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With sportsbooks legal, Alabama has an opportunity to change its future

Josh Moon

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Here’s your chance, Alabama.

For the last several years, this state’s lawmakers have been searching for an answer to its gambling problem. And believe me, there is a problem.

Currently, in a state that fights gambling legislation, there are three large Indian casinos raking in hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars annually, and many more quasi-legal gaming operations scattered around the state. (By “quasi-legal,” I mean there is disagreement about the legal standing of casinos, such as Greenetrack and VictoryLand, between many in local and state government, various courts and even from governor to governor.)

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But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that blocked sports gambling — or sportsbook — in states outside of Nevada, providing individual states with the ability to legalize such wagering.

Suddenly, there is a chance for Alabama to open up a major new revenue stream. And a chance for this state to FINALLY pass meaningful, comprehensive gambling legislation that puts to rest a decades-old fight.

To explain this, let me set the stage.

For a long, long time now, Alabama has been engulfed in this complicated bickering over gaming, and for various reasons along the way.

Initially, it was holy rollers, prodded by Mississippi Indian casino money, who stood like barriers blocking any meaningful legalization of gaming on a statewide level. (Several count-specific constitutional amendments passed during this time, but no state-level laws. That includes Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery proposal, which was voted down, and multiple bills that would have legalized various gaming falling short of required votes in the legislature.)

More recently, there has been an inability to reach a compromise that appeased both the Poarch Creek Indians and the non-Indian casino owners. And there has been a vested interest by many lobbyists in preventing any agreement, because once there’s a state-level decision on gaming, there’s no more need for lobbyists.

So, we’ve been stuck in a sort of gambling purgatory, with PCI and its lobbyists and friendly lawmakers fighting off any gambling resolution that didn’t benefit the tribe, and non-Indian casino owners, their lobbyists and friendly lawmakers fighting off any legislation, or compact, that gave PCI too much leverage.

But the biggest problem has always been this: Indian gaming laws all but eliminated any flexibility in these negotiations, because there was never much incentive for the Poarch Creeks to change the status quo or for Alabama to make much money from a compact with the tribe.

At best, a compact would guarantee PCI the ability to operate Class III gaming, such as real slots (not electronic bingo) and table games. In exchange, it would have to give up a portion of that revenue, or pay an upfront fee to the state to operate. For an entity hauling in well over $750 million annually in profits, there wasn’t much to gain.

Now there is.

The Poarch Creeks are one of only seven tribes in America to express interest in operating a sportsbook. Because it could mean big profits in a state where illegal sports gambling is a huge business.

For the state, that’s a fairly nice carrot to dangle — one that isn’t tied to the traditional Class definitions set forth in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Which means the state could offer it exclusively to PCI, or it could offer it exclusively to the non-Indian casinos and shut PCI out.

And there’s more.

The Trump administration has indicated that it will not be as friendly to the tribes should conflicts arise between them and states. And there are many, many conflicts of late.

That could mean that PCI is looking for legal protections brought by a compact with the state, ensuring that, while they might have to surrender a small percentage of profits, their ability to operate casinos here will be protected.  

And one last thing: Alabama is more broke than usual.

The state is looking at around a $100 million shortfall in the next fiscal year and there’s nothing left to cut. That means either raising taxes or locating a large revenue source, like gambling, to fill part of the hole.

Combine all of this and you have a perfect storm of sorts that presents an opportunity to finally get this thing done.

There are options that could appease all involved and also serve this state well. Offering PCI the sportsbook operation along with additional locations in north Alabama, for example. And offering existing electronic bingo casinos — in Shorter, Birmingham, Mobile and Eutaw — the legal protection to offer similar games as the Poarch Creeks.

Just a few years ago, electronic bingo parlors were literally scattered all over the state, and yet VictoryLand employed nearly 2,500 people in the poorest county in Alabama and Greenetrack employed around 1,500 in the second poorest. At the same time, the PCI casinos were flourishing.

Alabama has an opportunity, if this is handled even close to appropriately, to haul in billions of dollars in tax revenue, employ tens of thousands of Alabamians in good-paying job that require zero economic incentives or tax breaks and send generations of underprivileged kids to college for zero dollars.

Get it done.  

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected]lreporter.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | No Mo, please: It’s time to vote out dumb people

Josh Moon

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Smart people reside in Alabama.

Curious, intelligent, open-minded, reasonable, rational people live within Alabama’s borders.

It’s true.

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I know them. I’ve talked with them. There are a lot of them. Many of them kept Roy Moore from being our Senator and they work every day to make the state and the world a little better and a little brighter.

They launch rockets and build cars. They teach some of the nation’s best students and lead world-class college departments. They’re book smart and street smart and can hold their own with a New York Time’s crossword or a round of “Jeopardy!”.

We have nationally renowned artists and mathematicians and engineers and lawyers and doctors and innovators.

Our problem, however, is that we — in the words of the great philosopher Jeff Foxworthy — can’t manage to keep the most ignorant amongst us from popping up on TV.

