can't seem to make up its mind whether electronic bingo is legal or illegal in the state.
We also have shown that the high court seems more likely to find e-bingo illegal when casinos in neighboring Mississippi are struggling financially.
But the all-Republican Supreme Court is not the only conservative legal entity in Alabama that seems to fail at dealing with gaming issues in any consistent way. Bradley Arant, which happens to be the largest and perhaps most "pro business" law firm in the state, also can't seem to decide where it stands on the issue.
Bradley Arant found electronic bingo illegal throughout Alabama in 2008--just three years after declaring that machines at VictoryLand casino, perhaps the state's best-known e-bingo facility, were legal. That finding, which would be comical if it did not involve millions of dollars and fundamental state constitutional law, is one of many intriguing revelations from Josh Moon's investigative report at the Montgomery Advertiser back in November.
The revelation comes as the public awaits a ruling in the VictoryLand forfeiture case, which is roughly three months overdue. It adds to the mountain of dubious legal rulings on Alabama bingo in the past seven years or so. And it gives the appearance that the state's "justice system" is hopelessly compromised on the issue--operating outside established law and without any apparent moral compass.
How did Bradley Arant enter the picture? Governor Bob Riley asked them to review a finding by one of his young staff attorneys, Bryan Taylor, that e-bingo machines throughout the state were illegal. Lo and behold, the lawyers at the august Birmingham firm agreed with young Mr. Taylor.
Were Taylor, Riley, or Bradley Arant actually looking at the matter objectively? We see plenty of reasons to doubt that. Apparently so does Moon, who reports:
To make sure, (Riley) asked attorneys from one of the state's most powerful law firms, the Bradley Arant Boult Cummings firm in Birmingham, to review Taylor's opinions. They concurred with Taylor, according to Riley.
Almost as an aside, in parentheses, Moon writes:
(An interesting note: in a 2005 opinion provided to a financial institution seeking guidance on whether to lend money to McGregor for renovations at VictoryLand, Bradley Arant attorneys deemed the casino to be in compliance with the law. In fact, their attorneys stated that the only way VictoryLand would not be in compliance was if a new constitutional amendment were written.)
How could Bradley Arant's opinion change so radically in barely three years' times?
Well, we know the following:
* Bob Riley funneled more than $10 million to the Birmingham firm during the final two years of his administration, which was spent mostly fighting e-bingo? Did Bradley Arant have 10 million reasons to change its analysis on e-bingo in Alabama?
* Bob Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a Bradley Arant lawyer--and Bryan Taylor used to work there;
* GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon funneled $20 million of Mississippi Choctaw gaming money to help Bob Riley get elected in 2002. Abramoff admitted in his book that the Choctaws spent $20 million to protect their $400-million revenue stream, built to a considerable extent off customers crossing the border from Alabama.
* Bob Riley's decision to launch an anti-bingo crusade coincided with a period when the Choctaws were laying off employees and cutting back casino operations to three days a week.
How can a law firm be taken seriously when it changes its opinion on the legality of electronic bingo from legal to illegal in three years' time--apparently for reasons that have nothing to do with the law and everything to do with back scratching, political favors, and the opportunity to make millions of dollars in cold, hard cash?