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Ala. gambling resort fails to pay $1.3M in taxes - BusinessWeek

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The gambling resorts developed by two indicted owners are having trouble paying their property taxes.

VictoryLand didn't pay its $1.3 million bill for state and local property taxes for 2010 and can't make payments to lenders for its luxury

hotel now that the state's largest electronic bingo casino is closed, the company's attorney said Wednesday.

"Without bingo, the company can't afford to pay expenses like that," attorney David Johnston said.

Country Crossing in Dothan also has not paid some property taxes that were due at the end of 2010, the county revenue commissioner said.

VictoryLand, 15 miles east of Montgomery in Shorter, pulled big crowds from Alabama and Georgia until Aug. 10, when it closed the 6,000 machines in its casino to prevent a raid by then-Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force Against Illegal Gambling. Riley maintained the games were illegal slots, rather than bingo, and VictoryLand failed in legal efforts to keep the casino open. The casino's shutdown also prompted the closure of VictoryLand's new upscale hotel, the Oasis, and its high-end restaurant, Whitfield's.

Johnston said the dog track isn't as popular as it once was. The tax problems won't affect its continued operation, but it isn't making enough money to cover the property taxes and other expenses, he said.

Financial problems aren't the only problems that VictoryLand's owner, Milton McGregor, faces. He is scheduled for trial with Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley and eight others June 6 on federal charges of buying and selling votes on pro-gambling legislation. All defendants have pleaded not guilty

Gilley's Country Crossing development in Dothan closed its electronic bingo casino, restaurants and bars, inn and concert venue in January 2010 after state troopers gathered outside for a raid. Unlike VictoryLand, it did not have a dog track that could continue operating.

The southeast Alabama development is behind on paying the taxes that were due on some of its properties at the end of 2010, Houston County Revenue Commissioner Starla Moss Matthews said Wednesday. She said she had not totaled up the amount, but it would not approach VictoryLand's debt because Country Crossing did not have as much capital investment. She said Country Crossing has until the county's tax auction on May 16 to settle up without the county taking any action.

VictoryLand's property tax bill of $1.3 million was due at the end of 2010. After VictoryLand didn't pay, Macon County Revenue Commissioner R.E. Corbitt held a tax auction Tuesday at the courthouse in Tuskegee.

No one bid on the track, casino and hotel. Corbitt said that means it technically goes to the state, but all VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor must do to clear up the matter is pay the back taxes plus 12 percent interest during the next three years.

Corbitt said VictoryLand had been the county's largest taxpayer and never had any problems paying its taxes until the electronic bingo machines shut down. Now, he said, the rural county has lost property taxes and sales taxes and seen joblessness increase.

"It has affected this county in many ways," he said.

VictoryLand's attorney said lenders for the hotel have not taken any action yet.

He said VictoryLand's ability to pay past-due bills depends on getting electronic bingo back or finding some other way to attract customers.

"They need some form of revenue that will get them to become profitable again," he said.


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