MONTGOMERY - The Alabama attorney general's office on Wednesday filed civil lawsuits seeking to shut down multiple casinos it said are operating illegal slot machines under the guise of bingo, including the VictoryLand operation off Interstate 85 in Shorter.
The lawsuits are the latest development in the state's long-running legal battle over the electronic gambling machines whose whirling displays can make them appear nearly identical to gambling machines offered in Las Vegas and other places.
Macon County's VictoryLand, which reopened last year after having been shuttered since 2013, is among the casinos being sued by the state.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, in a statement announcing the lawsuits, said the Alabama Supreme Court "has made it abundantly clear that electronic bingo and the use of slot machines are illegal in all Alabama counties."
"It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to ensure that Alabama's laws are enforced, including those laws that prohibit illegal gambling," Marshall said
Alabama law forbids casino games, such as slot machines, but allows bingo in some counties. Casino operators have argued the computerized machines play rapid-fire electronic bingo, and the displays and chimes are only for ambiance.
The civil lawsuits were filed in five counties — Greene, Houston, Lowndes, Macon and Morgan — against casino operators, gambling machine manufacturers and the governmental authorities responsible for licensing and overseeing bingo operations in those counties.
Lawyers for VictoryLand and other casinos could not immediately be reached for comment.
The new civil lawsuits are a different strategy from that used previously when the state raided casinos to seize machines and gambling proceeds.
The state in 2013 raided VictoryLand and seized 1,615 gambling machines and $260,000 in cash. The Alabama Supreme Court later ruled in favor of the state.
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor reopened the facility last year to large crowds. McGregor said he was assured by the Macon County's sheriff and district attorney that the new games are legal.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians offers similar machines at its three casinos in Alabama. However, the federally recognized tribe is not under the jurisdiction of the state.