After all the bluster and legal maneuvering during the past year between the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling and casino developers, it appears the new regime in Montgomery wants a quieter approach. The new attorney general appears to be willing to consider doing what Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley asked them to do last summer, test the machines and see if they meet the rules established by the courts and state law to be legal.
Country Crossing attorney Sam Cherry says representatives of Attorney General Luther Strange’s office are considering a process to get the machines in question to court. Cherry says there is an effort to open talks between the two sides.
The now disbanded task force refused to even consider such a dialogue. Cherry says, “We are communicating and doing exactly what I hoped we would have had the opportunity to do with the commander of the task force.” However he says there was never even an offer to talk.
The new governor and attorney general have said publically, the new approach is not a green light for casinos to open. But the actions underway, make it appear there is also not a closed-minded approach to keep them shuttered. In fact, Governor Robert Bentley said this week, if the operations are legal he will not prevent them from opening.
For Country Crossing, opening would mean putting more than 1000 people back to work, after they lost their jobs when the gambling task force threatened to raid the facility. That is half the jobs the state Department of Industrial Relations announced Friday says were lost in the state last month.
Meantime, on a separate front, a federal judge says the Country Crossing bondholder doesn’t have a case against the former task force. Lord Abbett Municipal Income Fund filed a lawsuit last year saying Governor Bob Riley and Task Force Commander John Tyson’s threats to raid Country Crossing caused it to close and made it impossible for the development to repay pledged $21-million bond debt, despite a bond validation issued in Houston County Circuit Court.
The judge says since the machines were never seized by the task force. Country Crossing shut down operations to prevent that from happening as the task force kept making threats to raid the facility.
Lord Abbett claimed the Governor’s Task Force refused them a right to due process because of the threats and the closure devalued the bonds.