Judge refuses to restrict gambling task force

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected a request from Country Crossing in Dothan to shield it from the governor's gambling task force.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled against the casino late Tuesday.

Task force commander John Tyson said the judge blocked another effort by gambling operators to carve out special rules for themselves.

Country Crossing closed Jan. 29 to prevent a raid by the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Then it sought a temporary restraining order from the federal court to prevent the task force from trying to seize any games. Thompson issued a two-sentence order denying the request.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Gov. Bob Riley and John Tyson's Response

Federal Court Rejects Casino’s Attempt to Skirt the Law

MONTGOMERY – A Federal judge has struck down another attempt to restrict state law enforcement from investigating and prosecuting the use of illegal slot machines at a casino in Houston County.

In February, officials representing the Country Crossing casino obtained from a local judge an illegal temporary restraining order against the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling – an order that was struck down by the Alabama Supreme Court. The casino then asked the Federal Court to do what the Alabama Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled is not permissible – grant special protection to their slot machines so state law enforcement could not confiscate them for use as evidence in a court of law.

Late Tuesday, a Federal judge once again denied that request. John Tyson, Jr., Special Prosecutor for the Task Force, said the judge’s ruling is a victory for the criminal justice system and for equality under the law.

“This was another attempt by illegal slot machine operators to hijack the criminal justice system and carve out special rules so they can enrich themselves,” Tyson said. “In denying their request, the judge reaffirmed our laws don’t allow special immunity from criminal laws to certain people because of their money and influence. An orderly democracy is based on equity and fairness under the law, and we’re pleased the Court affirmed that with this ruling.”

The Task Force is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for citizens, businesses and organizations through fair, consistent application of Alabama’s laws against slot machines, Tyson said.

“Criminal behavior is, ultimately, an illegal advantage that benefits a few who are willing to break the law and harm others to get what they want. Every time a law is broken, it infringes on the rights of all law-abiding citizens to have a fair shake. Every time a politician looks the other way while the law is being broken, it appeases, enables and even encourages criminal activity. That is exactly how corruption takes root in our society.

“Governor Riley has asked me to enforce the law evenly and uniformly so this corruption will no longer continue in Alabama. Fighting corruption has been a hallmark of Governor Riley’s administration and the Task Force is working to make sure our system can’t be manipulated and corrupted by a few powerful people bent on taking Alabama for all it’s worth.”

Despite attempts to muddy the waters by claiming there is legal uncertainty in this matter, Alabama’s laws on the subject of gambling are quite clear. Slot machines, no matter what they are called, are illegal in Alabama. No local constitutional amendment exempts any county from the criminal statutes prohibiting slot machines.

Under Section 13A-12-27 of the Alabama Code of Laws, possession and operation of a gambling device, and specifically a slot machine, is illegal in Alabama. That statute states:

(a) A person commits the crime of possession of a gambling device if with knowledge of the character thereof he manufactures, sells, transports, places or possesses, or conducts or negotiates any transaction affecting or designed to affect ownership, custody or use of:

(1) A slot machine; or

(2) Any other gambling device, with the intention that it be used in the advancement of unlawful gambling activity.

(b) Possession of a gambling device is a Class A misdemeanor.

A slot machine is defined by Section 13A-12-20(10) of the Alabama Code of Laws as a gambling device that accepts cash or credit and dispenses prizes based on elements of chance. This definition states:

SLOT MACHINE: A device that, as a result of the insertion of a coin or other object, operates, either completely automatically or with the aid of some physical act by the player, in such a manner that, depending upon elements of chance, it may eject something of value. A device so constructed or readily adaptable or convertible to such use is no less a slot machine because it is not in working order or because some mechanical act of manipulation or repair is required to accomplish its adaptation, conversion or workability. Nor is it any less a slot machine because apart from its use or adaptability as such it may also sell or deliver something of value on a basis other than chance.

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