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Center Stage agrees to give up some gambling devices

September 7, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A south Alabama bingo casino will get rid of some electronic and table games under an agreement announced Thursday with the state attorney general’s office, which had argued it was an illegal gambling operation.

Alabama had contended Center Stage in Houston County was operating illegal gambling devices, similar to slot machines and last year brought a civil lawsuit against the establishment. Under the settlement agreement, Center Stage, agreed to get rid of table games and any “electronic game of chance.” Center Stage can stay open and keep traditional paper bingo and other games that comply with state law.

“It is my duty as attorney general to enforce Alabama’s laws and to prevent individuals and organizations from offering illegal gambling in our state,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. “As a result of the state’s suit, (Center Stage) has agreed to remove the games in question and has agreed to change its operations to comply with the law.”

The Houston Economic Development Association, which operates Center Stage, had argued the games were legal. But the agreement settles the case, which was scheduled to go to trial this month.

HEDA attorney Ernie Hornsby said Center Stage will remain open.

Hornsby said Center Stage will continue to offer paper bingo. He said current video terminals will be reprogrammed so that they are games of skill and comply with Alabama law.

In addition to video games and paper bingo, Center Stage had operated table games that it said were versions of bingo. Center Stage agreed to get rid of those.

The settlement is the latest development in Alabama’s long-running legal dispute over electronic gambling. The attorney general’s office has moved to shut down multiple facilities, arguing the electronic bingo games are illegal slot machines and not was what intended by state laws allowing bingo to be played as a charity fundraiser.

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