On December 24, 2006, seventeen non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against Macon County Sheriff, David Warren, saying that he helped the owner of VictoryLand create a monopoly of the bingo gaming market. Furthermore, they claimed that the duo's actions unfairly excluded them from joining legal bingo gaming operations. The voters of Macon County approved an amendment in the state constitution that made it possible for charities to operate bingo games for prizes or cash needed for "charitable education and other lawful and pertinent purposes back in 2003.
In accordance with state law, Warren has permission to make the rules and regulations that are needed for bingo gaming. The lawsuit was filed under the U.S. District Court, located in Montgomery, claiming that Warren created the laws and then changed them on 2 separate occasions to make it virtually impossible for any location, other than VictoryLand, to have bingo gaming. One of the amendments made by Sheriff Warren in January of 2005 has capped the number of charities that are allowed to participate in bingo gaming at 60. 59 charities are already operating at Milton McGregor's VictoryLand in Shorter. According to Robert K. Sports, a lawyer for the Macon County Charities, Sheriff Warren gave the VictoryLand organization a monopoly of the business. The reason why he did it remains to be seen.
What has already happened is an arbitrary and unfair treatment of non-profit organizations. These organizations serve not only volunteer firefighters in the area, but the troops, elderly, homeless, disabled and the young children of Macon County, have all been dismissed for the benefit of only a few self-serving people. Although Sheriff Warren did not return the phone calls directed to his office, in statement, he did say that the rules that he has set were in order to protect the residents of Macon County. He claims that he clearly remembers how the county has suffered and he thinks that it is his sworn duty as the sheriff to look out for the best interest of the whole county.
Despite the fact that he is not a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the charities, Milton McGregor, the owner of VictoryLand, cannot be reached for his side on the matter. The set of amended rules in January 2005 also said that the non-profit organization must sign a contract in order to operate bingo gaming equipment at their establishment that is worth at least $15 million. The law further stated that any bingo establishment, such as the 2 companies that have expressed a keen interest in operating a bingo parlor in Macon County, would have to have at least a minimum of 15 charities under their wing, which is virtually impossible because there is only one bingo gaming license left. One of those companies, Macon County Investments Inc., filed a similar lawsuit against the Sheriff of Macon County just last March. Sheriff Warren, according to the lawsuit, has verbally reassured a charity, Reach One, Teach One of America, that he would issue it a bingo license. Reach One had plans to have Macon County Investments build and operate the proposed bingo facility.
Based on the verbal assurance, Macon County Investments Inc. bought land and then began building a bingo parlor, but Sheriff Warren never issued the license to the charity. Kenneth L. Thomas, the Montgomery lawyer representing Reach One and Macon County Investments in the lawsuit, said that the sheriff is clearly showing his partiality in the case and if you are not a member of VictoryLand, you will not get a license. In testimony, Warren said that he consulted with Gray Sr.'s son and law partner, Fred Gray Jr. in drafting the rules that greatly benefit the VictoryLand Corporation. When Sheriff Warren was asked whether he thought it was a conflict of interests, he said no. When asked about the situation, Gray Sr. said in a phone interview that if Thomas thinks that there is a conflict of interest, he should notify the proper association and not the newspapers.
Thursday, January 11, 2007