By; John Zippert, Co-Publisher
At a meeting with Greenetrack employees on Tuesday afternoon, Luther “Nat” Winn, CEO, said he called the meeting to reassure employees that their jobs were not in danger and that Greenetrack was planning to contest this unjust ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court.
Winn indicated that Greenetrack had been under attack from the State of Alabama, since Bob Riley was Governor, for operating a successful electronic bingo operation, at the former greyhound dog racing track. State of Alabama officials have come twice to close Greenetrack down, they have fought Greene County bingo in the courts and now the Alabama Attorney General has received a decision from the Alabama Supreme Court, ruling that Greenetrack owes $76 million in sales and consumer use taxes for the period 2004 to 2008. The taxes are owed to the Alabama Department of Revenue, based on the state estimates of bingo wagering during this period.
Winn passed out copies of a July 1 press release from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall which says in part, “From 2004 to 2008, Greenetrack reaped vast profits from its illegal gambling enterprise under a scheme that employed a revolving slate of nonprofit organizations to evade Alabama’s laws and taxes… For example, in 2007, nonprofit organizations received a meager 2.5 percent of the nearly $69 million that Greenetrack netted from its illegal gambling enterprise.”
The Attorney General’s press release further states, “The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the Attorney General’s Office, concluding that Greenetrack’s scheme “did not immunize it from taxes” and “did not comply with [Alabama law],” rendering a judgment for the State of Alabama that will allow over $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest to be collected.”
Winn said that Greenetrack paid state and Federal income taxes every year and he did not understand why the State of Alabama was unfairly attacking a successful Black business, owned by stockholders, who are primarily former and current employees of Greenetrack.
Winn pointed to his Federal and state tax returns for 2007, in which Greenetrack reported $73 million in revenues, with a net revenue after expenses of $36.4 million. He paid Federal income taxes of $12.7 million and state taxes of $1,218,000. He said governmental agencies and charities received $1.7 million which was over 8% of net revenues, after taxes.
When questioned, Winn said Greenetrack was exempted from paying Alabama sales and use taxes on monies wagered in both in simulcasting dog and horse races and most importantly in electronic bingo, by state statutes adopted in 1976 and 1986. Winn also said that Greenetrack had won its case that it was exempt from sales taxes on wagering before the Alabama Tax Tribunal and a state appeal to the Circuit Court, which was handled by a judge from St. Clair County.
Attorney General Marshalled appealed these sales tax cases to the Alabama Supreme Court which reached a different conclusion on every legal issue put before it and decided all of these against Greenetrack, leading to its decision that Greenetrack owed sales and customer use taxes, with interest, totaling $76 million, for the years 2004 – 2008.
The Supreme Court in its 53-page decision, ruled that Greenetrack was not entitled to sales tax exemption on its bingo operations, only on parimutuel betting. It ruled that Greenetrack was not legally following the requirements of Amendment 743 in its arrangements to host and operate bingo on behalf of governmental agencies and charities in Greene County. It further ruled in favor of the State in calculating revenues received from bingo wagering, which over-estimated the returns to Greenetrack from bettors, by counting all monies bet, rather than the net wagering.
At the end of the employee meeting, Winn asked employees to pray for him and go to work to do a good job. Winn said that he could not let this unjust decision stand and that he would fight it and expose what the State of Alabama was doing to destroy an African American owned gaming business, one of the most successful ones in the nation.
Beverly Gordon, another Greenetrack official, compared the attacks by the State of Alabama on Greenetrack to the massacre of the Black business district in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921. She called the attack on Greenetrack, “a modern-day economic lynching of a Black business”.
Winn said he would keep fighting and keep speaking out on the injustice. He said he planned to hold other press conferences and actions, including legal appeals, until the tax decision is reversed.