Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
On Friday, September 28, 2018 there was a legal status conference in Eutaw on a lawsuit filed in October 2017 by Alabama Attorney General, Steve Marshall, against all electronic bingo operators in Greene County. The State of Alabama seeks to end the “public nuisance of unlawful gambling in Greene County by ending the use of slot machines and other gaming devices at five ‘casinos’ in the county”. State Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed similar lawsuits against electronic bingo in Houston, Montgomery, Lowndes and other counties, which like Greene, have passed Constitutional amendments to permit bingo. “This lawsuit is a clear and profound threat to economy, health and welfare of the people of Greene County,” said Attorney Michael Trucks of Fairfield who represents The Center for Rural Family Development, Inc. DBA Green Charity, one of the defendants in the case. Trucks pointed out in his interview with the Democrat that Greene County voters passed Constitutional Amendment 743, which permits “bingo and electronic forms of bingo to operate in Greene County”. He also indicated that Greene County’s Amendment 743 is the only one that specifically permits “electronic forms of bingo”, which the State of Alabama argues are illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette, Alabama, is hearing the case since local Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway had to recuse himself from the case. At Friday’s hearing, Judge Moore asked all of the plaintiffs and defendants in the case, the operators and charities connected to the five bingo establishments, to attend the legal conference to discuss the status and scheduling of the case. John L. Kachelman III, Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of Steve Marshall, Attorney General, represented the State of Alabama. Lawyers representing Greenetrack asked that the three main charities supporting its operations, E-911, Woman to Woman, Inc. and Greene County Association of Volunteer Firefighters be added as defendant to the lawsuit. Other lawyers asked to add the main beneficiaries of bingo fees through the Greene County Sheriff’s office including the Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Health System, Greene County municipalities and others, who receive monthly support from the bingo operations, as defendant in the lawsuit, so they could speak to the damages to their constituents and services from ending electronic bingo in the county.
Judge James Moore asked all the parties to recommend additional defendants in 14 days. He will decide which defendant groups to add to the lawsuit and give additional time to serve those entities with the lawsuit and time for them to give a response. Attorney Trucks said that he did not expect this process to be completed until early in the new year of 2019. Commenting on this lawsuit, County Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown of District 1 said, “ I have been warning for a long time that we cannot count on bingo funds forever. There is a simple way to deal with this lawsuit and that is to vote for the Democratic candidates for Governor, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on November 6.” “Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, Joe Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Bob Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court all support Amendment 743 and will not interfere or try to stop electronic bingo operations in Greene County. If they are elected on November 6, this lawsuit will be withdrawn. “Anyone who is concerned about the jobs and livelihoods of Greene County people working in bingo and the many organizations, county agencies and charities serving the people of Greene County, based on bingo funds, need to turnout and vote for the Democratic candidates on November 6. You are crazy if you don’t vote that way,” said Commissioner Brown.