By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, October 23, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead blasted State Representative Joe Hubbard, the Democratic Party candidate for Attorney General, for running a campaign that is largely financed by the Poarch Creek Indians, who run a string of casinos in Atmore and Wetumpka. Chairman Armistead accused Hubbard of, “Obviously being bought and paid for by Alabama casino owners!”
Chairman Armistead said in a statement, “How much money does a candidate have to receive from a single source before the public understands that the candidate is completely compromised, particularly when we’re talking about a law enforcement job like Attorney General?”
The ALGOP Chairman continued, “Since Montgomery lawyer, ‘Casino Joe’ Hubbard launched his campaign against incumbent Luther Strange, $1.5 million of Hubbard’s $2 million campaign war chest has come from the Indian casinos owned by the Poarch Band of the Creek Indians, based in Atmore, Alabama. We simply cannot afford to have an Attorney General who is compromised by being owned by casino bosses.”
On Tuesday the Montgomery Advertiser reported that Rep. Hubbard received a $500,000 check last week from the owners of the Indian casinos, who had already given $1 million to his campaign.
“Chairman Armistead said, “The casino bosses funding of Hubbard’s campaign are interested in one type of business in Alabama, their own! When a major gambling interest puts that kind of money into a campaign they are interested in one thing, buying protection. That’s what ‘Casino Joe’ is selling them. Protection so that they can continue to expand their gambling franchise in Alabama, nothing more, nothing less. If voters believe that expanding casino gambling in Alabama is good for our citizens, then they ought to support ‘Casino Joe.’ If, on the other hand, they believe as I do, that casino gambling is a net negative because it preys on those who can least afford to lose their hard-earned paychecks, then they should support the good man we now have as Attorney General, Luther Strange.”
The Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians (PCI) were unusual in that they were not removed from Alabama like most members of the Choctaws, Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Creeks who once lived in Alabama. Because the Poarch Creeks had been allied or helpful to the first American settlers of the State, Congress excluded them from removal on a per family basis. During segregation, they were not allowed to go to school with the White children, so they had to attend smaller, Indian schools.
In the 1970’s dog tracks opened in Alabama. Eventually those dog tracks added Bingo to their activities. Later they added what they called, ‘electronic bingo.’ According to Federal law passed during the Ronald Reagan Administration, recognized Indian tribes were allowed to open casinos. Eventually the law came to be understood that the Indians could do any kind of gambling that anyone else in the State were allowed to do. Operations such as VictoryLand, the Birmingham Race Course, and Greene Track were running what they were calling ‘Electronic Bingo.’ Under a legal opinion by Alabama Attorney General Troy King (R) this was accepted as legal.
Eventually Governor Bob Riley (R) challenged the legality of that opinion and creating his an anti-gambling task force that began seizing the electronic bingo machines. Eventually the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in Gov. Riley’s favor and determined that bingo is a game played on a paper card and the ‘electronic bingo machines’ were actually electronic slot machines (illegal in Alabama). Birmingham area attorney/lobbyist Luther Strange defeated AG King in the 2010 Republican Primary. As AG, Strange has continued Gov. Riley’s work of shutting down and seizing electronic bingo/illegal slot machines. Strange has challenged the legality of allowing PCI to run their ‘electronic bingo’ games in Alabama, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Obama Administration has administratively ruled in favor of the Indians.
PCI hopes to someday negotiate a compact with the State of Alabama, where the State collects taxes on their operations and the State agrees that PCI has a legal right to exist. PCI believes that Rep. Hubbard (D) would be less zealous in his pursuit of their closing than Strange has been.
The election is November 4. According to some polling, Attorney General is the office where Democrats are most competitive.