Undercover officer: Gaming machines that can be played blindfolded aren't bingo

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The undercover officer who obtained a search warrant for a planned raid at the Country Crossing gambling hall in Dothan said its electronic machines aren't bingo because they can be played blindfolded.

In papers filed in federal court Monday, Lt. Mike Reese of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said he is the officer who obtained search warrants for a successful raid of a gambling hall in White Hall on March 19 and for a raid at Country Crossing on Jan. 6 that was blocked by a judge.

Reese, a member of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling, told the court the Country Crossing games don't meet any of the standards for player interaction that the Alabama Supreme Court laid out in the White Hall case, including marking numbers and recognizing a winning card.

"In fact, once money is inserted, the game can be played blindfolded or with the eyes closed by simply pressing the button three times, and can be played without ever looking at the bingo card," Reese said in an affidavit presented to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.

Reese's search warrant for the Jan. 6 raid expired without ever being used. The task force is now fighting in court with Country Crossing's attorneys over whether the task force can stage a new raid on the gambling hall's 1,700 machines. A planned raid last Friday was called off when a judge sought more information before issuing a new search warrant.

Country Crossings' attorneys asked Thompson on Monday to block a raid, while the task force argued that one should be allowed.

In a related development, attorneys for VictoryLand at Shorter sought to maintain a temporary restraining order issued Friday that blocked the task force from raiding its casino, which has about 6,400 electronic bingo machines. The task force asked the Alabama Supreme Court to lift the order, and VictoryLand was filing pleadings with the high court Monday to let the order stand.

Attorneys for Country Crossings maintain the games at its casino are legal and that the gambling hall, plus adjoining restaurants and inn, provide badly needed jobs to more than 1,000 people in southeast Alabama.

Task Force Commander John Tyson argued that the federal court should not interfere because there is no constitutional right to profit from illegal gambling.

Attorneys said Thompson indicated he hoped to rule by late Monday afternoon.

Country Crossing has been closed since early Friday in an effort to prevent another raid. Developer Ronnnie Gilley said he plans to reopen immediately if the federal judge blocks a raid.

(The Associated Press.)

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