Dog track operator loses last appeal
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Dog track operator Milton McGregor lost his last appeal Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an Alabama court decision shutting down electronic sweepstakes games at McGregor's Birmingham track.
The nation's highest court declined without comment to review McGregor's appeal of an Alabama Supreme Court decision.
District Attorney David Barber, who had challenged the legality of the machines, agreed.
On Dec. 1, the state Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the electronic sweepstakes machines at McGregor's Birmingham Race Course were illegal and were no different from slot machines. The ruling was in favor of Barber.
McGregor then sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court,
arguing that state Supreme Court justices who had campaigned against gambling shouldn't have participated in the ruling.
Before the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against the machines, McGregor's lawyers had asked four of the nine justices — Lyn Stuart, Mike Bolin, Patti Smith and Chief Justice Drayton Nabers — to officially step aside from the case because they had expressed public opposition to gambling in voter guides distributed by the Christian Coalition of Alabama. Nabers also ran a campaign ad last year critical of "gambling bosses."
Nabers did not participate in the 8-0 decision, but the other three justices did.
White said the recusal issue was the focus of the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the case is over, White said McGregor is not through talking about the issue of judges making campaign comments before they hear related cases.
"Milton is determined to try to improve the quality of our judicial election system and he's committed to ensuring an independent judiciary," White said.
While Barber won this round, he predicted there will be more battles across the state because operators are looking for ways to modify gambling machines to make them qualify under Alabama laws.
When the Birmingham track had the sweepstakes machines, customers bought computer time on an electronic card. Customers received sweepstakes entries for their purchase of Internet time, and winners were revealed using computerized card readers that resembled slot machines.
While McGregor was pursuing an appeal of the state Supreme Court's decision, the Alabama House was considering a bill to allow electronic bingo machines at the dog tracks in Birmingham and Mobile. The bill, which would also have cracked down on gambling in other locations, died without coming to a vote in the House when the legislative session ended June 7.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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