Riley targets Poarch

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Now that the State of Alabama is fully enforcing its gaming laws, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are the latest target of Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling movement.

For over a year, Riley’s anti-gambling task force was on a mission to rid the state of gambling establishments as it traveled county-by-county raiding such facilities.

Now, with only three months left in his administration, Riley is preparing to ask federal officials to shut down the state’s Indian casinos owned by the Poach Band of Creek Indians based out of Atmore.

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“Gov. Riley has said that once the state has proven its determination to combat illegal gambling in our state, then the federal government will have to address the issue at Indian casinos,” Press Secretary Todd Stacy said. “There are still cases ongoing, however, the state’s determination to enforce the law has certainly been proven.”

Stacy said that determination was made after non-Indian gambling establishments such as Victory Land, Greenetrack, White Hall and numerous others statewide were raided and essentially forced to cease operations leaving PCI the only existing gaming in the state. He added that it all stemmed from an investigation conducted by the National Indian Gaming Commission in 2004 when investigators were sent to investigate Indian gaming in Alabama at the request of the governor and attorney general.

“They sent a letter to the attorney general confirming that there were Class III slot machines in Alabama in operation on Indian land and that essentially they couldn’t do anything about it because the same machines were in use on non-Indian facilities at Victory Land, Greenetrack and White Hall specifically,” Stacy said. “The commission essentially said that’s the reason why they can’t do anything about the Indians because the State is allowing this same activity to occur on non-Indian land. Obviously that has changed, that is no longer the case.”

Poarch Creek Indian Gaming President Jay Dorris, who was unavailable for comment, said earlier this year that the Tribe answers to the NIGC.

“We have many, many years, decades, of legal precedence that clearly establishes that our operations are governed by the federal agency and not the state,” Dorris said.

NIGC officials have stated that the games being operated at the Tribe’s facilities including Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Tallapoosa Casino in Montgomery and Riverside Casino in Wetumpka are permissible at Indian casinos as long as paper bingo is legal in Alabama. The Tribe operates more than 3,000 of what they refer to as Class II electronic bingo games 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Riley’s office views the issue differently, Stacy said.

“Years ago, when laws weren’t being enforced, that was understandable that the federal government wouldn’t do anything about the Indians, but today, that’s no longer the case,” Stacy said. “Alabama is enforcing the law and it’s being enforced equally and evenly in every county throughout the state whereas in the past, it wasn’t.”

Now Riley’s administration will make sure that the federal regulatory authorities are aware that since the law prohibits these machines, they are not to be operated anywhere in the state, Stacy said.