By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—When the former Gov. Bob Riley began his war on bingo in 2008, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI), were operating out of converted mobile homes. Today they have acquired so much wealth that they operate lavish $250 million casinos with 5 star restaurants, and are expanding to other states including, Florida, and the mother of all gambling venues, Nevada. By targeting other casino operations, especially VictoryLand, Riley paved the way for the PCI to have an almost compete monopoly over gambling in Alabama, without paying taxes on the gains.
With billions in untaxed gaming revenue pouring into its casinos, PCI tribal council members and lobbyists reportedly panicked last Thursday, when Gov. Robert Bentley issued Executive Order 13, which may result in the reopening of VictoryLand. Those with ties to PCI say lobbyists Allison, and Phillip Kinney, desperately wanted to reach Attorney General Luther Strange, who was recovering from knee replacement surgery.
The Tribe has become tremendously successful following the void created by Riley. His actions paved the way for PCI to dominate gambling in Alabama, without the State receiving anything in return. The Tribe guards its monopoly aggressively, even to the point of offering Gov. Robert Bentley a $250 million bailout for the State’s ailing State General Fund Budget (SGF).
Indicted Speaker Mike Hubbard, after meeting with Tribal leaders Robbie McGhee and
, was determined to help PCI keep its monopoly. While the details of these meeting are not known, Hubbard’s pattern, as proven in his 23 indictments on felony public corruption, give the impression that some type of quid pro quo arrangement may have been reached.
It is certain that Hubbard demanded that the PCI pull its advertising from this publican, and The Voice of Alabama Politics as a condition of alliance.
After General Strange sued the Tribe in Federal court, they funded the champaign of his rival for the AG’s office with $1.5 million in contributions. Those close to PCI leadership say this was just a warning. With the Federal court giving the Tribe authority to operate as it wishes, its status as a virtual monopoly is secure.
In signing Executive Order 13, Gov. Bentley made a significant move toward ending the Tribe’s dominancy over gambling in this State.
The Tribe’s wealth has transomed its gambling from providing much needed income and services for its approximately four thousand members, to a political juggernaut, willing to spend millions to prove a point, and even threaten governors when they stand in the way.
In February, the Tribe challenged Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, threatening to grow and sell marijuana at the Tribal facility in Gretna, where the Tribe offers racing and poker, if he did not grant the them a compact that would allow them to operate slot machines at Florida locations.
From an offer of $250 million to the Governor of Alabama, to threatening the Governor of Florida, the PCI has shown its willingness to do what ever is necessary to hold on to its powerful monopoly.
Gov. Bentley has said, the State should look closely at the constitutional amendments granted Macon and Greene Counties. Constitutional amendments, those counties say, grants them the right to compete for the billion dollar gaming prize that, for now, remains in the hands of the Tribe.