Solidarity meeting held to support electronic bingo in Greene County

Nat WinnGreenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn addresses Solidarity meeting

 

On Tuesday, November 21, the Black-Belt Solidarity Committee held a meeting at the Eutaw National Guard Armory in support of Greene County Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing electronic bingo in Greene County. The Solidarity Meeting Committee consisting of Val Goodson, Beverly Gordon and Patricia Edmonds sponsored the meeting.
Two hundred supporters of bingo attended and heard statements from community political and organizational leaders in support of electronic bingo and its benefits to the community.
The meeting was held in response to a recent lawsuit filed by Alabama Attorney General Mike Marshall to stop bingo in five counties around the state including Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Morgan and Houston where bingo has been authorized by voter support of Constitutional amendments.

Sheriff Joe Benison spoke and said he enjoys serving the people of Greene County with his staff of 34 employees and encouraged unity in the face of the attack on bingo by the Attorney General.
Hodges Smith speaking on behalf of the Greene County Volunteer Fire Associations said, “ Before bingo, we had to raise money for fire trucks and other equipment selling hot dogs and hamburgers. It was very difficult and we could not get all of the up to date equipment we needed. We do not want to be pushed backwards into the dark ages again. We need to stand together for bingo.”
Johnny Isaac, Chair of the E-911 Board also spoke in favor of bingo and the need for unity in view of the attack on Amendment 743.
John Zippert, Chair of the Greene County Health Systems Board of Directors said, “We received a distribution of $39,375, for the month of October, from four of the five bingo establishment this week which helped the hospital to meet payroll and expenses to continue to provide health services in Greene County to people who do not have any insurance.”
Mayor Raymond Steele spoke of the benefits of gaming to the City of Eutaw and other municipalities in the county that receive bingo funds. County Commissioner Allen Turner reported that the County Commission used bingo funds to match Federal funds for road and bridge repairs, which stretched the funds and made them to further to help the people of Greene County.
Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, CEO of Greenetrack said he was pleased to see people standing together to protect what we have. “I hope this sends a message to AG Marshall not to come to disrupt the jobs and economic progress we have made through electronic bingo.” Winn continued, “ I want you to know that we are not going to close our operations this time. If the state comes, I for one am going to stand in the doorway of Greenetrack and stop the State of Alabama from disrupting a gaming industry that employs hundreds and supports the county agencies and schools of Greene County. This is a part of our voting rights and civil rights and we are not giving up without a fight.”
Commissioner Marcus Campbell of Sumter County and Probate Judge Crawford of Hale County also spoke in support of unity to keep Greene County bingo working because it provides employment and other benefits to residents of their adjoining counties.
The Solidarity meeting was adjourned and a monthly Greene County Fire Association meeting went forward.

Countywide meeting held to support and defend Greene Co. Constitutional Amendment 743 for ‘electronic bingo’

groupMore than 250 people attended Tuesday’s countywide meeting at the National Guard Armory to discuss the recent decision of the Alabama Supreme Court deeming ‘electronic bingo’ in Greene County to be illegal. This decision made on an appeal by the State of Alabama on the 2010 raid which confiscated 825 electronic bingo machines from Greenetrack.The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that it has defined bingo as a game of chance played on paper cards and that the electronic bingo machines used at Greenetrack and other gaming facilities in Greene County are “illegal slot machines”.
This decision comes despite the 2003 vote by Greene County residents to enact Constitutional Amendment 743 authorizing electronic bingo. Greene County voters approved this amendment by an overwhelming vote.
Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO of Greenetrack presided over the meeting and introduced the county and legislative officials who spoke.
Winn said, “This decision by the Supreme Court is an illegal decision, they went against a Constitutional Amendment that we that we worked hard and legally secured for Greene County. The voters of Greene County have lost our basic right to vote and make decisions to help ourselves and build our county. The Supreme Court is taking 300 jobs from Greene County and millions of dollars of support for county government, municipal government and vital services. They have given us nothing in return. We are not going to accept this decision, we are going to fight it.”
Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw said,” This is going to be devastating for Eutaw and Greene County. There is no growth or new business in our area besides gaming. If the Supreme Court and the State take away bingo what will we have left. Do not touch Greenetrack until you bring us some jobs and revenues to replace it.”
Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System, warned that the hospital and nursing home would be forced to close without the jobs and revenues from bingo.
Hodges Smith speaking on behalf of the Greene County Firefighters Association said, “ We got tired of selling hamburgers and fish sandwiches to support our voluntary fire departments in Greene County. We supported Amendment 743 and went to the Alabama Legislature to get it passed because of the revenues that have been generated to support 14 fire departments across the county.”
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, District 1 School Board members said, “I cannot speak for the Board, but I can speak for the children of Greene County. We have not received enough funds from bingo but what we have received has helped the children of the county. This is a voting rights issue; the Alabama Supreme Court is taking our votes away. I had hoped that we had made some progress since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s but it seems that our children will have to fight the same fights all over again to protect our rights.”
Lester Brown, Greene County Commissioner said, “ We need to support Amendment 743. It provides that matching funds for roads and bridges in our county. It provides jobs for our people. The Supreme Court wants us to cross a bridge with out the money to build it – that won’t happen!”
State Representatives Ralph Howard and Artis McCampbell who represent Greene County in the Alabama Legislature also spoke. “We have Constitutional Amendment 743, what else do we need to have? We need to stand up for the rule of law… it is worth fighting for,” said Howard.
Kennard Randolph, Blackbelt Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Terry Sewell said the Congresswoman was supportive of gaming in Greene County and would help in any way she could.
State Senator Bobby Singleton addressed the group and said he had been involved in the original debates over bingo in Greene County and helped insert the language for ‘electronic bingo’ in the legislation for the Constitutional Amendment referendum in 2003.
“This whole fight against bingo is a conspiracy between AG Luther Strange, the Republican Supreme Court and the Republican Party. There is ex parte communications between Luther Strange and the Supreme Court. The Republican Party wants to cut out all possible sources of campaign funds for the Democrats. They went after the teachers (AEA), unions, state employees, trial lawyers and gaming, “ said Singleton.
Singleton said he serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Gaming and he learned, “That this issue of electronic bingo in Greene County stands between the state giving the Native Americans exclusive rights to gaming in the state; a state lottery and other issues. I am fighting for the people of Greene County, not just Greenetrack. We need jobs at livable wages and revenues from gaming to support needed government and community services.”
Near the end of the meeting, Probate Judge, Judy Spree asked Winn what was his plan of action. Winn said, “ We are going to fight to protect bingo but if you know people in high places then contact them and ask them to help Greene County.
Others suggested using social media like Facebook to spread the word of the impacts of the Supreme Court’s decision on Greene County people. A more detailed strategy of resistance and fighting back was left to future meetings.
Noticeable absent from this countywide meeting was Sheriff Benison, who is the county official who supervises bingo under Amendment 743, makes the rules and administers the funds coming from bingo. Also missing were representatives of the owner-operators of the other bingo parlors in Greene County – Green Charities, Rivers Edge and Frontier.

