VictoryLand, the State’s premier privately owned casino, reopened quietly on a Tuesday afternoon with very little fanfare.
However, it appears that publicity and advertising are not necessary to attract patrons to the glamorous facility located along interstate I-85 in Macon County.
Public officials and the local citizenry have been awaiting the reopening of their largest employer and economic engine for over two years.
Former Gov. Bob Riley heavy handedly closed their facility in 2010, declaring that their bingo machines were illegal. Riley’s actions left hundreds of Macon County people out of work and handed the Indian casinos a monopoly on a silver platter.
The pivotal question is whether the machines, which are so very popular at the Indian casinos and VictoryLand, qualify as bingo machines.
Prior to reopening, VictoryLand invited the media to come to Macon County to view and inspect the machines. They purchased all new machines designed to specifically comply with the concept of playing bingo. VictoryLand brought in an expert who directed the New Jersey gaming enforcement’s testing lab for 22 years. He demonstrated how the machines operate and comply with the rules that apply to bingo machines. He stated unequivocally that these games are different from slot machines.
Macon County Sheriff David Warren, who is in total control of gaming in this venue, declared the new machines are legal and in compliance with the Macon County constitutional amendment. Warren stated, “I accept these machines as legal. How clear can it be that these machines play bingo?”
It would appear that in this day and time as advanced as computer technology has become that indeed they can design machines that comply with the concept of bingo. VictoryLand will await the actions of Atty. Gen. Luther Strange, who has not denied that he was the recipient of at least $100,000 in Indian gambling money in his 2010 race for attorney general. If that is the case, then Big Luther would have an ethical conflict of interest in even attempting to determine whether the new VictoryLand machines are in fact bingo machines.
In the meantime, the Indian casinos in the State are flourishing with their electronic bingo machines and paying no taxes on their economic monopoly.
Just up the road from Macon County in Montgomery a debacle occurred at Alabama State University. The University’s President, Joseph Silver, resigned after being on the job less than four months. He was put on administrative leave after he terminated long time Vice President John Knight.
Knight is not only Vice President of Alabama State, he is also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and has been a State Representative from Montgomery for two decades. He served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the last quadrennium prior to Republicans taking control of the Legislature. Knight is a political power in Montgomery.
President Silver displayed bold independence by attempting to fire Knight. His reason for confronting Knight was because he said that he had uncovered what he called “long standing bones” while looking into the University’s finances and contracts. Silver said that when he attempted to investigate some contracts he considered “questionable and troubling at best and a conflict of interest at least,” he was stonewalled.
In the end, Knight and the powers that be prevailed. Silver and the University quietly came to an agreement in late December. Silver was more or less bought off with ten pieces of silver. To be exact, he received a $685,000 settlement to quietly walk away.
In the meantime, the ASU Board’s cavalier approach to the matter did not escape the ire of the Governor. The Alabama Constitution clearly places the Governor as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of all state colleges and universities. Alabama State not only failed to acknowledge Gov. Bentley as a member of its Board, but it omitted the Governor’s presence on the Board from the University’s website.
The Governor has called for a forensic audit of the finances of the University. Therefore, we may not have heard the last of the story on this Alabama State saga.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.