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Attorney General Luther Strange, in an exclusive interview, told WSFA 12 News that Tuesday's raid at Victoryland was a "routine" law enforcement operation, and was carried out legally under Alabama law.
"Whenever we have an illegal establishment of any kind we just have to do deal with it as it is" Strange said during a phone interview Friday. Strange is the coordinating counsel for the trial against BP for claims caused by the 2010 oil spill. "By that I mean we ask people to stop their activities, they don't stop, it's illegal and we have no choice but to come in and enforce the law."
Tuesday's raid came after months of talks with attorneys for Milton McGregor, who owns Victoryland, about their positions on the legality of the machines. Strange maintains that the machines at the only casino in Macon County are illegal slot machines, while McGregor claims and says he's proven that they are in fact legal electronic bingo machines.
Strange said "We told them we'd welcome them to go to court with us before they opened and we could get a final determination. They ignored all that and knowing we viewed those machines as illegal they went ahead and reopened."
Strange was also asked why there hasn't been a raid at Greenetrack in Greene County where electronic gaming has continued for longer than Victoryland, even after a raid in 2012. He said that was a separate matter and that he wanted to let all of the issues play out in court. Strange wouldn't say whether his office was pursuing further legal action against Greenetrack.
McGregor's attorney Joe Espy said the entire process of the raid and what led up to it was completely unprecedented.
"This is improper according to the judge" Espy said Tuesday to a group of reporter gathered at the blocked off entrance to Victoryland. "It was upheld unanimously by the criminal court of appeals that oversees the criminal system in this state and that specializes in this type of matters."
Strange argued that all he did was enforce the law. "I have my own personal views on gambling" Strange said. "But those don't matter. What matters is what the law says and our job is to enforce it."
When asked why taking the machines away was a necessary step, Strange said that was a part of the legal process and said they would be presented during a formal legal proceeding, during which the defense could demonstrate to the court how they work.
"If what they're doing is legal and they believe it's legal and they can prove and then we can all move on" Strange said. "We think it's illegal."
The attorney general said he doesn't want the bingo issue becoming one that dominates the headlines again. He said the BP trial will have a much bigger impact on the state than the gambling issue ever will.
"I think there are certainly some other things that law enforcement need to be addressing and the constantly having to address is using sadly, very valuable resources" Strange said.
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