Alabama AG Steve Marshall Sues VictoryLand over Slot Machines

Alabama Steve Marshall Victoryland Lawsuit

Steve Marshall was appointed Alabama attorney general by Robert J. Bentley in February 2017.

Alabama racetrack and casino operators are criticizing Attorney General Steve Marshall’s attempts to ban gaming machines at their facilities. Steve Marshall filed lawsuits at several venues, including Milton McGregor’s VictoryLand.

The lawsuits are designed to eliminate video gambling machines, which are quite similar to slot machines, from the commercial racetracks in Alabama. Racetrack owners have sought for several years to install gaming machines in their facilities, like the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) do in their Alabama-based casinos.

Milton McGregor and his fellow operators say that Alabama is picking winners-and-losers when it enforces the law against the state’s private gaming operations, while allowing Native American casinos to offer the same games with impunity.

It is an argument made to two separate Alabama attorney generals — with similar results.

Milton McGregor on Victoryland Lawsuit

When asked by about the legal actions, Milton McGregor said of the Steve Marshall’s lawsuits, “His actions are hurting thousands of Alabama families and potentially costing Alabama important jobs while spending millions of taxpayer dollars.”

“VictoryLand will continue to fight on behalf of its wonderful employees and the people of Macon County and East Alabama.”

From 2012 to 2016, former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange sought to shut down VictoryLand’s electronic gaming machine parlor. He launched raids to confiscate gaming machines and cash-on-hand from the commercial gaming operations, even recruiting Alabama state troopers to help with the raids. Milton McGregor sued and an Alabama district judge told Luther Strange he had to cease and desist.

Luther Strange v. VictoryLand

Then-Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said the same, telling his own attorney general to stop intervening in the gaming competition between commercial and tribal casinos. Instead, Luther Strange defied his boss and the Alabama court system, telling the racinos he would give them 90 days to shut down their slots-style gaming machines. Governor Bentley eventually signed an order tell Alabama state troopers they did not have to obey Strange’s orders to raid slot machine parlors.

At the time, racetrack owners and a variety of Alabama op-ed writers pointed out the inconsistency of Luther Strange’s actions, even wondering whether he had hidden reason to support the Poarch Band in Indians over Milton McGregor. The issue lingered until Gov. Bentley chose Luther Strange to fill Alabama’s vacancy as representative in the U.S. Senate, after Jeff Sessions resigned to become US Attorney General.

Steve Marshall Compared to Luther Strange

Now, it appears that new interim Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sees the issue the same way Luther Strange did. Milton McGregor made a comparison between Marshall and Strange, saying that PCI is the only one who will profit from the new attorney general’s decision.

McGregor added, “I think he is going to find people in this state are outraged by this.”

Milton McGregor sought to tie Steve Marshall to Luther Strange, because the former attorney general is unpopular in Alabama right now. The circumstances behind the appointment of Strange to the US Senate — Strange was conducting a probe into Bentley’s conduct and many saw the appointment as quid pro quo — led to the impression by many Alabama voters that Luther Strange was corrupt. Despite an endorsement from President Donald Trump, former Alabama Judge Roy Moore beat Strange in a recent US Senate primary race.

Supreme Court Reinstates Poarch Lawsuits

Meanwhile, the Alabama Supreme Court handed down a decision against PCI. The state’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that three lawsuits filed against the Poarch Band of Indians could move ahead.

The lawsuits were filed by residents who argued actions the Poarch Band of Creek Indians took had damaged them. Two of the cases involved alcohol-related driving deaths: one involving a drunk driver allegedly overserved at the Wind Creek Casino and another by an employee of PCI with a known history of alcohol addiction treatment. When it was sued, the Poarch Indians’ Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA) called for the lawsuits to be dismissed, because of sovereign authority.

PCI Claims Sovereignty off the Reservation

CIEDA claimed the reservation lands were sovereign territory and therefore not bound by US alcohol laws. Citing “extremely broad” scope given to their sovereignty, the Poarch argued they were immune from prosecution, whether the incidents happened on the Poarch reservation or on U.S. sovereign territory.

Citing a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Alabama court voted to reinstate the lawsuits. The justices claimed that the litigants would have no other recourse, if the cases were dismissed. Also, Justice Glenn Murdock wrote in his majority opinion that the Poarch Band Indians reservation is subject to state alcohol laws, so they could not claim immunity.