By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—While trying to fend off rumors surrounding his divorce, Gov. Robert Bentley is reportedly negotiating with Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) to raise taxes and promote a lottery.
According to al.com’s Chuck Dean, “Multiple sources say that Bentley and House of Representatives leaders led by Speaker Mike Hubbard have been in active discussions about what a budget-fixing package of bills will look like in the House and as part of those discussions has been a proposal to seek a lottery.”
Hubbard, who has been indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption, is struggling with many in the Republican House Caucus who are refusing to raise taxes. However, it has also been reported that Hubbard has made a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) to secure a compact allowing them to expand gambling in the State. It is believed that Hubbard is pushing for new taxes as a quid pro quo for the Governor’s cooperation in signing a State-Tribal compact.
PCI continues its push to gain control a monopoly over gaming in the State cutting out all threats to the billions flowing through tribal casinos. The tribes want a compact that would not only give them sole ownership but also allow them to have exclusive Class III gaming.
Class III gaming activities shall be lawful on Indian lands only if such activities are . . . authorized by [a valid tribal] ordinance or resolution. . . located in a State that permits such gaming for any purpose by any person, organization, or entity, and . . . conducted in conformance with a Tribal-State compact entered into by the Indian tribe and the State.”
Indian Country media, says, “Class III, the big attention-getter because it’s the biggest revenue-generator, includes everything else—horse racing, lotteries and what are commonly known as casino games, such as banking-card games like baccarat and blackjack, roulette, craps and slot machines. These are generally the most lucrative games for a casino.”
The gaming-related website also states, “As more tribes build casinos, mastering (or manipulating) the intricacies of the law—and political interpretations of the classes it created—has become akin to finding pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
Hubbard was arrested for allegedly seeking pots of gold by manipulating the system, so a deal with the Governor to benefit the tribe comes as no surprise, especially given the personal and private lobbying that Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan and Vice Chair Robbie McGee have lavished on him.
High placed sources within the Governor’s inner-circle deny the speculation in the al.com article. It is however plausible that Hubbard is pushing the rumor to generate support for new taxes in exchange for a lottery.
Hubbard’s change of heart of supporting a lottery and raising taxes is believed to be directly tied to his need to finance his expensive criminal defense team.
President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has proposed a constitutional amendment to allow State citizens the opportunity to vote on a lottery and limited casino-style gaming. Hubbard and Bentley have both voiced opposition to the plan, even though Bentley is on record in the past as saying he supported letting the people vote.