The group behind the casino, the Houston Economic Development Association, appealed to the Supreme Court after Houston County Circuit Judge Michael Conaway rejected its request to step aside from the forfeiture case. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal Friday without giving an explanation.
An attorney for the association, Ernie Hornsby, said three other Houston County judges stepped aside and the association wanted Conaway to do the same thing because of the pervasive media coverage. That would have resulted in a judge from outside the county getting the forfeiture case.
Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan said the Supreme Court ruling allows the forfeiture case to proceed in Dothan.
The attorney general's office raided the Dothan in casino in July. Center Stage is located in what used to be Country Crossing. Country Crossing shut down under pressure from Alabama's gambling task force in 2010, and its developer, Ronnie Gilley, pleaded guilty to offering bribes to legislators. New operators opened Center Stage in 2011 and the attorney general's office raided it in July after the operators ignored a warning to cease operations.
In a related matter Friday, the Supreme Court declined a request from operators of Country Crossing to rehear a case from 2010. In that case, the state's highest court said a Houston County judge could not issue a temporary restraining order to keep state police from raiding the Center Stage casino. In a one-page decision denying the rehearing Friday, the Supreme Court said a county judge can't interfere with a criminal investigation by using a civil court action like a temporary restraining order.
Friday's decisions come a few weeks after operators of a casino in White Hall dropped their claim to nearly $550,000 seized in a raid in 2009. The state government got to keep the money. The owners of the gambling machines in the casino also dropped their claim to machines seized during the raid, and the attorney general's office got court approval to destroy them.