Culver Says "Don't Mess With Bingo Machines"

Culver Says "Don't Mess With Bingo Machines"

<img src="/images/Multi_Media/dothanfirst/nxd_media/img/jpg/2009_12/08429722-09fa-bf14-7d0f-61f9de2942af/raw.jpg" alt=" " width="184" align="left" height="135" />Houston County&#39;s Commission Chairman says he&#39;s ready to take whatever steps needed to keep reels spinning at Country Crossing
Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver has a warning for Governor Bob Riley and his Gambling Task Force---don't mess with the bingo machines at Country Crossing.  A copy of a letter written by Culver and obtained by WDHN was addressed to David Barber, a former district attorney who heads the task force. Culver said the machines at the entertainment center south of Dothan comply with a recent state Supreme Court ruling. "We have made clear to the operator of the charitable bingo games at Country Crossing that we would not allow it to operate electronic bingo player stations that do not qualify under the definition of bingo," Culver said in the letter. The court ruling applied directly another county but seems that have been accepted statewide as the general standard that should be met. Victoryland, a 6000 machine location near Montgomery, recently changed the way their machines operate.

"There's no reason for any additional investigation," said the chairman via telephone from Montgomery where he is attending a series of meetings. He also reiterated the machines have been certified legally compliant by Gambling Laboratories Inc., a private international company.

Culver further pointed to the economic influence of Country Crossing on the Wiregrass economy. "I remind you once more of Country Crossing's enormously positive economic impact on Houston County and its huge popularity with the public." He added, "The development (expected to create more than six thousand jobs in the future) has been accomplished (built) without the use of one single tax dollar." The chairman said the project is not about bingo machines but about the people employed at Country Crossing. 

Culver went as far to say the task force has not helped---but hurt.  "The uncertainty in the past has impacted (Country Crossing) .  (The task force) caused millions in investment dollars not to be made in Houston County and the state of Alabama."  Developers said the project was scaled down because many potential investors were afraid to put money into the development given the uncertainty surrounding the legal future of the bingo machines. Governor Riley contends the machines are likely not bingo games but, instead, Las Vegas style slot machines.  And, though they function differently, they do look almost like a slot machine.

Culver stopped short of using the word "lawsuit" but leaves little doubt that any action necessary will be taken to keep the reels spinning at Country Crossing.  "We will defend the right of those employees to make a living as long as I'm on the commission and the others commissioners are there." said Culver. 

The chairman said he didn't want to get into details on what would happen if the task force raided Country Crossing.  It's not known if a raid is being planned but WDHN has learned state agents have been inside the bingo pavilion.  It's not clear whether they were there on state business or on a personal visit.  It's also been learned that the administration has consulted with some law enforcement agencies about the way the games are played.

Copies of Culver's letter were sent or given to Houston County Judges, District Attorney Doug Valeska, and Sheriff Andy Hughes among others.

Barber refused to comment on Culver's letter through governor's office spokesperson Todd Stacy.  However, administration officials confirmed they have received the letter.

Read The Letter
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