By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face some tough questions about law and order in his home State as he takes the reins at Justice. Will he have his US Attorney for the Southern District enforce Federal law and close the casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama? Will he demand his US Attorney for the Middle District to finally bring Federal charges against convicted felon former Speaker Mike Hubbard? And lastly, will his office take action into Governor Robert Bentley’s use of State resources to harm Spencer Collier as did the US Attorney in New Jersey?
Our current State’s Attorney General, as well as the State Supreme Court, finds the casinos operating electric bingo machines at VictoryLand and Greenetrack in violation of State law.
US Attorney for the Middle District, George Beck asked Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange serious questions about the State’s inconsistency on the legality of bingo machines. In a letter, Beck asked for clarification on what might appear to be a complex issue, which can be distilled down to a question: How can the machines used at VictoryLand be slot machines and the ones played at facilities owned by Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) not be slots? Or even more simply put, how can one be illegal and the other not?
Tribal casinos in Alabama operate Class II gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Class II gaming is defined “as the game of chance commonly known as bingo (whether or not electronic, computer, or other technological aids are used in connection).”
IGRA “specifically excludes slot machines or electronic facsimiles of any game of chance from the definition of class II games.”
It further states that tribes may only offer only games that are legal within the State. “Tribes retain their authority to conduct, license, and regulate Class II gaming so long as the state in which the Tribe is located permits such gaming for any purpose, and the Tribal government adopts a gaming ordinance approved by the IGRA.”
But if the games are illegal in the State, the Federal statute forbids the tribes from operating those games.
US Attorney Beck says this is where the confusion lies. He questions how the State can prohibit electronic bingo in Macon County, but allow the same machines on Tribal lands?
Even with a clear understand of IGRA Beck’s office did nothing to prevent PCI from continuing operations.
The question for General Sessions is: will he do the same?
Certain PCI’s lobbyist have assured the tribe that their relationship with key White House staffers will see that General Sessions will never enforce the law as stated in IGRA.
Former Speaker Hubbard was convicted on 12 felony counts of public corruption. Which was a classic federal corruption case where Hubbard used his office to pass a bill that would have funneled Medicaid dollars to the American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), in exchange for monthly payments to his business interest. Hubbard was found guilty of using his office for personal gain. Will General Session ignore Hubbard’s crimes as did President Obama’s Attorney General?
Lastly, will General Session instruct his US Attorney for the Middle District to follow through on the investigation of Gov. Bentley or will he let it languish?
Obama’s top Justice official ignored corruption in Alabama, will General Session do the same?