VictoryLand presents its side during bingo trial

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A former executive with a major gambling machine testing company testified Thursday that the games seized from the now-closed VictoryLand casino met the bingo regulations established by the Macon County sheriff.

Richard Williamson, former executive vice president of BMM Testlabs in Las Vegas, said the company tested the machines before VictoryLand began operating them in late 2012.

“They played the game of bingo,” he said in the third day of a trial over the legality of the machines.

Attorney General Luther Strange’s office raided the casino, 15 miles east of Montgomery, in February 2013 and seized 1,615 machines and $263,105 in cash. His office is asking Circuit Judge William Shahy to declare the machines illegal and let the state destroy them and keep the cash.

VictoryLand’s lawyers argue that in 2003, voters in rural Macon County approved a constitutional amendment allowing all types of bingo, including electronic games, and the machines complied with regulations established by the sheriff to implement the constitutional amendment. Williamson was a key witness for their side.

He said BMM evaluates games for many regulatory agencies and has operations around the world. He said the games at VictoryLand used a bingo card, drew bingo numbers one by one at random, and declared a winner.

Some games had graphics of spinning reels like slot machines and others had graphics resembling keno, but Williamson said they had no effect on the outcome of the game.

Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Sonny Reagan, Williamson said the company didn’t evaluate whether the machines complied with the state’s criminal laws on gambling or Alabama Supreme Court decisions.

He also acknowledged the company certified “electronic bingo” machines for a Jefferson County gambling hall in 2008 that a judge later ruled were illegal.

VictoryLand began presenting its side of the case Thursday after the attorney general’s office offered two days of testimony from agents who played the games undercover and then participated in the raid.

The attorney general’s staff argues the machines don’t meet the criteria for bingo outlined by the Alabama Supreme Court in a similar case involving a now-closed casino in Lowndes County. Those criteria require that players pay attention to numbers being drawn, mark their cards and announce when they have a win. VictoryLand’s lawyers contend Lowndes County’s constitutional amendment allowing bingo differs from Macon County’s.

A California law professor who has testified in other gambling cases in Alabama, I. Nelson Rose of Whittier Law School, said Macon County’s constitutional amendment doesn’t define bingo, but when Macon County voters approved it in 2003, electronic bingo machines were in common use in the United States.

Testimony in the non-jury trial cold wrap up Friday. Then the judge will take the case under advisement and rule later.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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