Alabama Supremes: Sweepstakes Machines At B’ham Race Course Are Illegal
The casino-style sweepstakes operations at the Birmingham Race Course are illegal, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled today, reversing a Jefferson County judge’s ruling earlier this year.
The 7-0 decision, written by Justice Tom Woodall, said the machines at the race course’s Internet Cafe are slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama.
Patrons at the race course can purchase internet time, which contains a certain number of sweepstakes entries based on the amount the person paid. The results of the sweepstakes are encoded on an electronic reader card. People can use “reader machines,” which look like slot machines, to find out how much cash they won.
In January, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Scott Vowell ruled that McGregor and the manufacturer, Innovative Sweepstakes Systems, Inc., had found a a legal loophole that should be closed by the Legislature. Even though the machines looked and sounded like illegal slots, they were not illegal under state law, he wrote.
But the state’s highest court called the machines “a refinement” of the original slot machine that takes advantage of modern technology but still amounts to illegal games of chance.
Well. So much for my analysis, which agreed with Judge Vowell. When the opinion’s available, maybe I’ll comment on it. For now, I will only say I am disappointed in my B’ham city councilwoman:
“This is probably bad news for Mr. McGregor but good news to the City of Birmingham,” said Birmingham City Councilwoman Valerie Abbott, who has introduced an ordinance to ban the machines. “His loss is our gain.”
No doubt this is bad for Mr. McGregor, but I fail to see how it is good for the city. I do not gamble, and I certainly would never spend my time or money in a place as pathetic as the B’ham race course. But that’s me. Apparently there is a large market of folks who think otherwise. How it benefits the city to tell them they are not allowed to spend their money in our town, or in a business that pays taxes to our town, is beyond me.
Then again, now that we won’t have any more of these wicked gamblers, maybe unlucky number 98 will be the last homicide for the year.
UPDATE: Here’s the opinion. Hmmm, interesting. The law is the law, so the court attacks Judge Vowell’s factual findings. For an appellate court to reject a trial court’s factual findings is very unusual. And, as I’ll try to explain Monday, these things are slot machines in the same way Chief Knock-A-Homer is a robot.