- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama attorney general’s office has seized more than 1,000 gambling machines during Monday morning raids at casinos in Greene County.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the casinos were operating in “open defiance” of state law. “From my first day in office, I have worked to ensure that illegal gambling laws are enforced consistently across the state,” Strange said.

Machines were seized at Greene Charity in Eutaw and at Frontier Bingo and River’s Edge in Knoxville. Law enforcement officers also went into Greenetrack, but found the facility empty of machines. An attorney for the casino said Greenetrack had voluntarily stopped operations ahead of the raid.

The raids are the latest development in the state’s long-running dispute over electronic bingo.

The attorney general’s office maintains the slot machine look-alikes are illegal and not what was intended by laws allowing charities to operate bingo games in some Alabama locations. Casino operators say that the machines play bingo and that the spinning displays that make the games resemble slot machines are just for entertainment.

“Today marks yet another sad chapter in a long history of partisan harassment of our operations. The attempts by the Alabama attorney general to go after Greenetrack for legitimate gaming compelled us to suspend an aspect of our gaming in an abundance of caution,” Greenetrack CEO and president Luther Winn said.

Winn contended the games that had been offered at Greenetrack were legal bingo games.

“Using police powers to pursue a partisan political agenda is an abuse of power. After years of persecution and discrimination this has become an emotional issue for our supporters in Alabama,” Winn said.

An attorney for Greenetrack said she did not know what, if anything, law enforcement officers took from the casino.

The gambling machines from the other three casinos and an undisclosed amount of cash are being held as evidence. They will be subject to forfeiture procedures in Greene County.

Gov. Robert Bentley, responding to questions about the raid, suggested the attorney general’s office might have had to go over the heads of Greene County judges in order to get the search warrant.

“There was a court order for a legitimate search warrant issued by the local judges in that county, but mandated by the Supreme Court,” Bentley said.

The attorney general’s office went to the Alabama Supreme Court to get a search warrant for a 2013 raid at VictoryLand in Macon County. The Alabama Supreme Court ordered Macon County Circuit Judge Tom Young to issue the search warrant after he initially refused to do so.

Charlanna Spencer, an attorney for Greenetrack, said she believed the Court of Criminal Appeals or the Supreme Court ordered the search warrant for Greenetrack to be issued, but the court records are under seal.

The attorney general’s office in 2013 seized 1,600 gaming machines and more than $223,000 from VictoryLand in Macon County. VictoryLand had been the largest non-Indian casino in the state, but now sits dormant.

A civil trial is scheduled for June over VictoryLand’s machines.

Bentley said that his office provided state troopers to assist in the Monday operation but that he was not involved otherwise.

“I knew it was going to take place. We provide the law enforcement just to keep the peace and make sure things are done correctly. But I am not managing nor do I wish to manage gambling in this state,” Bentley said.

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