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The Associated Press June 29, 2010, 2:22PM ET

Ala. task force seizes Greenetrack bingo machines

The governor's gambling task force seized more than 800 electronic bingo machines at the Greenetrack casino Tuesday after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for state police to act.

Task Force Commander John Tyson said a "low-key approach" was taken and there were no reports of problems as 10 state troopers entered the casino around 8:30 a.m. and began inspecting and securing machines that Tyson views as illegal slots.

With the action against Greenetrack, the only non-Indian casino still operating in Alabama is Victoryland in Macon County, the state's largest with some 6,000 machines. Gov. Bob Riley's task force is challenging a ruling by a judge in Macon County that bars any raid of Victoryland.

Tyson said he hopes the Alabama Supreme Court will rule in that case soon.

The justices issued an order late Monday that struck down a Greene County circuit judge's order that had prohibited any raid at Greenetrack. Tyson said Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway informed the task force in a conference call Tuesday that he had not seen the order and was prepared to block any raid, but a copy was faxed to the judge.

Hardaway had issued an order that allowed 822 machines to operate at Greenetrack pending a hearing in his court. The Alabama Supreme Court, however, vacated the order, ruling that the judge had no jurisdiction to stop law enforcement from carrying out its duties.

The seizure of the machines at the casino at Eutaw was led by Col. Christopher Murphy, director of Alabama's Department of Public Safety.

There had been concern that any raid at Greenetrack might be resisted, due to vocal opposition to the governor's task force and anger that a shutdown would cost jobs in the rural, poor county. But the Greene County sheriff who opposed any raid, Ison Thomas, died in April and has been replaced by Riley's choice, George Cook.

Cook's office said he was at Greenetrack and not available for comment. The Greene County Commission is challenging his appointment in court.

Instead of bringing 100 state police to the casino, as the task force did in earlier raid attempts that drew criticism, a small unit was dispatched Tuesday, and Tyson said the operation went smoothly. An attorney for the casino, John Bolton, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Pressure from the task force has led other casinos, including the bingo operation at the Country Crossing entertainment center at Dothan, to close voluntarily. The Creek Indian casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka, which also offer electronic bingo machines, are under federal control and not regulated by the state.

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