Country Crossing raid stymied; troopers' numbers dwindling

Hundreds of state police were stymied Friday in attempts to raid two multimillion-dollar bingo operations in Alabama as lawyers scrambled to block the seizure of thousands of electronic bingo machines.

Both the VictoryLand complex at Shorter and the Country Crossing development in Dothan shut down before dawn as state troopers and other law officers converged with blue lights flashing.

However, a judge issued an order at 5:30 a.m. Friday blocking any raid at VictoryLand in Macon County until a hearing can be held next week. The bingo center, with more than 6,400 machines, reopened as the caravan of troopers drove off, along with nine moving vans brought to haul away machines.

At Country Crossing near Dothan, some 140 troopers and law officers gathered at the entrance for a raid at the new country-themed entertainment complex, which has about 1,700 electronic bingo machines. The number of officers dwindled to about 15 as lawyers for the casino argued that no raid could be conducted without a warrant or legal authorization.

"We've told them they are trespassing. We've told them to leave," said Country Crossing spokesman Jay Walker.

The head of the governor's antigambling task force, Mobile District Attorney John Tyson Jr., went to Montgomery to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to lift the order blocking the raid at VictoryLand and to appoint a new judge to approve a search warrant to raid Country Crossing.

It was not immediately clear when the Supreme Court might act.

Tyson said Conecuh County District Judge Jeff Brock declined to grant a search warrant for Country Crossing until he heard from a gambling expert. The judge later said no proceeding with the expert would take place before Monday, prompting Tyson to ask the high court for another judge.

The casinos have been operating under constitutional amendments that allow bingo in those counties. But Gov. Bob Riley contends those amendments — and 15 others that allow bingo halls to operate in other counties — allow only traditional paper bingo, not electronic machines that resemble slots. Slot machines are illegal in Alabama.

Tyson warned electronic bingo operators across the state: "Obey the law. Shut down these machines."

Fred Gray, an attorney for VictoryLand, said the Macon County operation has been investigated by a federal grand jury and two county grand juries, with no charges ever filed.

He said there was no legal justification to seize property.

"They had no warrant, they had no court order, and presented nothing to the owners," Gray said.

Macon County Sheriff David Warren said the task force tried to stage the 4 a.m. raid by arguing an undercover officer witnessed illegal gambling inside. Warren disagreed, however.

"As far as I'm concerned they are legal machines," he said.

At a news conference in Montgomery, Tyson said no search warrant was needed because an undercover officer inside VictoryLand witnessed an illegal gambling device, a misdemeanor, that would allow a raid and seizure of the machines.

VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor cut the ribbon in December on a 300-room luxury hotel at the complex in Shorter, about 20 miles east of Montgomery on Interstate 85. The hotel and additions are a $100 million investment in a gambling complex that began with a dog track 25 years ago.

VictoryLand now holds more of the bingo machines than the number of slot machines in any single casino in Nevada, New Jersey or Mississippi, according to Casino City's North American Gaming Almanac. It employs about 2,000 people in a historically poor county.

Country Crossing in the southeast corner of the state opened its $87 million first phase on Dec. 1, with more attractions this year pushing the total investment to more than $200 million.

The governor's task force attempted to raid Country Crossing in pre-dawn hours Jan. 6, but a judge's order blocked that. The Alabama Supreme Court later shelved that order, and another judge took the case this week.

The task force previously had been unable to get a search warrant to raid VictoryLand in Macon County.

Last year it conducted a raid at the White Hall casino in Lowndes County, seizing about 100 of the 900 machines and more than $500,000 in cash. The case is in court, and the casino has been operating with new equipment.

In Macon County, former state Sen. George Clay of Tuskegee said VictoryLand is the county's largest employer and taxpayer and is vital to the county's operation. He said the attempted raid was reminiscent of a former governor's attempt to preserve racial segregation in the mostly black county.

"Fifty years ago, George Wallace sent state troopers to prevent the desegregation of our schools," he said. "Now Bob Riley has sent state troopers to shut down our economic engine."

