GREENE COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Acting on orders from Governor Riley's task force on illegal gambling, Alabama state troopers moved in to remove hundreds of electronic bingo machines at Greenetrack on Thursday night. Troopers and moving crews loaded up the casino's more than 800 e-bingo machines and took them to a secure location.
Last night's seizure was the culmination of a busy day at the track, in court, and in jail. The State Supreme Court removed a Greene County judge from the Greenetrack case after his last minute rulings led to a standoff Wednesday night that finally broke Thursday morning.
This current situation is the result of a long legal battle which has resulted in these latest rulings against Greenetrack. It basically comes down to two State Supreme Court decisions. The first gave Governor Riley, not the attorney general, power to control the gambling task force. The second ruling was that courts cannot interfere with how the governor and task force operate.
Dean of the Samford Cumberland School of Law John Carroll says another big Supreme Court decision is still looming: are electronic bingo machines legal or illegal?
"The question is what happens to the machines in the casinos while the decision works it way through the court. Greene County and Judge Hardaway say we'll leave them open. The task force says now we will shut them down, and thus far the Alabama Supreme Court has sided with task force," said Carroll
The Alabama Supreme Court removed Judge Hardway from the case Thursday, allowing raids to continue. Although the back and forth has been frustrating to Greene County residents, surprisingly, Judge Carroll says the situation is not that odd.
"It is not unusual to have an order, and then an emergency appeal and then that order overturned," said Carroll. "The context is unusual, but that kind of procedure isn't unusual."
Judge Carroll says the issue is far from over, and he expects more legal battles.
I think ultimately, the Alabama Supreme Court has to decide whether casinos can stay open while the issue of whether they are illegal percolates through legal system. It seems like they have given strong indication they will allow governor to shut them down," said Carroll.
The Alabama Supreme Court has set up a six part test to decide whether electronic bingo machines across the state are legal. Judge Carroll says the decision on whether the machines in Greene County meet that test could be a ways off.
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