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Opinion | Albritton is back with yet another bad gambling plan

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Greg Albritton is trying to scam you again. 

After trying and failing last year to extend the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ gaming monopoly in the state, Albritton is back again this year, with a bill that is, amazingly, worse. 

Worse for the state. Worse for gaming. Worse for everyone. 

Billed as the “billion-dollar plan” bill, it is actually The Hundred Billion Dollar Loser of a plan. 

Under Albritton’s bill, the Poarch Creeks would be given exclusive gaming rights. Their three current casinos would receive the right to operate all levels of gaming, including blackjack and sports wagering, and could possibly continue to pay ZERO dollars in taxes to the state. And the bill would limit a state lottery to a paper-only lottery, decreasing the possible revenue intake. 

This plan would ultimately leave the state with seven casinos operated by PCI. 

It could tax only four of them. 

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The insanity of this is staggering. That a state senator who claims to work for the people of this state would file such an awful bill is embarrassing — for him, for the state and for all of the people who continue to vote for him. 

It will cost us tens of billions of dollars. 

First of all, the lottery proposed in Albritton’s bill will lose more than $100 million per year. A full-blown lottery, such as the ones in Georgia and Florida, which feature video options and online gameplay, is projected to bring in over $300 million annually to this state. 

The paper-only version that is proposed in Albritton’s bill nets around $160 million — and that’s being generous. Additionally, the electronic elements of lotteries are the only areas seeing revenue growth. Paper tickets sales are dropping like a rock. 

But forget that, even as it stands today, we’re looking at a $140 million loss right off the bat. Do the math there and see how long it takes to get to a billion in losses. 

And that’s not the worst of it. 

The Albritton bill proposes allowing full-fledged casinos at PCI’s three current casinos and would allow the tribe to open two additional casinos immediately. It would allow for two more casinos in 25 years, bringing the total in the state to seven. 

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But the bill only imposes taxes on the new casinos, and it provides no guidelines or minimum revenues acceptable from a compact on the existing three casinos. (Casinos on tribal lands can’t be “taxed.” To get around this, states use compacts to charge the tribes fees for the cost of regulating those games. Generally, the fees will amount to roughly the same as an agreed-upon percentage of revenue. Often, these are flat numbers, guaranteed to be paid by the tribes to the state either upfront or at year’s end.)

Albritton’s bill doesn’t include any language establishing a minimum fee for PCI to operate full-blown casinos. Instead, if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, it simply would legalize gambling at the sites, allow PCI to start building two additional casinos and force the governor to start negotiating with the tribe for a compact. 

It would also force the state of Alabama to waive its 11th amendment immunity protections and allow a federal court to settle any disputes between the state and the tribe. And it would impose hefty fees and tax rates at existing dog tracks, likely forcing them out of business and eliminating hundreds of jobs in two of Alabama’s poorest counties. 

There’s no reason to do all of this. 

The state could legalize gambling today, charge $100 million for licenses, set a reasonable tax rate for the new casinos and sportsbooks and implement a modern lottery, and we’d make hundreds of millions more per year. 

Plus, PCI would be forced to come to the table to negotiate a compact — and the state would be in a much better bargaining position.  

That would leave the state with a much better lottery, four properly-taxed casinos and three PCI casinos paying far greater fees to the state. Plus, you would have different owners competing for business, guaranteeing the highest revenues for the state for decades to come. 

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That’s the better deal in the long run. 

Don’t be fooled by the senator from Poarch Creek, as Albritton’s senate colleagues refer to him, the bill he’s submitted is in the best interest of just one group: The Poarch Band of Creek Indians. It uses a front-loaded scheme that catches the eye in order to mask serious deficiencies in future returns. 

Just like all good scams.

 

Josh Moon
Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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