02 May Largest Taxpayer In Macon County
What’s taking place at VictoryLand is truly remarkable, especially considering the obstacle course the facility’s president and owner Milton McGregor has dealt with through the years. There will always be opposition to gaming, just as there will be those who will object to others who do not share the same political or religious beliefs as they hold. That’s the nature of life.
Be that as it may, one has to admire the tenacity of McGregor and those who have been a part of VictoryLand since it opened in 1984. Those include some original stockholders, plus the likes of vice president Willie “Sarge” Whitehead Sr. and Mary Hooks, who have done a little bit of everything at the track in Shorter. That’s a very short list. There are many more that could be added. They joined McGregor and several others last Thursday (June 21) at VictoryLand. The occasion started out the brain-child of Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford who wanted to present a resolution from the Tuskegee City Council thanking VictoryLand for its contributions to Tuskegee and Macon County for nearly 25 years.
THE LARGEST PAYER of property and sales taxes in Macon County with the most employees (1,200) of any private business in the county, VictoryLand has paid $140 million in pari-mutuel taxes since opening. McGregor and VictoryLand have paid their civic rent many times over and have been stalwart citizens.
There’s no question that McGregor is very appreciative of the support he has in Macon County and thanked many people as Mayor Ford expanded his resolution presentation to include a brief history of how the track came to be.
It’s an impressive story–a story that is becoming more phenomenal by the day. While expansion of VictoryLand has been reported on several occasions by The Tuskegee News, McGregor took the opportunity at last Thursday’s gathering to briefly talk about the $100 million expansion after Ford had contacted numerous media outlets about a press conference for the resolution presentation. McGregor had planned to wait until nearer completion of the expansion in a couple of years to hold an “official” unveiling.
ALREADY THERE ARE 3,500 electronic charity bingo machines at Quincy’s 777 Entertainment Center at VictoryLand. There are also live dog racing and simulcast dog and horse racing from throughout the country. There is fine dining. But it’s going to get unbelievably better.
Imagine at least three restaurants–one for seafood, another for steaks and a third that McGregor says will be one of the best buffet restaurants in the country. There will be a first-class entertainment center that is expected to seat about 1,500. Prices will be very reasonable to hear the likes of Kenny Rogersand possibly Macon County’s own Lionel Richie.
Then there’s a hotel that will start out with about 300 rooms with plans to add two nine-story towers with another 1,000 rooms, which would give the facility almost twice the number of rooms of any existing hotel in Alabama.
Shoppers will find plenty of speciality stores intermingled throughout the massive facility. Already in place is one one of the finest parking decks in the Southeast. It had to be built so the existing parking lot could be dismantled to allow for construction.
Another similar five-story parking deck is anticipated for the new hotel, 300 yards across the old parking lot from the existing parking deck. Those visiting VictoryLand will be able to go from one end of the facility to the other without venturing outside if they so desire.
In a word, VictoryLand is a major industry that already has an investment of about $100 million with that much more to come. Eventually, the number of jobs at VictoryLand is expected to increase to about 2,000.
Think about all of the announcements about major industries coming to Alabama being made out of Gov. Bob Riley’s office. Less than a handful are of the magnitude of VictoryLand, but the gaming industry isn’t going to be hailed by those in Montgomery.
CONSIDER ALMOST EVERY major industry that has come to Alabama in recent years has received hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to locate in the state. Asteel plant from Germany that recently announced it will locate outside Mobile has been granted $1.1 billion in incentives. That’s not the case with VictoryLand. There are no tax breaks or incentives. McGregor has had to borrow millions–in the past and now–to finance growth at VictoryLand.
McGregor has also had to fend off efforts of what he refers to as “wannabes.” Those are groups who seek to come in from parts far away from Macon County with backgrounds that in some cases include violations of many regulations in the gaming industry and tax laws. Then there are local public officials that view VictoryLand as a cash cow with ideas of taking up to $130 million out of the coffers at the facility, a sum that would certainly shut down the operation.
Already, the county commission lost an opportunity to receive an additional $3 million that would have been paid by VictoryLand for a license to operate charity bingo on behalf of non-profits. Officials thought they wouldn’t get enough and fought legislation that would have provided more funding. Instead, they are saddled with no additional funds.
While all that is going on, a $100 million private investment is taking place at VictoryLand in Macon County with no incentives involved from the state or local governments. There are a lot of other counties in Alabama that would welcome such an investment. Macon Countians shouldn’t take VictoryLand for granted. Just be glad it’s here and that Milton McGregor decided to locate in Macon County almost a quarter of a century ago. The county is a better place because he chose to come here and–more importantly–decided to stay.
But no government incentives or big tax breaks are on the way.