Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Gaming Law
Alabama v. Epic Tech, LLC, et al.
Two appeals were consolidated for the purposes of this opinion: case no. 1180675 ("the Lowndes County case"), the State appealed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order granting the motions to dismiss filed by Epic Tech, LLC; White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team d/b/a Southern Star Entertainment; White Hall Entertainment; and the White Hall Town Council (collectively, "the Lowndes County defendants"); case no. 1180794 ("the Macon County case"), the State appealed the Macon Circuit Court's order granting the motions to dismiss filed by Epic Tech, LLC, and K.C. Economic Development, LLC, d/b/a VictoryLand Casino ("KCED")(collectively, "the Macon County defendants"). In 2017, the State sued the Lowndes County defendants asserting a public-nuisance claim. In a second amended complaint, the State asserted it was seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to abate a public nuisance of unlawful gambling through continued operation of illegal slot machines and other "unlawful gambling devices." The Lowndes County defendants moved to dismiss, raising, amongst other defenses, that the State failed to join the operators of two Wind Creek casinos. The Lowndes Circuit Court ultimately granted the motion to dismiss, finding it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the relief the State requested. The State also sued defendants in Macon County Circuit court, again alleging public nuisance from operation of illegal slot machines. Again, the State requested declaratory and injunctive relief. The Macon County court likewise dismissed on grounds it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.The State argued on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court that the circuit courts erred in concluding they lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their respective cases. The Supreme Court concurred with the State and reversed the circuit courts. The matters were remanded for further proceedings. View "Alabama v. Epic Tech, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al.
Jerry Rape appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of his action alleging breach of contract and various tort claims against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe”), PCI Gaming Authority, Creek Indian Enterprises, LLC, and Creek Casino Montgomery ("Wind Creek Casino" or "Wind Creek") (collectively, "the tribal defendants") and casino employees James Ingram and Lorenzo Teague and fictitiously named defendants. Rape and his wife visited Wind Creek Casino one evening in 2010. Rape placed a five-dollar bet at a slot machine, and managed to win the jackpot totaling $1,377,015.30. The screen displayed a prompt to "call an attendant to verify winnings." Rape alleged that at that point he was approached and congratulated by casino employees and patrons and that one casino employee said to him: "[D]on't let them cheat you out of it." Rape alleged that the machine printed out a ticket containing the winning amount of $1,377,015.30 but that casino representatives took possession of the ticket and refused to return it to him. Rape alleged that he was made to wait into the early morning hours with no information provided to him, even though he saw several individuals entering and leaving the room, presumably to discuss the situation. In his complaint, Rape stated that he "was taken into a small room in the rear of [Wind Creek Casino] by casino and/or tribal officials, where he was told, in a threatening and intimidating manner, that the machine in question 'malfunctioned,' and that [Rape] did not win the jackpot of $1,377,015.30. [Rape] was given a copy of an 'incident report,' and left [Wind Creek Casino] empty-handed approximately 24 hours after winning the jackpot." Rape sued the defendants alleging breach of contract; unjust enrichment; misrepresentation; suppression; civil conspiracy; negligence and/or wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision; respondeat superior; and spoliation of evidence. For each claim, Rape requested damages in the amount of the jackpot he had allegedly won. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal: “[o]n the one hand, if the dispute here arises from activity determined to be ‘permitted by Federal law’ and thus to be the subject of a congressional delegation of ‘regulatory authority’ to the Tribe, then disputes arising out of the same would . . .likewise be a legitimate adjudicative matter for the Tribe, and the circuit court's dismissal of Rape's claims would have been proper on that basis. But conversely, even if it were to be determined that the gaming at issue were illegal under the provisions of IGRA and therefore not the subject of an ‘express congressional delegation’ of regulatory authority to the Tribe, it would be that very illegality that would also prevent our state courts from providing relief to Rape. . . .Under the unique circumstances of this case, therefore, there is no analytical path to an award of relief for Rape.” View "Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al." on Justia Law
Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc. v. Hoffman
Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc., d/b/a Victoryland ("MCGP"), appealed trial court orders denying its motions to compel arbitration in the actions filed against it by plaintiffs Marie Hoffman, Sandra R. Howard, and Dianne Slayton. In 2008, Hoffman hit a $110,000 jackpot on an electronic bingo machine at Victoryland. A technician cleared the machine and told her the jackpot had been caused by a malfunction in the machine. She kept playing, hit another $110,000 jackpot, only to be told again that the jackpot was due to machine error. Hoffman sued. Howard did not win any jackpots when she visited “Quincy’s 777.” She noted that MCGP employees escorted the Birmingham mayor to specific electronic-bingo machines, and that he hit several jackpots while patronizing “Quincy’s 777.” In Slayton’s suit, she alleged she won a $50,000 jackpot playing an electronic bingo machine, but shortly after MCGP employees inspected her identity documents (her Social Security Card and other identification), the machine was found to have malfunctioned. In each of these three cases, MCGP filed motions to compel binding arbitration and to dismiss the proceedings, arguing that each case involved a contract involving interstate commerce that included a written arbitration agreement. Because the "contracts" containing the arbitration provisions in these cases were based on gambling consideration, they were based solely on criminal conduct, and were therefore void. Consequently, the provisions of those "contracts," including the arbitration provisions, were void and unenforceable. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly denied the motions to compel arbitration and to dismiss these cases. View "Macon County Greyhound Park, Inc. v. Hoffman" on Justia Law
Alabama v. 825 Electronic Gambling Devices et al.
