MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) –
The seventh day of testimony in the Macon County Casino Civil Suit stretched on with Lucky Palace Investor Jess Ravich on the stand.
“But for the sheriff granting assurances, we had everything ready to go, [everyone] was on board,” explained Ravich.
Studies had been completed on the viability of the project by researching Macon County and the surrounding areas, Ravich had spoken with Bracy, visited the site and its nearest competition, and he figured that the venture would be successful. Ravich started working on finding investors and brought Paul Alanis in on the project to work as a developer and casino manager. Ravich said all that was needed was for the Sheriff to say that should the facility be built according to the regulations at the time of the assurance, that it could open as a casino and as intended.
“It’s naive to think that anyone would spend a significant amount of money only to hope that something would get done,” said Ravich.
Ravich also agreed with testimony given on Tuesday by Alanis that said VictoryLand might even be able to benefit from the opening of Lucky Palace due to the “cluster effect.”
Ravich explained that he only visited Alabama a few times; his primary source of information regarding progress with the Sheriff was Paul Bracy Jr., President of Lucky Palace LLC. – Bracy’s testimony was heavily called into question earlier in the trial.
He then went on to explain to the court in detail the work that was done to persuade Sheriff Warren to grant the charity licenses for Lucky Palace. Ravich recruited a local Alabama investor, a man by the name of Ed Rogers. Rogers did a number of things beyond loaning money which included visiting with the Attorney General at that time, Troy King, about the Sheriff. Rogers told Ravich that AG King supported Lucky Palace coming to Macon County under a Planet Hollywood umbrella. King also told Rogers that Sheriff Warren should have been able to issue a “build-out letter” as requested under the broad rules he was given.
Ravich explained that once Rogers got involved, work started to determine what specifically the Sheriff didn’t like about Lucky Palace and why he hadn’t been willing to give any assurances. Ravich said they considered using an all-Alabama management team instead of Silver Slipper like originally planned.
“We were just trying to find out what his hot button was and why he wasn’t responding to us,” said Ravich.
A large effort was put in to showing an Alabama involvement rather than using groups from other states.
Rogers said negotiations with Sheriff Warren had been going well in e-mail correspondence with Ravich. Rogers thought they would see some kind of approval by mid-December and if that didn’t work they would “explore other strategies.”
Those strategies broke down to two things – 1) opposing the Sheriff with a different candidate in the upcoming election and 2) bringing a lawsuit.
Rogers brought a third man in to help – former Alabama Lt. Governor Steve Windom. Windom was hired to work as a lobbyist and consultant for their “other strategies.”
E-mail correspondence was sent that stated, “nothing short of fear of losing, or actually losing an election will persuade [Sheriff Warren] to write the letter.”
Windom sought the help of Steve Raby to work on the campaign of their candidate – current Shorter Police Chief Sandor Maloy. Windom wrote in correspondence that it would be an “all out war on the Sheriff for the months of the campaign.”
Windom and Raby sought payment for their involvement – $20,000 a month in advance starting in January 2006. They also sought a ‘success bonus’ for either a successful election or for getting the sheriff to sign an agreement. Under this agreement, Windom would have gotten a $1 Million bonus. Windom’s suggested strategy of “creating fear” for Sheriff didn’t work. That’s when the charities banded together for the second strategy and a lawsuit was filed.
Read a case timeline HERE.