Poarch Creek casinos once seen as illegal now eyed for cash

The Wind Casino and Hotel in Atmore, Alabama. Photo from Facebook

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates a growing Class II gaming empire that has long been viewed as illegal in conservative Republican quarters.

But with the state facing a $541 million budget deficit, the tribe's casinos are now being seen as a potential source of revenue. Republican lawmakers are pushing gambling proposals that could finally bring the state to the table for a Class III gaming compact.

“We of course heard from state legislators that the deficit is constantly growing,” Chairwoman Stephanie Bryan told The New York Times. “So there may be interest that there’s something that gaming can do for the state.”

The tribe has offered $250 million up front to the state in exchange for some form of exclusivity. The Times said that figure comes from an estimated $50 million in year that could come from a revenue-sharing compact.

Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has said he is open to negotiations. But he insists gaming is not the solution to the state's fiscal crisis so he doesn't want to talk with the tribe until the deficit is addressed.

Bentley also trashed a bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) that authorizes a lottery and negotiations with the tribe. He called it "one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen" at a press conference earlier this year.

Despite all the focus on gaming, almost no one is talking about the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Luther Strange to shut down the tribe's facilities. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in January but a decision hasn't been issued.

Get the Story:
Alabama, Facing Deficit, Reluctantly Mulls Gambling and Taxes (The New York Times 5/7)
Revenue-Short Alabama Will Let Voters Decide on Sweeping Gaming Package (Sunshine State News 5/7)

Some Opinions:
Our view: The best laid plans (The Dothan Eagle 5/7)
EDITORIAL: State shouldn’t hand Creeks a monopoly (The Tuscaloosa News 5/7)
Editorial: Exposing politicians' rhetoric (The Anniston Star 5/7)

Related Stories
Poarch Creeks eager to discuss gaming options with Alabama (5/6)
Alabama governor won't rush into compact with Poarch Creeks (5/5)
Poarch Creeks question plan to authorize casinos at racetracks (5/4)
Draft bill calls for a Class III gaming compact with Poarch Creeks (5/1)
Opinion: Negotiate Class III casino compact with Poarch Creeks (4/30)
Poarch Creeks offer $250M for Class III gaming deal in Alabama (4/29)

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