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  • by Everett Location: Enterprise4 on Feb 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM
    I am confused by those who feel our gov. is not representing the will of the people. The people voted to deny gambling. Should exception be made in favor of a small group in any particular area of the state? Is COUNTRY CROSSING any different than VICTORYLAND? Is there consistent and clear execution of the law? Is George Wallace jr. connected to VICTORYLAND? If these machines are indeed legal in Alabama, why are Vegas type investors not already here? Does Gllly feel he cand manipulate the system? These are the real questions for ALL of Alabama voters, not just a few!
  • by Call Me Disgusted Location: Dothan on Feb 1, 2010 at 06:57 AM
    I always thought that a public official (ie. govenor, mayor, city councilman etc.) represented the people of the State they were elected in, however, lately it seems that our Govenor has decided he would prefer to dictate to the people inlieu of representing them. Govenor Riley, do we not already have 1 elected official in Washington who thinks he can dictate to us without you jumping on the band wagon to do the same thing. Sounds like the majority of the people in Alabama have spoken, and you should listen. They want Country Crossing to stay open to include the bingo pavilion. Why can't you just slink away back into your hole and let the rest of the people of Alabama decide what is best for us. We are all tax paying adults and not children. LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.
  • by Montie Location: Raleigh, NC on Jan 30, 2010 at 05:38 AM
    Re: Impeach Governor Riley The impeachment process in Alabama is carried out by the House of Representatives and the State Senate.(This according to the Alabama Code) If Alabamians want him impeached, write, call, email your state representatives and voice your displeasure. If I still lived in Dothan I would be calling every senator and representative in the state, letting them know how displeased I am with the gross misuse of power and wasteful appropriation of funds and manpower that this man has committed and want him out of office as soon as possible. The more these senators and representatives hear this the more they will take action. They do not work for Riley, they work for YOU!
  • by audrey Location: pinckard on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:27 PM
    Gov. Riley is suppose to be a highly educated man and actually comparing crystal meth to Country Crossing. If you had any back bone you would come here yourself and see for yourself what country crossing is all about. Instead of sending your ginny pigs to do your job for you. Why don't you leave the good people that work at Country Crossing alone and let them feed their familys.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 29, 2010 at 06:36 PM
    GAMBLING=ILLEGAL IN THE STATE OF ALABAMA! How is this any different than using taxpayers dollars to fight the war on drugs in Alabama. EVERY ILLEGAL job in the state of Alabama should be shut down even if it means putting people out of work. Just because you think gambling should be legal does not make it right for them to stay in business, there are some people that think marijuana should be legal....should we stop arresting people for selling it? Until gambling is legal in the state of Alabama....SHUT THEM DOWN!!!!
  • by Jacqui Location: Daleville on Jan 29, 2010 at 04:40 PM
    I am absolutely appalled at the childishness of this all. This is not the turn of the 1900s...this is 2010 and moving ever forward. The world has changed, yet Bob Riley is intent on ensuring that Alabama remain left behind. I cannot afford to play much, but I did visit CC a few weeks ago. I took a good look around, remembering my words on the news one night in the not-too-distant past, words asking anyone who might visit CC to just be careful, be responsible, and for those behind the whole idea to do right by our people. I have been pleasantly surprised to see that people are doing just as I wished they would, though I'm sure none remember me; they are living their lives as responsible but fun loving Alabamians. And I ask anyone opposed to Country Crossing this one question: What, exactly is so wrong about spending a few hours out one evening playing a game you like, and having some fun? Do you not pay to bowl? Or play pinball? Or video games? Do you not pay for your entertainment?
  • by Brenda Location: Dothan on Jan 29, 2010 at 03:55 PM
    I think victoryland was all a front to shut people up. They are the ones illegal you can't go into a room here and bet on a football game,dog, or even the horses. But you can there. They are the ones that need looking into. Look at all the money these single parents are losing just so Riley and Tyson can prove they are the big dogs. They need to get a life so these people can get on with there's. They are just tring to put food on their tables something some have not been able to do for awhile.This is the best thing that has happened to Dothan Alabama in a long time leave it alone!!!!
  • by just me Location: eprise on Jan 29, 2010 at 03:44 PM
    I see it like this,if Country Crossings is closed thanks to our governor,is he and his family going to put food on all those tables of the employees of country crossings,what about school clothes for thier kids,what about their mortgages and all their other living expenses? I cant see Bob being so kind to offer them 1 penny of his paycheck.By the way the man that was on tv saying if all the employees were educated they wouldnt be working there,well guess what i have family members that are college graduates that cant find a job in their profession.It was on the news last night spoken by a member of the house saying that come the 3rd fiscal quarter of this year. some teachers may not have jobs,but we dont need a place like CC bringing tax $s to pay our teachers salaries.I see it like this,how can a place be built,business and licenses granted,if it were an illegal operation.I guess Ronnie needs to start putting a little change in bobs pocket and that will make him go away..RG 4 GOVERNOR!
  • by Margo Location: Dothan on Jan 29, 2010 at 03:35 PM
    Riley totes a bible and claims he is a Christian. There is no way that anyone doing the things he is doing to the good people in our city, is a Christian. God would never approve of what he is doing to others and his no reguard for the working class people and the law enforcement in Alabama, and he will get what he deserves for all of this. He doesn't care about the people and what this is doing to everyone because of his behavior. He is just being a bully and seeking vengence on our community and Country Crossing. We finally have something worth while in our community, and it gives alot of people jobs that didn't have one. It is a safe and fun place for people to go. It is a disgrace to have him representing our state. Power doesn't always prevail!
  • by gina Location: opp on Jan 29, 2010 at 03:19 PM
    Governor Riley needs to put this much effort in trying to get these murderers and thieves off the street. This is ridiculous. I do not like my tax dollars being wasted like this. Country Crossing came in and made money flow when it needed to flow. It gave people jobs when people needed jobs. What is bad about that?
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