The State appealed a Circuit Court's judgment denying its petition for forfeiture of certain electronic-gambling devices and records of Greenetrack, Inc., naming as respondents 825 Electronic Gambling Devices, Greenetrack, Inc., Bally Gaming, Inc., Cadillac Jack, Inc., and International Game Technology, Inc. ("IGT"). “In Alabama v. $223,405.86,” the Supreme Court emphasized, and reaffirmed by virtue of this opinion: “There is no longer any room for uncertainty, nor justification for continuing dispute, as to the meaning of [the term 'bingo']. And certainly the need for any further expenditure of judicial resources, including the resources of this Court, to examine this issue is at an end. All that is left is for the law of this State to be enforced." The circuit court's judgment was reversed, and a judgment rendered in favor of the State so that the seized equipment and records were forfeited to the State. View "Alabama v. 825 Electronic Gambling Devices et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Gaming Law
KC Economic Development, LLC v. Alabama
The State of Alabama appealed circuit court orders dismissing the State's petition for forfeiture of certain electronic-gambling devices and related records and currency located at VictoryLand casino (appeal no. 1141044). In 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering Circuit Judge Tom Young, Jr. to issue a search warrant "as to certain allegedly illegal gambling devices and related items" at the VictoryLand casino in Shorter. During the search, the State seized 1,615 gambling machines, $263,105.81 in currency, and related servers, terminals, and other equipment. Shortly thereafter, the State filed the forfeiture petitions at issue here. The Supreme Court, in response to a petition by the State, issued a writ of mandamus disqualifying Judge Young from presiding over the forfeiture proceeding. All the other eligible judges in the Fifth Judicial Circuit voluntarily recused themselves. Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy was appointed to preside over the case. Judge Shashy conducted a four-day bench trial. The State argued the machines seized were illegal gambling devices. Witnesses for KC Economic Development, LLC (KCED) testified that the intent of the voters who in 2003 ratified Macon County's "bingo amendment" was to legalize the very types of devices that had been seized. Nine months later, Judge Shashy entered an order dismissing the forfeiture action on equal-protection grounds, on the basis that the State tolerated at other locations in Alabama the operation of casinos that used the same type machines at issue in this forfeiture case. The order did not address the issue of the legality of the machines. KCED filed a postjudgment motion requesting that the trial court specifically find that the intent of the voters in approving Amendment No. 744 was to authorize the use in Macon County of electronic-gambling machines like those allegedly available at other locations in the State. KCED additionally requested that the trial court order that all the seized property be returned. The State disagreed that it had selectively enforced Alabama's gambling laws and contended that the equal-protection rationale was legally untenable. After a hearing, Judge Shashy issued an order that provided the findings of fact sought by KCED, and repeated his finding from his earlier order that the State was "cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed" and thus was "not enforcing the law equally." Judge Shashy then entered a conditional order for return of the seized property. The State appealed. The Supreme Court concluded that the devices at issue here were not "bingo" machines, and therefore the "bingo amendment" as grounds for return of the machines was invalid. The Court reversed both circuit court orders and rendered a judgment for the State in appeal no. 1141044. The Court dismissed KCED's cross-appeal in appeal no. 1150027. View "KC Economic Development, LLC v. Alabama" on Justia Law
Houston County Economic Development Authority v. Alabama
The Houston County Economic Development Authority ("HEDA") appealed a judgment condemning 691 allegedly illegal gambling devices, $288,657.68 in cash, and various documents allegedly related to illegal gambling. The Office of the Alabama Attorney General executed a search warrant at a bingo gaming facility known as Center Stage Alabama ("Center Stage") located in Houston County. HEDA sought, and was granted, the right to intervene in the forfeiture action (HEDA operated Center Stage). The electronic-gaming devices used in the operation of Center Stage were leased by HEDA from each gaming device's respective manufacturer or developer. HEDA purportedly operated Center Stage under a "Class C Special Permit to Operate Bingo Games" granted by the Houston County Commission to operate charitable bingo games under Amendment No. 569 to the