By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) are offering to “help fix this deficit mess,” according to a new television ad running throughout the State. But, what they really want is to completely control gaming in the Alabama. The tribe will reportedly spend $4.5 million to convince the citizens of Alabama that their proposal to advance the State $250 million, is simply the act of big-hearted neighbors.
The TV spot says, the PCI wants a Tribal-State Compact, but nowhere in the commercial does it mention that in return for the $250 million “advance,” the State would give the Tribe a monopoly over all gambling in that compact. Such an agreement could be worth a billion dollars a year for the Tribe.
Earlier actions taken by, then Gov. Bob Riley, and recently by current Attorney General Luther Strange, have left PCI with an almost complete monopoly over gambling. What the Tribe wants now is to codify that monopoly, with a compact.
In his study, “Federal Law, State Policy, And Indian Gaming,” Professor Kevin K. Washbum found,
“Indian gaming is profitable only because states have created and preserved state legal regimes that maintain the Indian tribes’ monopolistic power in the gaming market place. Because states have maintained strict restrictions or prohibitions on commercial gaming outside of Indian country, consumers flock to Indian casinos, which are, in effect, tribal islands of gaming permissiveness in state oceans of gaming intolerance. Put another way, by preventing gaming consumers from being able to find lawful gaming opportunities near their own neighborhoods, state governments force these consumers to seek out and visit Indian casinos, sometimes traveling several hours to play.”
In his study Washbum states, “If states adopt more permissive attitudes toward the gaming industry in general, and allow citizens and businesses to offer commercial gambling widely within the state, Indian casinos will no longer constitute islands of permissiveness that draw consumers, but landlocked casinos in inconvenient locations that will have difficulty competing with more advantageously placed casinos.”
This is the very situation PCI is hoping to avoid, with its ad campaign and lobbying efforts. But not all of the Tribes casinos are in “inconvenient locations.” They operate six casinos throughout the state of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The properties in Montgomery and Wetumpka are not in out of the way locations. They also own the majority interest in the Mobile Greyhound Track.
In addition to millions being spent on advertising to convince the public of support the Tribes monopoly, Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan and Vice Chair Robbie McGee, have separately conducted private meetings with Speaker Mike Hubbard, after which, he voiced his support for granting the Tribe an exclusive rights to gambling in the State.
Hubbard who has been charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption and is awaiting criminal trial in October.
In the commercial, several “ordinary” people look into the camera and say, “A compact has been discussed for years. It would generate State revenue and benefit you and me, you and me.”
To paraphrase a conversation with a former Federal law enforcement officer speaking on background, “If General Motors or McDonald’s made the same offer, for quid pro quo exclusivity, it would raise suspicion. I don’t see why this should be any different.”
Bryan has said, “Our Tribe is willing and able to help solve the immediate deficit and help protect jobs and essential services that Alabama families depend on. We are hopeful that the Governor will partner with us for the common good of all Alabamians.”
It would appear such benevolence comes with the caveat:
“…in exchange for a monopoly.”