Alabama Supremes: Sweepstakes Machines At B’ham Race Course Are Illegal

The story:

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.

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12 Comments on “Alabama Supremes: Sweepstakes Machines At B’ham Race Course Are Illegal”

  1. Dan Says:

    I’m not going to read the whole opinion, but I’m surprised this was 7-0.


  2. […] H/T to The Alablawg  Filed under Local/B’ham + metro, AL govt at work, Law and courts permalink :: email author :: no comments […]

  3. Mary Says:

    I THINK THIS IS AWFUL!! ALL THE GAMBLING IN ALABAMA, FROM THE FOOTBALL AND RACE BOARDS,DRAWING FOR PRIZES AND LETS NOT FORGET BINGO. BUT HE POLITICIANS HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DAO THEN INSURE THE UP RIGHT ATTITUDE OF OUR STATE. WELL WHAT ABOUT THE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE THEY PUT OUT OF WORK 2 WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, WHERE IS HELP IN THAT THOUGHT. THEY COULDNT WAIT TILL THE FIRST OF THE YEAR TO BATTLE-NO LETS RAISE UNEMPLOYMENT RATES-WHICH WILL NEVER ARRIVE IN TIME TO HELP OUR FAMILIES.

  4. Old Prosecutor Says:

    The basic problem is that the people of Alabama want to be against gambling but at the same time want to be able to gamble. Don’t blame the judges. Either the citizens need to legalize gambling or be prepared to travel to the nearest Indian reservation or to Mississippi

  5. wheeler Says:

    “Don’t blame the judges.”

    nah. i don’t think the supremes or judge vowell made a really bad decision. the latter looked at the specific parts of the scheme, concluding that none by itself violated the statutes, therefore it was all legal, while the former said that the whole thing added up to illegal gambling. i think you can make good arguments either way.

    what bugs me is comments like those of my local rep. i don’t gamble, but i fail to see how shutting down this enterprise benefits me or anyone else in this town.

  6. Old Prosecutor Says:

    There is no question in my mind that this was gambling. I doubt if any of the players considered it anything else and I also think even McGregor would admit he was trying to find a loophole in the Alabama Gaming Laws. The people of Alabama consistently vote down any and all forms of gambling and therefore it is not a question of benefit or not but one of legality or not.

  7. Sarah Says:

    The people of Ala. need to wise up and let the state benefit from all the tax money and jobs and tourist that we’re giving to other states!Anyone who can afford to will gamble…it goes on everyday in every city, state just does not get any! Instead we have to pay taxes!The so-called Christians need to stay out of it!
    Keep our money at home!
    There is a lot more BAD things going on people need to concentrate on than gambling, things like drugs, child molesting, killings, etc.,
    MOVE FORWARD ALABAMA!!!!

  8. keith Says:

    The problem with this issue is not that the machines were or were not illegal. It bigger than that. This all comes down to lack of equal treatment under the law. In an nut shell all sweepstakes contain the same elements that are found in gambling save one important fact. gambling requires consideration being risk on chance for greater gain, a sweepstake diverts the consideration for a product and must afford the participant an optional way of playing with out purchase. If i had been mcgregor i would have ask since when is there a defined method of how a sweepstakes must be ran under ala law and why is the supreme court to cowardly to dwell there

  9. curious Says:

    Has there been any further decisions on this or is the ruling saying it’s illegal still in effect? One would think that McGregor could sue the state of Alabama for allowing others, i.e. McDonald’s, Pepsico and Coca-Cola to operate Sweepstakes but restrain him. We’ve all bought that extra big mac that I have no interest in eating hoping to win that million dollars that Micky D’s is offering. Very hipocritical…

  10. sam Says:

    The basic problem is that the people of Alabama want to be against gambling but at the same time want to be able to gamble. Don’t blame the judges. Either the citizens need to legalize gambling or be prepared to travel to the nearest Indian reservation or to Mississippi

  11. Glo Says:

    Oh please, you can’t and shouldn’t legislate morals. Didn’t work hundreds of years ago and will not work now. Stop wasting taxpayers time and money and go after real threats.


  12. it is quite fun to play on slot machines specially if you win a lot ”


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