By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Thursday, President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) released a copy of his omnibus gaming bill, which would authorize gaming at certain locations throughout the State.
There are many obstacles to Marsh’s plan, but the greatest is coming from Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), who reportedly has his own plan on how gaming should be implemented and it involves a monopoly.
Under Marsh’s plan, a vote of the people would be required to amend Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, that prohibits “lotteries and gift enterprises.”
The legislation would establish:
An Alabama Lottery.
The Alabama Lottery Corporation.
It would also:
Authorize and regulate gaming by entities currently licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering at the four existing racetracks in Alabama (pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal).
Levy a State gross receipts tax and a Local gross receipts tax on gaming revenue of the racetracks.
Levy a tax on vendors of gaming equipment.
Provide for the disposition of lottery proceeds and State gaming tax proceeds, to create the Alabama Lottery and Gaming Commission.
Implement, regulate, and administer gaming.
Regulate and supervise the Alabama Lottery and Alabama Lottery Corporation.
Authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact for gaming with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.
Require the Legislature to pass general laws to implement the amendment.
Many Senators are saying privately that they support Marsh’s plan, but require more details. Others are finding it a bitter pill, they may see fit to reluctantly swallow. All who spoke on background say they prefer this plan to raising hundreds of millions through tax increases.
One stumbling block to Marsh’s proposal is coming from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) who have offered to give the State up to $250 million, in return for an exclusive gaming compact.
The offer from PCI would give the tribe a monopoly on gaming throughout the State and would eliminate competition from three of the four facilities already licensed to operate pari-mutuel wagering. This would include the Birmingham Racecourse, VictoryLand and Greenetrack. PCI is the primary owner of the track in Mobile, and they said they would not expand gaming operations to that location, as it would diminish returns at their Atmore casino.
However, the greatest barrier to the passage of the Marsh plan is Hubbard. He has reportedly made a deal with the PCI to pass legislation that would authorize Gov. Bentley to enter into an exclusive compact with the tribe, cutting out all competition. A compact with the tribe would not require a constitutional amendment, only an agreement with the State, signed by the Governor and approved by the US Department of The Interior.
According to sources, PCI lobbyist/former State Rep. Jim Barton, and Alison and Phillip Kinney have met with Hubbard on several occasions. PCI Vice Chair of Governmental Affairs Robbie McGhee and other PCI officials met with Hubbard as well.
Several insiders have reported that an agreement has already been reached between the PCI and Hubbard to allow the tribe exclusive rights to gaming throughout the State.
Hubbard, who is facing 23 counts of felony public corruption, has had a relationship with PCI since 2010, when PCI funneled money through RSLC and into State Republican coffers when Hubbard was Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. Marsh and Hubbard worked in tandem to bring the tribal money into the ALGOP under a series of transfers with RSLC.
In an interview with the Alabama Political Reporter in October 2012, McGhee stated that Marsh had visited the tribe and a request to fund the ALGOP was agreed to. When McGhee was asked if the request for the money came from Del Marsh he said, “Yes.” When asked again McGhee said, “It wasn’t at our request, it was at his [Marsh’s] request.”
While the Alabama Political Reporter revealed many of the details of the transactions, a leaked internal investigation conducted by Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) concluded that Hubbard, along with senior members of the RSLC, violated Alabama law in an attempt to hide “Toxic” campaign funds through a “one-for-one” money swap.
There is a great deal of speculation as to why Hubbard would want to cross his old friend Marsh by making a deal that would kill his omnibus gaming bill.
On Thursday, while Marsh was releasing his plan to the media, Hubbard was in Lee County at a Motions hearing in his felony corruption case.