Troy waiting on court decision on video gambling

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002

Features Editor

The fate of video gaming machines in Troy is in limbo, says City Clerk Alton Starling.

The city was poised to shut down its one video gaming arcade after the Attorney

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General issued an opinion on March 6 declaring those machines illegal.

"The Attorney General’s Opinion says, in a nutshell … that if you’re relying on

luck to win something, that’s considered gambling,"

Starling said. "If it’s a game of skill, it’s not considered gambling.

But in this case, because the machines relied on luck, that’s gambling," which is illegal in Alabama.

However, an appeal pending before the Alabama Supreme Court could affect that opinion. And Starling said on Thursday the city is in a "wait and see" position until the court rules on that case.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors in several Alabama counties have shut down arcades since Attorney General Bill Pryor issued that opinion on March 6.

However, the Montgomery County attorney cautioned local authorities to hold off trying to shut down the arcades pending this decision.

"Other cities are waiting to see what the Supreme Court says because … if the city shuts them down and then the Supreme Court rules they are legal, the city could be sued for lost revenue and more," Starling said.

"The city’s attorney has advised us we should wait and see," Starling said, adding that resolution could come within days or it could take several weeks.

Starling said only one video gaming arcade is licensed in Troy. That license was granted in January to Frontier Games for 27 video gaming machines. No one with the company could be reached for comment late Thursday.

The state passed a law in 1996 legalizing video gaming machines which reward players with $5 or less in coupons.

In 1999, a Jefferson County judge ruled that the machines were illegal slot machines because winning depended on the whim of a computer and not a player’s skill. That decision has been appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a non-binding opinion last year saying the machines were illegal; it has yet to issue a definitive ruling.

"If the Supreme Court rules that they’re fair and legal" the city would have to allow the business to continue operating, Starling said.

If not, Starling said, the city is prepared to follow the Attorney General’s opinion. "The District Attorney’s office gave me an outline (of that opinion)," he said. "That leads us to the next step, which is to let them know that they need to cease and desist or be in danger of prosecution from the District Attorney’s office."

Should the city reach that point, the business owner would be notified by the police chief, Starling said.