Board to rule on VictoryLand liquor license within 15 days

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Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:30 pm

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The chairman of an Alabama Beverage Control board panel said Wednesday it expects to rule within 15 days on the VictoryLand casino's request for a liquor license.

The committee concluded an all-day meeting about 5 p.m. Wednesday and committee chairman Joe Adams said its members would now review mounds of evidence.

Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan urged the committee to deny VictoryLand's application for a liquor license. Reagan said the Shorter casino is continuing to play illegal electronic bingo games.

VictoryLand attorney Joe Espy said the machines have been declared legal bingo machines by Macon County Sheriff David Warren, and the license should be granted. Espy made an emotional presentation to the board, saying VictoryLand has done everything state officials have asked.

Larry Crocker, an investigator for the attorney general, said he recently went undercover at VictoryLand and said the machines have colorful screens and look like slot machines. He said the machines do not match any common definition for bingo.

The casino reopened Dec. 18 after being closed for two years because of the state's gambling crackdown

The action to challenge VictoryLand's request for a liquor license was initiated by Attorney General Luther Strange. He said the bingo games being played at Shorter do not match the bingo Macon County voters approved in a referendum.

Espy and VictoryLand supporters complained that Strange did not attend Wednesday's hearing, even though it was being held at his request.

A spokeswoman for Strange, Joy Patterson, said the attorney general was in Birmingham on Wednesday.

"Illegal gambling and other criminal activities are statewide problems that are not limited to VictoryLand or Macon County," Patterson said. "Today, the attorney general met in Birmingham with the Alabama District Attorneys Association and most of the state's district attorneys to address the many important law enforcement issues facing our state. The Attorney General has the utmost confidence in the attorneys who are handling the ABC hearing, and it should be clear from their performance today that they are experts on this subject matter."

Espy called as a witness Richard Williamson, whose Nevada-based company performed tests on the VictroyLand machines and found them in compliance with the law.

Williamson said the Macon County games "are not slot machines."

But under cross examination by Reagan, Williamson said it takes mostly luck, not skill, to win the games.

Williamson said "yes" when Reagan asked if the main activity expected of customers was to "bet and press the play button."

A large crowd, mostly VictoryLand supporters from Macon County, attended the hearing. There were so many people they filled the agency's small meeting room and an overflow room.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Adams said the panel members understood that keeping VictoryLand was an emotional issue in the small, economically depressed county east of Montgomery.

"But just because it may be good for the community, we can't just go on that," he said.

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