And so it was Thursday, when a picture of Alabama Rep. Mo “Ron” Brooks popped up on my TV screen, grinning like he was the cat who just ate the canary, but we all know he probably just accidentally ate a sock or something.

I knew it wouldn’t be good news for Alabama, whatever the story that accompanied Brooks’ random appearance on national news. I assumed it was immigration-related — maybe Brooks had renewed his claims of the “war on white people” or was now reconsidering not shooting immigrants.

To my utter amazement, it was dumber than that.

The guy representing the Huntsville area of our state — the area we prop up as our “smart” section, where the engineers and progressives reside — said out loud during a hearing before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that rocks falling into the ocean are contributing to sea level rise.

Brooks was, of course, refuting a comment from a scientist. Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, had the unfortunate responsibility of answering committee questions, and he had tried valiantly to explain in simple terms that the rising sea levels were caused by global warming.

To which Brooks interjected: “What about erosion?”

Brooks’ theory is that rocks and silt deposited into the world’s oceans by rivers, along with waves causing rocks to fall into the oceans, causes the water to be displaced and the sea floor to rise, and thus the rising sea levels are explained without the Koch Brothers and the oil barons having to pay a penny to regulate the poison they pump into the air.

It’s incredibly stupid, and something a child might think. But it’s a theory.

And in this age of all of us having to pretend that every ridiculous talking point dreamed up by conservatives to avoid accepting reality is a legitimate argument worthy of consideration, the Washington Post published research on Brooks’ “theory.” Turns out, the top five inches of all the soil in all of America would have to fall into the ocean to force it to rise at its current 3.3 millimeters annually.

And that’s to get one year of rising levels.

But you know what? I’m not even mad at Mo Brooks. Even if he’s only pretending to be this stupid to muddy the water. (Spoiler: He’s not.)

This is on Alabama voters. Again.

This is the guy representing you in Congress. Each time he’s on TV, the word “Alabama” is beside his name. He’s who people not from here think of when you tell them you’re from Alabama.

Like, when you go on vacation to that all-inclusive resort in Jamaica and you’re hanging out in the pool with cool people from other U.S. states and other countries, and they ask where you’re from, and you tell them you’re from Alabama. This guy — Mo freakin’ Brooks — is the guy they picture.

And that’s why you’re eating alone every night.

But it’s more than that.

This is also the guy that young entrepreneurs and business owners see. Which might explain why we have to pay people millions to relocate their businesses here.

He’s your first impression when you travel on business or welcome clients or try to land new vendors.

Call them crazy, but when Mo Brooks was elected as your representative, people took that to mean that he was representative of you, and the people of Alabama.

Well, Mo Brooks and the rest of this bunch of backwoods, discriminatory, willfully ignorant, guns-over-people politicians that we’ve put into office don’t represent me. And they don’t represent most of the people I know in this state.

It’s time we do something about that.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | If you think the Alabama GOP can’t sink lower, think again

Josh Moon

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“Free2be does not share the values of most Alabamians.”

— Scott Dawson, Republican candidate for governor of Alabama.


Scott Dawson might be right.

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But if he is, and if it’s true that Alabamians don’t share the values of Free2be, a group whose primary goal is to provide mental health counseling and counseling to prevent violence and bullying against LGBTQ individuals, it is one pathetic commentary on this state and the apparently awful humans who reside here.

And I mean that.

Because here’s what Free2be does: it provides mental health counseling and counseling directed towards domestic violence, bullying and sexual assault specifically, but not limited to, the LGBTQ community in an effort to prevent suicides, assaults and murders.

And if you’re not OK with that, leave.

Not the state.

The planet.

Oh, and don’t think this is some sort of advocacy for the Kay Ivey campaign, either. Because it’s not. Yes, ADECA under her watch continued to ship federal funds to Free2be, but on Tuesday, her camp couldn’t wait to get out a statement making it clear that Ivey doesn’t share the values of Free2be.

Of course, given her last few weeks of pandering to the base — or, more appropriately, the debased — it’s fairly clear by now that equality, compassion and decency have taken a backseat to scrapping up votes from the worst of them.

Honestly, I’m starting to wonder where rock bottom is for Alabama Republicans these days. For both the GOP voters and the GOP candidates.

Where does the hate, indifference to human suffering, bigotry and hate stop for you?

Because I’ve watched the political ads and sorted through the polling, and I’ll be damned if I can find the bottom.

You know what one of the most popular issues is with Alabama voters?

Support for Donald Trump’s immigration plan.

Yes, illegal immigration is a YUGE problem in Alabama — not because we share a border with a foreign nation or have a particularly large number of immigrants, but because those Mexican immigrants are brown.

And apparently, the Alabama GOP voters have a definite aversion to anyone darker than khaki.

