The court based its opinion on an undercover surveillance video of the games and information supplied by an investigator for the state attorney general.
“This decision should end the debate on whether so-called ‘electronic bingo’ is illegal,” Attorney General Luther Strange said.
An attorney for the closed VictoryLand casino did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The state’s highest court issued the opinion to explain why it ordered a Macon County judge to issue a search warrant for the attorney general’s raid last month after both the judge and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had declined.
The Supreme Court said it saw the same surveillance video and affidavit that investigator Howard “Gene” Sisson presented to Macon County Judge Thomas Young Jr. in an effort to get a search warrant.
“The games depicted in the surveillance video and described in the affidavit proffered by Sisson in support of the application for the warrant do not reasonably resemble a game of ‘bingo.’ Without turning a blind eye to that which is depicted in the video and described in the affidavit, a ‘man of reasonable caution’ could reach no conclusion other than that there is a ‘fair probability’ that the machines in question are not the games of bingo and, instead, are slot machines or other gambling devices that are illegal under Alabama law,” the justices wrote.
The opinion was the court’s strongest on electronic gambling since it ruled in a case involving a closed Lowndes County casino that legal bingo must involve the active participation of the player, including marking a card and announcing a win.
In the VictoryLand case, Young denied the warrant on several factors, including the Macon County sheriff saying he believed the games were legal. The Supreme Court said he erred based on what the attorney general’s investigator presented. Six justices signed the opinion, and two, Chief Justice Roy More and Justice Jim Main, concurred.
The attorney general raided what was once Alabama’s largest casino on Feb. 19, seizing $223,400 in cash and 1,615 machines. The attorney general has asked a judge to let the state keep the money and destroy the machines.
VictoryLand closed in 2010 during a state crackdown on privately run casinos. It had more than 6,000 machines at the time. It reopened in December after its owner, Milton McGregor, was acquitted by a federal court jury on charges accusing him of offering bribes to legislators.