Alabama Gov. Robert Riley wants to shut down electronic gaming in the state. At his orders, state troopers have been making secret midnight and 2 a.m. raids on the large lucrative casino at VictoryLand Greyhound Park, in Shorter, and at Country Crossing casino and country music park, in Dothan.

Bold move, probably appreciated by the anti-gambling faction. Go Bob.

There’s just one picky problem: Electronic bingo is legal. Mere semantics, Riley says. Calling the machines “bingo” is skirting the issue, which is that they are slot machines, he says.

So, back to the raids. Picture a stream of squad cars, lights flashing, sirens whooping, followed by semi trucks with empty cargo holds ready to receive thousands of slot machines. (I am not sure whether the troopers were going to empty the money out of the slots first and give the casinos their contents. That detail was never mentioned.)

Wednesday and Thursday nights of last week, the playbook was the same: surround the casinos’ doors, enter en masse and seize the casinos’ assets. Raider Riley was gonna clean up Dodge.

Problem was, the troopers had no warrants to enter the premises and search or seize anything. 
Riley had obtained a warrant at a previous time for a previous raid, but it had expired.

The casino operators were within their rights and adamant: No warrant, no entry. No and hell no. And “Get off this private property!”

The troopers, lights and sirens now off, turned tail and drove back out to the highway where they parked, all 20 or so vehicles, plus semis, on the shoulder and waited for further orders. And they waited. And waited. 

Hours later, unable to get the paperwork for his raiders, Riley called them all back to Montgomery or to the posts from which they came.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has advised the governor that seizing the assets of these businesses could well leave him (and the public safety director) open to lawsuits. He and others have also pointed out that the casinos generate millions of tax bucks, payroll and other, for the state and counties. They provide thousands of jobs, too.

Raider Riley did not like the Attorney General’s advice. He fired back angrily, saying that the AG is more concerned with protecting the gambling industry than the laws of the state.

For now, the slots continue ringing up money for the casinos, and we the taxpayers are out thousands of dollars for trooper overtime, coffee and gas.

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith

Gita M. Smith is a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer who covered Alabama -- yes, the whole state -- for the paper's national desk where she fell under  the dangerous influence of Keith Graham and Ron Taylor.  She writes flash fiction at 6S, Thinking 10 and fictionaut.