By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
While the Ethics Commission was interviewing witnesses on Union Street last Wednesday to determine if there was probable cause to refer felony charges against Gov. Robert Bentley, members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) were meeting on High Street to see if former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was going to play ball with them. Tuberville wants to be the governor, and the Tribal Casino owners want to buy one.
This parley was arranged at the urging of convicted felon, former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Tuberville’s bid to be Alabama’s next governor is being orchestrated by Hubbard, who is working in the shadows to elect a Chief Magistrate who will grant him a pardon from his 12 felony counts of public corruption.
The sit-down facilitated by PCI Vice Chair Robbie McGhee, is part of an overall plan announced by McGhee after the Tribe’s failed attempt to unseat, then Attorney General Luther Strange in 2014. McGhee made it publicly known that the PCI would not go another election cycle without a governor and an attorney general favorable to Indian casino gambling.
PCI has worked with Hubbard in the past to influence elections, and now the matter is dire for both parties. Hubbard is staring down a prison sentence, and the Tribe is looking at US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as a man who will not look the other way as their $100 million casinos operate outside of the law (as set by The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).
While McGhee exercises tremendous power, the presence of Tribal Chair Stephanie A. Bryan, Treasurer Eddie L. Tullis, and Arthur Mothershed speaks to the importance of the talks.
After the meeting on High Street, the Tribe held a party for lawmakers at the Alabama Archives, which was prominently attended by Republican Legislators. These Republicans, who are facing reelection in 2018, are courting the PCI without the former shame of taking gambling money.
But there is a huge question that looms over the Tribe and their hundreds of millions, and that is, Alabama State Law and IGRA.
The problem: 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 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 this State, the Federal statute forbids the Tribes from operating those games.
So, if the gaming operation in Macon and Greene Counties are illegal, then so are the Indian casinos; according to IGRA. As Attorney General, Luther Strange made this argument, but he did not have jurisdiction to enforce the law on tribal lands. However, Attorney General Sessions does have the authority.
US Attorney for the Middle District, George Beck asked Gov. Robert Bentley and former Attorney General Luther Strange about the State’s inconsistency on the legality of Bingo machines.
In a letter, Beck asked for clarification on how can the machines used at VictoryLand be slot machines and the ones played at facilities owned by PCI not be slots? Or, even more simply put, how can one be illegal and the other not?
So what about the millions PCI is ready to donate to Republican’s favorable to their cause as McGhee articulated? By applying simple logic. If the machines in VictoryLand and Greenetrack are illegal, the money earned from those machines is illegal, then lawmakers who take that money in the form of a political campaign donations, are they not receiving ill-gotten gains?
How can the money confiscated at VictoryLand and Greenetrack be illegal and the money at Wind Creek be legal?
McGhee and his companions, the Kinneys as they are known around the State House, are looking to buy the next election. Should those politicians who take that money be concerned that it may be deemed illegal?
As for Tuberville, the meeting with the PCI went well, and the party, according to those present, was first class. PCI owning a governor priceless.
A spokesperson for the Poarch Creek Indians categorically deny this report.