Alabama race track owner owes $76 million in taxes, high court says
Published 9:43 pm Friday, July 1, 2022
The Alabama Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Greenetrack owes $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest in a decision that accused the dog track of using charities as a sham for a profitable electronic gambling operation.
Justices sided with the state Department of Revenue, which contended that Greenetrack’s bingo operation was not in compliance with the constitutional amendment authorizing charity bingo games in the county. Thus, they said, bingo receipts were subject to state sales tax and other taxes.
A state constitutional amendment allows non-profit organizations in Greene County to offer bingo games. Greenetrack leased parts of its bingo operation to charities— paying them $4,850 a day— while Greenetrack kept the rest of the profits, justices wrote.
“For the low cost of $4,850 a day, Greenetrack was able to use the nonprofit organizations’ licenses as a fig leaf for its own illegal — but extremely profitable — bingo activities,” justices wrote.
The decision reversed an earlier ruling by a state tax tribunal and a circuit judge that ruled in favor of Greenetrack. Circuit Judge William E. Hereford ruled in 2021 that a 1975 dog-racing statute exempted Greenetrack from certain taxes, and the state was trying to ignore that by speculating on legislative intent.
A lawyer representing Greenetrack did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The ruling came after a more than decadelong fight with the state. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the decision.
“Every day, all across our great state, the people of Alabama get up, work hard to make an honorable living, obey the law, and pay their taxes. And then there are the likes of Greenetrack, which scheme to make a dishonorable profit, break the law, and evade their taxes. Such a sordid state of affairs is more than merely unjust — it is hateful to the rule of law,” Marshall said in a statement.
Bingo operators and the state attorney general’s office have been in a long-running legal battle over the legality of electronic bingo games.
The state has argued the electronic games, which sometimes resemble slot machines, are not what was intended by the laws allowing charity bingo. Operators maintain the games are allowed by local constitutional amendments authorizing bingo and it doesn’t matter if the game is played on paper or on a machine.