People flock to Victoryland for “soft opening” as legal battles continue

SHORTER, Ala. (WIAT) — The years after state authorities raided and shut down the Victoryland Electronic Bingo Casino, the casino re-opened.

Victoryland had a “soft opening” Tuesday afternoon, with just over 500 electronic bingo machines available to use. Victoryland’s CEO, Milton McGregor, said Tuesday afternoons are typically the slowest in the gambling industry.

This Tuesday seemed to be the exception.

Thousands of people flocked to Victoryland for the opening; some left when they discovered every gaming machine was taken, while others waited for over an hour for a machine to free up.

Victoryland had been closed since 2013, when state law enforcement officers raided the massive compound, that sits on the side of Interstate 85. Over 1,600 gaming machines were seized.

Many people from Macon County said they were just glad to see the facility back up and running.

“I think it’s a positive thing for our community,” said Mashalette Wise, who worked at Victoryland while she attended Tuskeegee University. “Being from Tuskeegee, I could tell you one thing: If the local community couldn’t work anywhere else or find employment, they could depend on Victoryland.”

“I’m glad it’s open, and I hope it stays open,” said Carolyn Pitts, also from Tuskeegee. “I love the entertainment part about it, and I love that people get jobs. It’s a good thing.”

University of Alabama political analyst Steve Flowers was also at Victoryland’s opening on Tuesday. He said that the legal battle that’s surrounded the casino for years is, technically, still in progress.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that electronic bingo machines are illegal, but Governor Robert Bentley issued an executive order giving local law enforcement agencies the authority to allow or crack down on gambling in their respective community.

“That’s why you see so many sheriff’s deputies out there,” Flowers said. “They’ve made it clear that this is their facility, they voted for this, and they disagree with the supreme court’s opinion. They’re saying that if some state official were to send officers here, we’ve got our own officials. It could cause a civil war. It really could.”

To McGregor, the legal battle is over. McGregor told reporters that he is not nervous that state law enforcement will raid his buisiness again.

“We’re doing what we were supposed to have been doing all along, and that’s employing people, paying charities, paying taxes, helping the schools and doing the things we should do as a corporate citizen,” McGregor said.

When asked about the future of Birmingham’s race course, McGregor said it was too soon to elaborate; he’s focusing on expanding Victoryland by adding thosands more gaming machines, re-opening the sports book and The Oasis hotel, which is next to Victoryland.

Flowers said that because of Bentley’s executive order, this could open the door for gambling in other areas of Alabama, like Jefferson County, but he pointed out that any governor that follows Bentley in office would have the power to eliminate gambling in the state.

 

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