Alabama Constitution of 1901. In addition to offering electronic gaming and Roubingo, Center Stage also offered traditional "paper bingo," live entertainment, and a bar. The trial court concluded that the devices, including the electronic devices, computer servers, and Roubingo tables, constituted illegal gambling devices. The trial court further concluded that the United States currency and other seized "gambling paraphernalia" was being used in connection with an illegal gambling operation. The trial court ordered that "the gambling devices ... be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by the State of Alabama" and ordered the State to deposit the seized currency into the State's General Fund. The trial court denied HEDA's postjudgment motion, and HEDA timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, however, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Houston County Economic Development Authority v. Alabama" on Justia Law
Posted in: Gaming Law
Alabama v. Greenetrack, Inc.
The Alabama Supreme Court focused on two appeals (case no. 1101384 and case no. 1110310) and two petitions for writs of mandamus (case no. 1101313 and case no. 1110158) filed by the State of Alabama, all challenging orders entered by a circuit judge in Greene County requiring State officials to return to items seized by the State as contraband pursuant to search warrants previously issued by the Greene Court. In addition, the Supreme Court reviewed a petition for a writ of mandamus (case no. 1130598) filed by the State seeking relief from the refusal of a district judge in Greene County to issue warrants similar to the warrants involved in the first four cases based on evidentiary submissions similar to those provided by the State in those same four cases. The latter case involved the same potential defendants and gaming establishments as the first four cases, as well as similar gambling devices alleged by the State to be illegal. Moreover, the district judge in case no. 1130598 relied upon the judgment of the trial judge in the former cases in refusing to issue the warrants in that case. Upon review of the trial record of all parties' cases involved, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court was asked to preemptively adjudicate (within the confines of a motion filed under Rule 3.13, Ala. R. Crim. P.) the lawfulness of property seized as contraband. The Court concluded the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction to do so. Therefore the Supreme Court vacated the orders of the trial court in case no. 1101384 and 1110310 and dismissed those actions. The Court dismissed the appeals in those cases, and the related petitions for writ of mandamus then pending in case no. 1101313 and case no. 1110158. As to case no. 1130598, the Court, by separate order, granted the State's petition for a writ of mandamus and remanded this case for the immediate issuance of the warrants for which the State applied. View "Alabama v. Greenetrack, Inc. " on Justia Law
Griffin v. Bentley
Ashley Rich, district attorney of Mobile County, and the State filed separate petitions for a writ of mandamus directed to the Montgomery Circuit Court in an inverse-condemnation action filed by Jesse Griffin and others. Griffin filed the Montgomery action seeking compensation for property, namely electronic "bingo" machines and related equipment and money, previously confiscated by the State from Griffin's facility in Mobile County. Rich and the State each argued that the Montgomery Circuit Court was without subject-matter jurisdiction to interfere with the executive branch's enforcement of the criminal law, and without jurisdiction based on principles of sovereign immunity. In 2010, Griffin opened and operated a facility in containing 25 electronic devices Griffin promoted as lawful charitable bingo machines. That same day, members of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling seized the 25 machines, as well as other items, from the facility. The machines were transported to a state warehouse in Montgomery County to be stored temporarily. Upon review, the Supreme Court consolidated the petitions for the purpose of writing one Opinion, and granted them, issuing the writs. The Court concluded that neither the fact that the electronic-bingo machines were brought to Montgomery County to be temporarily stored nor the fact that Griffin filed the Montgomery action before the Mobile County district attorney filed the Mobile action erased the fact that the events in this case arose from a criminal action initiated by the investigation of the facility and the resulting seizure of the machines and other evidence, "[t]hus, Griffin's reliance on the duel-litigation statute and the compulsory-counterclaim rule is misplaced." The Court issued the writs and directed the circuit court to vacate its order in favor of Griffin. View "Griffin v. Bentley" on Justia Law