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Lawsuit seeking millions lost at dog track in Birmingham

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — The lawyer who won a legal battle against the sweepstakes games at the Birmingham dog track has set a new legal goal: recovering millions lost by gamblers who played the illegal sweepstakes.

Matt Lembke and members of his Birmingham law firm have filed a lawsuit against the Birmingham Race Course seeking to recover under a state law that allows customers to sue for money lost at illegal gambling, Lembke said Tuesday.

“The Legislature has made clear that people who offer illegal gambling cannot keep their ill-gotten means,” Lembke told The Associated Press.

Track owner Milton McGregor of Montgomery and his attorney, Mark White, were out of their offices Tuesday and not immediately available for comment, aides said. Monte Ballard, who handles marketing for the track, said he had not heard of the suit.

Money-losing customer

Lembke filed the suit on behalf of Debra Johnson of Birmingham, who he described as a money-losing customer of the track. But Lembke seeks to make it a class-action suit on behalf of all Alabamians who lost money and their immediate families.

Lembke represented Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber in a legal challenge of the sweepstakes games at the track. On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the games amounted to illegal slot machines.

Lembke followed up Friday’s victory with a new suit Monday afternoon. He said he is using a state law that is more than a century old and that was used several times in the past for recoveries.

Recovery should not be difficult, Lembke said, because customers of the sweepstakes games opened accounts at the track, and electronic records of their winnings and losses should be available.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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