By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—As if ripped from the pages of a John Grisham novel word around Goat Hill is Gov. Robert Bentley is secretly planning to sign a Compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) if his lottery Constitutional Amendment passes.
According to those who claim direct knowledge of the arrangement, Bentley would circumvent legislative approval and directly negotiate a State-Tribal Compact without advice and consent of the legislature.
SB3 crafted by Bentley’s staff and currently before the House does not provide authorization for the Governor to seal a deal with the Tribe as did SB11 sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon. Those close to Bentley say he will sign the compact in his capacity as Chief Magistrate a term he often employs to assert the ultimate of his office.
The details of the arrangement are a moving target, but reportedly the compact will cement the Tribes monopoly over gambling while allowing them to open a casino in the Shoals area of North Alabama with Class III Vegas-style gaming. In exchange, the Tribe will pay the State a onetime fee of $250 million. Bentley’s Compact would also allow PCI to operate Video Lottery Terminals.
Last week Attorney General Luther Strange issued a release press opinion in which he implied Video Lottery Terminals would lead to “protracted litigation,” similar to the on going battle with VictoryLand and Greene Track. However, the federal authority which regulates tribal gaming places PCI beyond the Attorney General’s ability to enforce State law.
In November 2007 Florida Governor Charles Crist signed a compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe significantly expanding casino gambling. Crist’s action led to then Speaker of the House Marco Rubio suing the Governor because he did not seek approval from the state legislature. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Rubio.
The House of Representative is scheduled to debate Bentley’s lottery later today.