AN NJN EDITORIAL — Editors note: The original editorial mistakenly stated that Milton McGregor had lost his casino and dog track business, which was incorrect. McGreggor still owns and operates Victoryland in Shorter. He decided to temporarily stop greyhound racing and remove the elecronic bingo machines until legal issues are resolved. The business is open for simulcast wagering and dining seven days a week.
Ronnie Gilley is a gambler, just as much as the customers he sought to play the so-called electronic bingo machines at his south Alabama casino. He was just playing much bigger stakes.
He gambled when he tried to bribe state legislators into voting for laws that would favor his project, as well as Milton McGregor’s Victoryland complex at Shorter.
Then he decided to play it safe, sort of, when he agreed to a plea deal in the federal investigation of corruption in the legislature. He assumed that the Justice Department had all the evidence it needed to convict McGregor and a rogue’s gallery of politicians, lobbyists and others, thanks to all the secret recordings made by State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale. Gilley decided to cut his losses and take a lesser sentence.
In retrospect, he bet when he shouldn’t have, and didn’t when he should. While Gilley awaited his fate, the rest of those charged beat the rap after two trials.
Meanwhile, Gilley was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison, after pleas for home incarceration went for naught. Two others who copped plea deals got lesser sentences.
And at last, this sordid chapter of the state’s political history has come to an end.
So who won and who lost? Hardly anyone really won, actually. McGregor and friends won their continued freedom, but lost so much else. Beason lost his political momentum, and he will be forever linked to the word “aborigines.” The feds lost the case, and slithered back to Washington. Gilley lost the most. The only winners: the Poarch Creek Indians, who now have a monopoly on the state’s slot machines for the moment.
Maybe someday we will legitimately decide which kinds of gambling are truly legal in Alabama.
But don’t bet on it.