War of the Words: Country Crossing vs. Governor

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

Country Crossing is no stranger to controversy.

There has been no love lost between the entertainment complex and Alabama governor Bob Riley.

This disagreement is in regards to a federal ruling involving electronic bingo machines in a north Alabama county.

Country crossing officials commend the ruling but didn't like what governor Riley had to say about it.

The entertainment complex has yet to open it's doors for business but officials there are well-versed when it comes to controversy.

"It’s not a shock any more,” said spokesman Jay Walker.

On Monday, U.S. district judge Lynwood Smith ruled an electronic bingo hall in Madison county was operating illegally under Alabama law.

“We want to commend him for his ruling,” said Walker.

But Country Crossing officials are upset with Governor Riley's comments regarding the decision.

“The governor sent out his own press release stating that there is a definitive ruling of the legality on bingo machines in the state of Alabama. There can be nothing further from the truth,” said Walker.

They accuse the governor of misleading the public and are calling for an apology.

“He insinuated it was statewide ruling and we believe that's not the case and in fact we know that's not the case. We wish the governor would retract his statement and apologize...for leading them to believe that bingo is going to be considered illegal,” said Walker.

Walker says the judge who handed down yesterday's ruling is a cousin of Governor Riley and should have removed himself from the case.

“I don’t want to go so far as to say that they talk, but I sure wish I had a cousin that was a federal judge,” said Walker.

Bingo is considered illegal gambling in Alabama except in counties where special constitutional amendments have been approved by voters.

“I don't understand why he would fight us this hard on a project that's not going to do any damage whatsoever to this area it's only going to help us and the state of Alabama,” said Walker.

They say they're tired of battling the governor's office, but say it's becoming routine.

“All we want is to be left alone and for the governor to stop his political antics.
We have had a tooth and nail fight since day one, but it's almost as if if it comes out of the governor's office it doesn't count anymore,” said Walker.

In response to these accusations, the governor's office says Riley's comments were directed toward all illegal gambling operations in the state, not any specific operation or case.

They also said the judge who handed down yesterday's ruling is in fact the governor's cousin, but the two are not close and haven't spoken in years.

The two sides can agree on one thing: this ruling has no affect or bearing on the Country Crossing Project.

Leaving the governor’s office to wonder why developers are worried about this ruling.

Officials say the machines confiscated from the site in Madison County will not be the same machines that will be used at country crossing.

The entertainment complex is still scheduled to open December 1st.

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