By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Concerns that Gov. Robert Bentley is planning to negotiate a State-Tribal Compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI), reached a boiling point in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, with the Governor’s bill taking a fatal blow. Several Black Caucus members are weary of Bentley’s tactics and several lawmakers in the Senate are expressing the same concerns as Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), who questions the real ramifications of Bentley’s lottery.
Singleton represents Greene County, home of Greene Track
Bentley is on record saying he wants a compact with the Tribe in exchange for $250 million in cash. He is also heard in a secretly taped conversation with Rep. Allan Farley (R-McAlla) saying, the best way to shut up the other casino gambling interests was to compact with the Indians.
Singleton believes Bentley’s constitutional amendment would pave the way to a compact without the voters being any the wiser. “If the Governor CA (constitutional amendment) passes given the regulations under IGRA it all but automatically gives the Indians a right to table games and expansion beyond their current locations,” said Singleton.
Singleton said he met with PCI Tribal Vice Chair Robbie McGhee last week, at Bentley’s urging, in hopes of finding a comprise solution to Bentley’s lottery bill. Sen. Greg Albritton (R- Bay Minette) accompanied McGee during the meeting.
In his view, the meeting with McGhee accomplished little, as the “Tribe want’s it all or status quo,” said Singleton.
Under the Indian Regulation Act (IGRA), Singleton, (who is also an attorney), says Bentley’s bill authorizing Class III games of chance, swings the door wide-open for Vegas-style gambling, exclusively for PCI. Singleton specifically referenced Chapter 29 Section 2710 (5) that states, “Indian tribes have the exclusive right to regulate gaming activity on Indian lands if the gaming activity is not specifically prohibited by Federal law and is conducted within a State with does not, as a matter of criminal law and public policy, prohibit such gaming activity.”
He also points to another section in IGRA that grants PCI the right to expand locations statewide.
According to the federal law “[T]he Secretary, after consultation with the Indian tribes and appropriate State and local officials, including officials of other nearby Indian tribes, determines that a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community, but only if the Governor of the State in which the gaming activity is to be conducted concurs in the Secretary’s determination.”
Even more troubling to Singleton is the “good-faith” clause in IGRA, which says if the tribe believes the State is not operating in good faith, the tribe can appeal directly to the Secretary of the Interior, who would grant, or modify and grant the tribes request.
Expressing frustration, Singleton doubts there is a real solution because the tribe will not surrender its monopoly, which was built upon the constitutional amendments passed in Greene and Macon Counties.
“I said this to the Governor and Robbie (McGhee): if it had not been for Macon and especially Greene County’s constitutional amendments, they would still be playing paper bingo,” said Singleton. “And now that they are in charge they want to dictate what we can and cannot do. I take offense to that.” However, he remains open to negotiations that would honor all parties and be beneficial for the State. “People have to come together and realize the pie is big enough for everyone to have a piece,” said Singleton, “but it can be the PCI saying I have the pie, and I’m going to let y’all have a little piece or no piece at all.”
He believes a common ground solution is possible, but McGhee is not a man who is willing to negotiate.
Singleton, like others, fear that Bentley’s desire to obtain $250 million from the tribe, outweighs all other consequences that the State could endure, like the domination PCI could have over a statewide election.
In a Special Session designed to solve the State’s Medicaid crisis, it looks to be a disaster due to Bentley’s political intrigue.