Gambling Shakeout

In an ironic twist, casino developer Ronnie Gilley, former state legislator Terry Spicer and lobbyist Jarrod Massey were sentenced to jail terms in the vote-buying for gambling case brought by federal authorities last year. Gilley, Spicer and Massey all pled guilty to various charges and turned state’s evidence against other casino operators, lobbyists and legislators, but the three who cooperated with authorities are the only ones headed to jail. 

The nine defendants who went to trial were all exonerated. However, in mid-July, the Montgomery Advertiser reported that new state Attorney General Luther Strange is continuing to investigate gambling-related corruption.

Not long thereafter, Strange launched a raid on gambling facilities at Center Stage, which has taken over Gilley’s Country Crossing properties, confiscating gambling machines and cash—at the same time urging the Legislature to pass definitive rules on gambling with stiffer penalties. Meanwhile, gambling machines confiscated in a 2009 raid on the White Hall facility can be destroyed, Judge Robert Vance ruled.

Civil suits came, too, as boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. filed suit against Country Crossing, saying the bankrupt casino owes him $61 million on a $4 million loan he made to developers, the Dothan Eagle reported.

And a riverfront development planned for Phenix City won approval from city leaders only after the developer pledged a no-gambling project, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

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And in another unexpected twist, after Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians announced plans for a major casino in Wetumpka, members of the Muscogee Nation Creeks, based in Oklahoma, demanded a stop to the plans, saying construction would disturb sacred burial grounds, which the Poarch group denies.

While the debate continues in Alabama, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that revenues at Mississippi’s coastal casinos had dropped 4.3 percent in the last year.

By Nedra Bloom

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