Federal jury awards $64 million verdict against VictoryLand and Milton McGregor in civil lawsuit
By: Kent Faulk
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A federal jury in Montgomery late this afternoon handed down a $64 million verdict against VictoryLand greyhound racing park and its owner Milton McGregor in acivil lawsuit that claimed he conspired with Macon County’s sheriff to give the dog track a monopoly on electronic bingo in that county.
The jury also found against Macon County Sheriff David Warren.
“We are very pleased with the verdict,” said Robert K. Spotswood, the Birmingham attorney representing charities that had filed the civil lawsuit. “We feel like it is a great victory for the charities of Macon County who were the intended beneficiaries of the constitutional amendment in 2003 which authorized electronic bingo in Macon county.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2006 in Montgomery federal court by a business consortium called Lucky Palace that wanted to set up a rival operation and the 15 charities that had contracted with it to operate bingo in the county. The county’s bingo regulations were issued and amended twice to ensure that no rival could get into the bingo business, according to the lawsuit.
McGregor’s attorneys plan to appeal. His attorneys, Mark White and Charlanna Spencer, said in a written statement after the verdict that “we respect but are disappointed by this verdict. Several matters still pending before the judge could go so far as to eliminate this verdict entirely.”
“We will seek legal remedy for this verdict and continue to believe Sheriff Warren, Mr. McGregor and VictoryLand acted legally and in the best interests of Macon County,” according to the statement from White and Spencer. “VictoryLand has never feared competition against legitimate competitors operating under the same rules.”
James Anderson, who along with his son Jesse Anderson defended the sheriff, said that the jury had found that the sheriff had violated constitutional rights, but also had found that he had misapplied his own rules for bingo and didn’t say he did it intentionally. “Making a mistake does not rise to the level of violating someone’s
constitutional rights,” he said.
The sheriff will not be responsible for part of the $64 million money verdict, Anderson said.
Spotswood said that $42.2 million of the jury’s award against McGregor and VictoryLand was for compensatory damages to Lucky Palace, which was precluded from opening the bingo hall. Also, $126,000 each goes to 15 different charities that had contracted with Lucky Palace, he said.
The remaining $20 million was a punitive award against McGregor and VictoryLand, which would be the subject of discussion between the charity plaintiffs and Lucky Palace on how that money would be divided.
Stephen D. Heninger, an attorney for Lucky Palace, said they were “very pleased” with the verdict. “It’s a victory for free competition,” he said.
The jury’s money verdict represents lost profits if they had been allowed to compete, Heninger said. “The jury obviously didn’t like what he (McGregor) had done.”
The evidence clearly showed that McGregor had deceived the sheriff to make rules that would not allow Lucky Palace to open and compete with VictoryLand, Heninger said.
The verdict came in at about 5:30 p.m. today after a jury trial that had begun May 7. The trial was held before Chief U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins in Montgomery.