provides.

State agents seized the money and machines during a raid at Greenetrack on June 1, 2011 and filed a request three weeks later to confiscate the materials permanently, but operators went to court trying to get the items returned.

Circuit Judge Houston Brown sided with Greenetrack in January and dismissed the state’s complaint, prompting an appeal by the state.

The justices sided with the state’s challenge, rejecting Greenetrack’s claims that forfeiture documents weren’t filed properly partly because they were not signed correctly. The court said the flaw wasn’t severe enough to result in dismissal.

The Supreme Court did not address a part of Brown’s ruling that said the state waited too long after the raid to begin its attempt to seize the cash and machines for good.

The decision sends the dispute back to circuit court for additional litigation.

The state also has seized electronic machines that authorities contend are illegal from two other casino-style businesses in Greene County. Separately, courts are considering whether the state can keep cash and machines seized at VictoryLand in Macon County east of Montgomery.

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