Alabama Leads Antigambling Efforts In Us With Closures, Seizures Of Cash And Machines
In July of 2012 the Alabama Attorney General’s office raided the Center Stage Casino and seized $283,657 and 691 gaming consoles. The owners of the casino, the Houston Economic Development Association said that the machines were legal because of the way the law was written. There are Indian tribes that have the same type of video game set-ups, also chartered under state law but there is a major difference.
With the Indian tribes, the state law is interpreted by federal officials, who have sole authority over the reservations along with tribal governments. The feds have declined to do anything about the operations on the Indian casinos, and say that the structure of the games is allowed under their interpretation of federal law.
Center Stage casino does not enjoy that protection, and the Attorney General moved last July to shut them down. That was when they seized the machines and cash. There has been a forfeiture battle going on ever since, and a number of judges recused themselves. When the last one declined to do so, the Houston Economic Development Association appealed to the state supreme court.
This is not the first case that the Attorney General of Alabama has pushed. They have made other seizures of cash and money in the past. In 2009 a raid on a White Hall casino netter $550,000 and machines. The state won that forfeiture hearing and was allowed to keep the money and destroy the machines.
The state Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial judge without comment, and he will make his ruling sometime in 2013. Experts expect that this case will go the same way the White Hall case did, with the casino losing both the money and the games.
Alabama has resisted all efforts to allow any type of gambling activity in the state including a state run lottery, and there have even been some state lawmakers that propose laws which would make possessing an out of state lottery ticket a felony offense. That law is not expected to pass. As Alabama stands now, the Indian casinos are the only game in town unless you want to cross the border to another state.
The shutdown and seizure of the Center Stage casino will in all likelihood mean the end of gaming attempts in the state of Alabama. The laws, say some citizens, have created an Indian monopoly on gaming, but there is no indication that state legislators or the governor have any intention of revisiting Alabama’s strict ban on any type of gambling.
Many southern states went through the same type of struggle with the legalization of alcohol. Twenty years ago, laws on alcohol were patchwork at best across the south, with many counties ‘dry’, where you could not buy alcohol from a store or at a restaurant. Gradually, changing demographics and social views changed those policies, and gambling appears to be going through the same route, with some states adopting the idea of gaming much quicker than others.