By John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Greenetrack CEO, Luther “Nat” Winn, told a cheering crowd of 250 or more at the Eutaw Activity Center last Wednesday, that he plans to bring electronic bingo machines back but the State of Alabama will not be able to seize them again.
On two prior occasions in the past year the State of Alabama has raided Greenetrack and carted off hundreds of electronic bingo machines on the legal pretext that they were “illegal slot-machine gambling devices”. This is despite the fact that Greene County voters approved Amendment No. 743 to the Alabama Constitution in 2003, by an overwhelming majority, to allow bingo including “electronic forms of bingo” in the county. Greene County is the only county in which bingo was operating where the voters had approved an amendment which specifically allows electronic forms of the game.
Bingo in Greene County was a successful tourist/entertainment industry which attracted hundreds of visitors, provided jobs to as many as four hundred people, generated $750,000 a year in revenues for the public school system and thousands for community and charitable agencies, including volunteer fire departments, the E-911 services, the hospital and nursing home, community literacy and training programs.
The wage scale and benefits at Greenetrack helped to elevate the median income of the county from close to last place to the mid-range for the State of Alabama.
Greenetrack continues to operate simulcasting of dog and horseracing but the revenue returns and jobs are small in comparison to the needs.
The raids by the state have hampered operations of Greenetrack, reduced employment and benefits to the community. The first raid was carried out by former Governor Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling, headed by Mobile District Attorney John Tyson. The second raid was conducted by Attorney General Luther Strange and based on a search warrant which Circuit Judge Houston Brown has determined was secured improperly by agents of the state.
AG Strange appealed Judge Brown’s decision overruling the search warrant and ordering return of the machines to Greenetrack, to the Alabama Supreme Court and convinced the Supreme Court to stay the order returning the machines and other personal property to Greenetrack.
In the second raid, the State of Alabama went around all elected law enforcement officials in Greene County, including Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway, District Judge Lillie Osborne, District Attorney Greg Griggers and Sheriff Joe Bennison to secure the search warrant. This is one of the reasons, Judge Houston Brown gave for overruling the warrant that he had originally issued and requiring return of the electronic machines.
Many observers feel that the voting rights of Greene County citizens have been trampled because the State of Alabama circumvented elected local law enforcement and disregarded a Constitutional Amendment passed by 83% of the county’s residents.
At the meeting, Winn said, “This has gone beyond bingo for me. This is about our basic civil rights and voting rights. This is why I walked out of Carver High School in 1965 to protect our basic rights including the right to vote. The State of Alabama has engaged in judge shopping and cast a shadow over the fairness and effectiveness of the entire justice system in the state.”
Winn also said, “ We intend to bring games back to Greenetrack and then we will ask the Sheriff to deputize all of our employees, so they can defend and protect the machines. We must and we will stand up for our rights in Greene County. They call us aborigines and all kinds of names but we cannot stay away and give up our rights.”
Rosie Carpenter, a veteran community leader, supported Winn and urged the group to “work for the rights and dignity of unborn generations just like SCLC taught us in the 1960’s. We are not ready to go backward – we must save Greenetrack!”
Vassie Welbeck Browne also spoke in support of Greenetrack, “ We must take action. This is an issue that affects all of us. We are all suffering because of the unfair attack on Greenetrack.”
Esmer Walker, former Mayor of Union and a retired worker said, “We, the citizens and voters of Greene County should file a class action lawsuit for restoration of our voting rights and damages against the State of Alabama and Luther Strange, Bob Riley and others for taking away our rights.” Many in the audience agreed with him and were ready to join a lawsuit against the enemies of Greene County.
Bill Johnson, a former County Commissioner from Forkland and head of the volunteer fire association said, “We have 13 fire departments in Greene County that were getting support from Greenetrack. Our school system was being supported and now where should we turn for support.
Iris Sermon, Director of Greene County 911 said, “ We have had to layoff two more employees since the second raid on Greenetrack. We do not have the funds to retain an effective emergency service for the country without support.”
Many others testified as well to the success and effectiveness of Greenetrack for the people of Greene County and the violation of their civil and voting rights by the State of Alabama.
Winn said additional meetings will be held to develop a community strategy to reopen Greenetrack for electronic bingo. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 29, 2011 at 6:30 PM at the Eutaw Activity Center.
Weather for Eutaw, Ala. Tuesday Wednesday ThursdayPartly Cloudy90/70Chance of a Thunderstorm82/68Chance of a Thunderstorm86/66
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TagsAlabama New South Coalition ANSC Bingo disbursement Black Farmer Lawsuit CEO Luther"Nat" Winn CFO Paula Bird Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell Dr. Martin Luther King Eutaw City Council Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) Federation of Southern Cooperatives /Land Assistance Fund Fund First Lady Michelle Obama George Zimmerman Greene Co. Sheriff Joe Benison Greene County Board of Education Greene County Commission Greene County Commissioner Greene County High School Greene County School System Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison Greene County Superintendent Dr. Emma Louie Greenetrack Greenetrack Bingo Inc John Zippert Jr. Lester Brown Mayor Hattie Edwards Mayor Pro-Tem Hattie Edwards Mayor Raymond Steele Mitt Romney NAACP Nick Underwood President Barack Obama President Obama Rev. Al Sharpton SCLC Senator Hank Sanders Superintendent Emma Louie Superintendent Isaac Atkins Supreme Court The Black Belt Community Foundation BBCF Grants Trayvon Martin Vice President Joe Biden