So, that’s why all of these candidates can’t wait to tell you about their support for Trump’s immigration plan. In ads where they’re carrying Bibles and touting their Christianity — a religion based upon the teachings of kindness and compassion, particularly for the poor and displaced, from a refugee — they explain their unyielding support for a plan to rip children away from their desperate parents who have committed the horrible crimes of fleeing violence and seeking safety for their kids.

But what are you gonna do, right? Jesus clearly said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you … unless they’re a different race and speak a different language, in which case screw ‘em.”

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there for the Alabama Republican.

Support for Trump in general is right near the top of the polls as well.

And why wouldn’t it be? These conservative Christians love a guy who was just caught paying off a porn star to keep secret cheating on his third wife — a man who was caught on tape describing how to get away with sexual assault, who has cussed so many times at rallies that they’re no longer kid-friendly events and who managed to find the good side of modern-day Nazis.  

And last week, when Trump’s White House joked about the impending death of a bonafide war hero, and then refused to apologize to him or his family, not one ad from an Alabama GOP politician was pulled. Or even delayed.

Because let’s be honest, this is who you are. It’s who you really want to be.

You want to believe that minorities are inferior, that treating women fairly is PC BS, that LGBTQ folks need to suck it up, that you can attack anyone who opposes you with vile, nasty comments and then laugh it off, and that it’s OK to be a greedy, self-centered, egotistical jackass.

This is what the ALGOP has become.

And the bottom of this deplorable hole apparently doesn’t exist.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The death of America

Josh Moon

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It’s not going to be a giant meteor.

Or the Four Horsemen. Or a rapture. Or aliens. Or global warming. Or nuclear war.

None of those are going to be the end of America.

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Stupidity is going to kill us.

Maybe the stupidity will result in one of the aforementioned catastrophes, but stupidity will clearly be the root cause.

That was the thought I had today as I watched and heard conservatives around Alabama cheer the president for squashing the Iran nuclear deal.

Stupidity is coming for us. And there’s not a bunker deep enough.

From radio call-in shows to message boards to social media posts, Alabamians were in love with Trump for killing that deal.

Why?

Well, here’s where things get interesting. Because this group that collectively couldn’t find Iran on a map, even if you spotted them Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to be — and you’re going to be shocked by this — simply regurgitating long-debunked falsehoods for justifying sticking it to Obama.

And let’s be honest, sticking it to Obama is all they, and Trump, really care about. If you told the average Alabama conservative today that his job was being eliminated because it was one of those Obama “green jobs,” that guy would fire himself and go stand in a coal mine until he died of black lung that he refused to treat with Obamacare.

Anyway, anything with Obama’s name or signature on it is the most awful thing in the world in the eyes of this bunch of goobers, so there was Trump on Tuesday, killing the Iran deal, and here were these people cheering him on.

There was a noticeable absence of deep thought on why it was being killed or why any of these people were happy about it, but there were two general fallback reasons: Obama sent a pallet of cash to Iran and the deal has no teeth.

Both of which are, pardon me for saying, stupid.

First, the pallet of cash was money America owed Iran for a weapons deal from decades ago. Obama didn’t come up with a number to pay Iran to sweeten the deal. Freeing certain foreign-held assets of Iran was part of a broader deal to decrease Iran’s nuclear stockpile and significantly decrease its chances of obtaining a nuclear weapon in the near future.

The reason the payment was in cash was because sanctions imposed on Iran had isolated its financial system, eliminating the normal transfer route through the World Bank.

And while the overall deal was in no way perfect for America, it was a hell of a lot better than what’s in place right now in the hours after Trump killed it.

Which is nothing.

Iran has its financial payments and other concessions. America and its allies — who were all quite pleased with the deal and its ongoing success — have nothing. (It’s negotiating like that that puts a casino or three into bankruptcy.)

But that’s not even the most insane part.

This is: The deal was working better than anyone ever imagined.

Not only had Iran complied with the terms of the deal and adhered to strict oversight and limitations on plutonium, centrifuges and enriched uranium, it had actually been more accommodating than required.

Under the current deal, the U.S. and its allies were all but certain that Iran couldn’t achieve nuclear capabilities before 2028.

Without the deal, Iran could have a bomb by — let’s see, today is Wednesday — by Wednesday.

Let me put this in terms that’ll make sense to everyone around here: Trump just killed a 10-year Nick Saban contract because Saban wouldn’t agree to keep coaching past 10 years.

Trump gave up 10 years of oversight and knowledge in order to … who the hell even knows?

And that’s the other thing here: once again, because so many people seem to be a roll of quarters away from joining Trump on Halley’s Comet, they seem totally uninterested in this conman’s complete and utter lack of any plan.

How’d that work on health care? Or on Mexico paying for the wall? Or there actually being a wall? Or the tax cuts benefitting the middle class? Or coal jobs returning?

This is idiocy has gone on long enough. It’s one thing to watch y’all fall again and again for Trump’s goofy promises about idyllic white American life, but this is different.   

America and the rest of the world was safer on Tuesday morning.

Then stupidity intervened.

 

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With sportsbooks legal, Alabama has an opportunity to change its future

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