Greenetrack sets up guarantee fund to assist Greene County Health System with payroll

Greenetrack

Pictured L to R: Greenetrack Boardmember Toice Goodson, Sr., Greenetrack
 CEO Luther ‘Nat’ Winn, Jr., GCHS boardmember John Zippert,  GCHS
boardmember Shirley Isaac  and Greenetrack Boardmember Jimmy Pasteur

At a press conference on Friday morning at Greenetrack, Greenetrack CEO, Luther ‘Nat’ Winn Jr. and several board members presented the Greene County Health System (GCHS) with two checks totaling $150,000. These funds will be used to establish a guarantee fund in the Merchants and Farmers Bank to insure that the GCHS can meet its bi-weekly payroll, even when payments from Medicaid, Medicare and other health payers are delayed. The GCHS has 200 full and part-time employees.

The Greene County Health System, which includes the Hospital, Residential Care Center (nursing home) Physicians Clinic, Home Health Services, Rehabilitation Services and other health care benefits was represented at the presentation by Board members – Shirley Isaac and John Zippert. GCHS board members thanked the officials of Greenetrack for their concern and support.
In early April, according to Elmore Patterson, GCHS CEO, the health system experienced some difficulties in meeting a payroll because its Medicaid payments were delayed until later in the month. GCHS board members and Medicaid itself made loans and advances to assure that the payroll was met.
Luther Winn Jr., CEO of Greenetrack learned of these problems and agreed to assist by placing funds in a guarantee account to assure that the payroll could be met on a timely basis.
Luther Winn, Jr., CEO of Greenetrack and a member of the Greene County Industrial Authority, felt compelled to step in and assist.  “Greenetrack is committed to the Greene County community. As in the past, we have done what we could to improve the quality of life for every resident here,” said Winn, “and we cannot afford to lose our hospital.”  Winn went on to say that the Industrial Authority actively seeks new businesses for the area and without a hospital, he fears that businesses definitely will not consider coming to Greene County.
Winn informed the GCHS that Greenetrack was receiving $75,641.07, mostly in coins, back from the State of Alabama, in connection with litigation concerning the first raid on Greenetrack in 2010. These funds were awarded back to Greenetrack by Special Circuit Judge Houston Brown, in a summary judgment on February 3, 2016, in a hearing in Greene County. The case also involves over 800 electronic bingo machines seized by the state in the same raid.
The coins were in Greenetrack’s vault but the State of Alabama, who seized them, could not prove that these funds were derived from illegal gambling activities and thus agreed to return them.
Greenetrack’s Board of Directors agreed to match the State’s funds with an additional $75,000 to create a $150,000 guarantee collateral fund in Merchant and Farmers Bank to back-up the GCHS’s payroll account. If the GCHS has to draw upon this account to support payroll, it will have to replace the funds before drawing on the account again. “This will insure that the GCHS’s employees will never miss a paycheck,” said Winn.
Shirley Isaac of Forkland and GCHS Board member said  “ We are grateful to Mr. Winn and Greenetrack for their support and confidence in the hospital, nursing home and other services. This will surely help us to meet our responsibilities to our hardworking and dedicated staff.”
John Zippert, another GCHS Board member said, “ We appreciate what Mr. Winn and Greenetrack have done to help the GCHS but it is up to us as citizens of Greene County to do our part and use the facilities, health personnel and services available at the hospital, residential care center and physicians clinic.”
“We have 20 beds in the hospital, 70 beds in the nursing home, 3 doctors and 2 nurse practitioners at the clinic, a full lab, new X-ray machine, women’s health center with mammography, physical, occupational and speech therapy services, home health services and many other health services at our facilities. There is no reason to go to Tuscaloosa, Demopolis or elsewhere for medical and health services unless you are referred by GCHS. If we don’t use our facilities and staff, we will surely lose them,” said Zippert.
Elmore Patterson, GCHS CEO said, “We welcome this support from Greenetrack. We hope that we will also secure some regular monthly funding from Sheriff Benison’s bingo rules which will help us meet the costs for serving so many people in the county who cannot afford healthcare and those with Medicare and Medicaid whose reimbursements do not meet the full cost of providing care.”