Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Tymes Are Over in Alabama


FBI agents swept across Alabama this morning arresting state lawmakers and lobbyists as part of a federal probe into efforts to pass gambling legislation last spring.

The biggest name arrested so far has been VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, who was arrested at his Montgomery home this morning.

Also arrested today have been state senators Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Larry Means, D-Attalla, Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb and Montgomery lobbyist Jerrod Massey.
I've known Milton McGregor since I was a kid, although it's been a good 20 years since I've so much as laid eyes on him. Back in the late 70's and early 80's, he ran a vending machine business in my hometown of Enterprise.

Around 1982, Milton cashed in on the early 80's video game fad by opening the town's only video arcade, a little strip mall joint called "Happy Tymes." For about three years, it was hands-down the number-one hangout for anybody in 'Weeviltown' between the ages of 10 and 20.

That taste for "gaming" might have been what led Milton to become the public face of Victoryland, a dog track in east-central Alabama, when the track was first developed about 25 years ago. McGregor was brought in as a junior partner to Alabama's real gambling godfather, one Paul Bryant, Jr.

"Cub" Bryant did not then and does not now like to be identified with gambling--the foundation of his personal wealth--in the media. The garrulous McGregor was a perfect foil. Milton loved the limelight, and quickly became the face of the state dog tracks, and later the moves towards turning them into full-on casinos--which, as of this writing, are still illegal under Alabama law.

His work paid off, and handsomely. After Victoryland opened, McGregor became fabulously rich in his own right, and has been playing the game of Alabama politics with the big boys for a couple of decades now. Unfortunately, that game has been as corrupt as any in the nation for quite a bit longer than I've been alive, and it looks like the law may finally have caught up with Milton, as well as a whole bunch of dirty politicians.

Alabama's beyond-dirty legislature has needed a thorough defumigation for most of its sordid history. Here's to hoping that today's arrests mark the first influx of disinfectant.

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