The Poarch Creek Indians' Gaming Plan Is Brilliant, But Illegal
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on May 1, 2017
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on May 1, 2017
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in Alabama. The tribe operates as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws. The Tribe also operates a variety of economic enterprises, which employ hundreds of area residents. Poarch Creek Indian Gaming manages three gaming facilities in Alabama, including: (a) the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore; (b) the Creek Casino in Wetumpka; and (c) the Creek Casino Montgomery. The Tribe also owns a 75 percent stake in a betting track in Mobile, Alabama.
Thanks to casino gaming revenues, what was once a poor and neglected reservation in Poarch, Alabama, has been transformed into an economic and political powerhouse for the Poarch Creek Indians. In addition to developing impressive economic, educational, healthcare, transportation, social, and cultural projects benefiting Tribal members, the Tribe's present leadership council has ventured far beyond the sovereign boundaries of its designated and protected reservation system properties to embark upon ambitious political agenda to seize complete control and dominion over Alabama's gaming industry. The Plan is brilliant, but illegal.
Former Tribal Chair Eddie L. Tullis led the Tribe in the late 1980s and early 1990s in launching gaming enterprises as an economic empowerment tool for the benefit of its tribal members. Current Tribal Chair Stephanie A. Bryan and Vice Chair Robert R, McGhee are leading the Tribe in the effective use of its political muscle at the local, state, and federal levels of government. The Tribe has a clear Indian gaming plan and is using its casino-generated wealth to turbo-charge the Tribe's political juice in Montgomery and Washington.
Here's the deal:
About four weeks ago, Tribal leaders held a meeting to develop a political plan to advance and protect the Tribe's sustained competitive position within the state's gaming industry. To achieve this goal, the Tribe developed a forward-thinking political agenda to use its massive cash reserves to influence next year's 2018 elections for governor, attorney general, and House and Senate races. Under the plan, candidates favored by the Tribe must agree to oppose all forms of non-Indian gaming in exchange for generous campaign donations.
The state's non-Indian gaming facilities are privately owned operations and are located in Green, Macon, and Jefferson Counties, Alabama. State law prohibits certain forms of gaming at these locations that are readily available at Tribal casinos in open defiance of an express ban in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Last Thursday, Tribal leaders convened a members-only meeting at their casino in Wetumpka. They reiterated their decision to choke the life out of non-Indian gaming in Alabama. They also decided to direct the Tribe's political operatives and allies to kill all tax proposals and gaming-related bills introduced during the 2018 regular session of the Legislature. The purpose of this move is to force top state government leaders to approve and execute a favorable compact with the Tribe in order to solve the state's acknowledged financial crisis. This move also ensures that the Tribe will (a) "own" the governor's office and State House by the opening of the 2019 regular session of the Legislature and (b) get a casino legislation passed in 2019 that will expand and protect the Tribe's dominance in the state's gaming industry. When implemented, the plan will result in the sure death of the state's three non-Indian gaming facilities and the birth of a statewide gaming monopoly for the Poarch Creek Indians.
This brilliant gaming plan is illegal for two reasons. First, it seeks to confer an gaming monopoly upon the Tribe that extends far beyond the boundaries of Indian casino properties in Alabama. Presently, federal law allows a gaming monopoly on Indian reservations, but it does not authorize the Tribe to monopolize gaming in Alabama to the exclusion of non-Indian gaming enterprises. Second, the Tribe's offer of campaign cash in exchange for a candidate's political commitment to kill non-Indian gaming is prohibited by state and federal anti-bribery laws. This explicit quid pro quo arrangement subjects both the "giver" and "taker" to potential criminal liability.
Gubernatorial candidate Tommie Tuberville had a close call with this quid pro quo situation. Tuberville qualified to run for governor on April 3,, 2017. His friend, former House Speaker and convicted felon Mike Hubbard, arranged a private "meet and greet" session for him with Tribal leaders. Tuberville was looking to tap into the Tribe's geyser of campaign cash.
On April 5th, Tuberville met in Montgomery with Tribal leaders Stephanie Bryan, Robert McGhee, Eddie Tullis, and Arthur Mothershed. Tuberville, a political neophyte, immediately stepped on the Tribe's quid pro quo land mine. Once Tuberville's lawyer found out what his client had done, he properly advised Tuberville to extricate himself from this explosive situation by withdrawing from the race. Tuberville exited the race on April 25th. Fortunately for Tuberville, this land mine did not detonate because no money changed hands between the parties. State law prohibited Tuberville from accepting campaign cash from the Tribe prior to June 5th.
Republican candidates for governor, attorney general, and the Legislature are desperately trying to find creative ways to accept the Tribe's cash without being exposed for doing so. Watchdog groups are monitoring this situation closely and are taking the necessary steps to compel the Tribe's full compliance with all of the restrictions and prohibitions contained in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and other applicable laws.
Donald V Watkins