Greenetrack officials are finally speaking out after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled the casino must pay $76 million in unpaid taxes on its gaming enterprise in Greene County.
According to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Greenetrack had netted a massive “dishonorable” profit from evading taxes in its electronic bingo operations.
The Alabama Department of Revenue (ADR) audited the bingo operation at Greenetrack between 2004 and 2008 and claimed that the track reaped vast profits under a scheme that used multiple nonprofit organizations to evade Alabama’s laws and taxes.
Greenetrack offers several gaming modes, including hundreds of Bingo machines, and simulcasted greyhound and thoroughbred horse racing, on which attendants may wager bets.
The unanimous ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court struck down the decisions of two circuit courts and Alabama’s tax tribunal, which all previously ruled that Greenetrack did not owe the tax.
At a Tuesday press conference, Greenetrack CEO, Luther Winn Jr, decried the ruling, calling it a “political, financial, lynching,” and announced that the track would be ceasing its electronic bingo machines until further notice.
“When this tax issue first started, Greenetrack never ever got a tax bill or tax notice from the state of Alabama,” Winn said. “As of this day, Greenetrack has not gotten a tax bill saying that ‘you owe this tax.’”
Winn claimed he first heard about the back taxes after a probate judge called and informed him of the lien filed against him by the state.
“That’s not the process,” Winn said. "I had a lien filed against Greenetrack without a tax bill, without a final assessment; all of that came after the lien.”
Winn stated that Greenetrack would be converting their floor to be exclusively historical horse racing since the tax on their Bingo revenue would be more than their revenue.
Historical horse racing machines, which have been deemed legal by the state, allow players to bet on a vast library of previous horse races, which are chosen at random.
Despite the transition from Bingo to historical horse racing, Winn claimed that Greenetrack has no plans to lay off any employees.
Greenetrack is one of the over 30 gambling operations in the state. Most of them operate as “charity bingo” even though the Supreme Court of Alabama has ruled that Bingo is a game played on paper cards, not on any form of electronic machine.
ADR determined that Greenetrack entered into agreements with nonprofit organizations to allow them, on paper, to “lease” and “operate” Greenetrack’s enterprise. In return, the nonprofits received a percentage of Greenetrack’s gambling proceeds, which the state termed a “kickback,” and Greenetrack kept the remainder tax-free. In 2007, nonprofit organizations received 2.5% of the nearly $69 million Greenetrack netted from its gambling operations.
Winn said that, although he believes the ruling to be wrong, he will attempt to negotiate “some kind of deal” with the state to pay the tax. He also stated that his legal counsel had given him a grim prediction on the chances of appealing the Court’s decision and expressed no intention of pursuing further legal action.
“My attorneys have told me that they’ve never seen anything like this, ever,” Winn said. "So it’s hard to defend and to fight.”
Winn also said that the Court’s ruling would put an end to Bingo in the state except for Victoryland Casino in Macon County, and on Poarch Creek reservations.
“This is done to put you out of business,” Winn said. “Because you [can't] stay in business if your taxes are more than you are making.”
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