Center Stage attorney surprised by effort to shut down bingo operation

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Dothan (WTVY)-- A Dothan attorney representing Center Stage Alabama said she was taken by surprise upon learning of another effort to shut down the bingo operation.

“We are disappointed that our Attorney General considers our establishment a nuisance. We believe that our thousands of Alabama guests, employees, vendors, charities, and their families are equally disappointed,” Ashton Ott said Thursday in a written statement.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Center Stage and four other bingo casinos in the state alleging electronic machines played there violate the law.

Ott disagrees. “The only way guests win or lose money at Center Stage is by participating in a traditional paper bingo game that we feel includes all of the elements outlined by our local Judge Conaway and our Alabama Supreme Court in their respective opinions.”

When Center Stage was closed by former Attorney General Luther Strange in 2012 about 600 machines were confiscated and destroyed. The operation later reopened with machines and paper games operating in tandem. To collect on potential winnings from the machines players must also win at paper bingo.

“(Center Stage) is a non-profit entity and contributes regularly to charities and events in this area. We are very disappointed the Attorney General did not first reach out to us to discuss his concerns and explore ways to possibly alleviate his concerns rather than file this lawsuit seeking to deprive our employees of their livelihood,” Ott said.

Marshall is asking Houston County Circuit Judge Kevin Moulton to order Center Stage closed until a trial is held, likely next year.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit was amended Thursday after Marshall’s office listed the wrong county it operates in and had an incorrect address for the Houston County Commissioner, also a defendant.

The commission authorizes the operation of Center Stage.