In the July 17, 2018, Republican runoff for the office of Attorney General of Alabama, I believe it is important for the citizens of Alabama to be reminded of the history of one of the two candidates whose names will appear on that runoff ballot. Troy King was appointed to the attorney general position in 2004 by Gov. Bob Riley and won election to the position in 2006. While [he was] serving as the AG, I actually invited him to speak at the church I was pastoring at the time because of his reputation for being a conservative who strongly and fairly enforced the laws of Alabama.
Later in his tenure, however, King’s ties to gambling became a frequent concern. Shortly after his appointment in 2004, King declared that state law permitted both paper and electronic bingo in Macon County, home to VictoryLand Casino, and in Greene County, the home of Greenetrack Casino, both dog racing and gambling operations. Casino owners took King’s words as permission to add hundreds of Vegas-style electronic gambling machines (aka “slot machines”) to their facilities — machines the Alabama Supreme Court repeatedly declared as illegal under Alabama law.
Because AG King would not enforce the laws against these illegal gambling machines, Gov. Riley formed a “Task Force on Illegal Gambling” in March 2010 without King’s support. Troy King criticized the task force’s raid on VictoryLand and Country Crossing, a casino/entertainment development project in Houston County that offered electronic bingo/slot machines. Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley, who spent four years in prison for 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering, had close ties to King. Before Country Crossing opened in 2009, AG King not only okayed the electronic bingo/slot machines, he also said developers could take money from the operation, which violated the charity bingo provision of Houston County law. When Gov. Riley’s task force raided Country Crossing, King opposed the action.
In 2010, AG King announced that he would take over Riley’s task force. Upon the news, Country Crossing and Lowndes County’s White Hall Entertainment Center, two of the state’s largest bingo/slot machine casinos, which had closed rather than be raided by the task force, publicized they would reopen. Jeff Emerson, communications director for Gov. Riley at the time, said, “It’s clear to see the casino bosses are pulling hard for Troy King to win. … They’ve admitted it. Not even Troy King can deny that.”
Gov. Riley said King’s announcement almost immediately led to “expanded gambling” with a “promise of protection” for “casino bosses.” More than 12,000 electronic gambling machines were estimated to have operated in Alabama at some point in 2010. Reportedly, VictoryLand in Shorter had the largest number with more than 6,000 active machines.
The electronic bingo question eventually made its way to the Alabama State Supreme Court, which decisively ruled over and over again in several similar cases that bingo is a game that cannot legally be played on electronic machines. Such machines are slot machines and illegal under Alabama law.
While I do not publicly endorse candidates, I felt it was important to make my fellow Alabama citizens aware of former Attorney General Troy King’s past connection to illegal gambling operations in Alabama. The runoff election for attorney general in the Republican primary and the general election in November will have far-reaching consequences. Unbridled illegal gambling expansion could again return to this state if citizens do not make a wise choice at the ballot box.
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