Strange disputes opinion of NIGC on electronic bingo

Published 2:00 am Saturday, March 23, 2013

Electronic bingo machines at Wind Creek and other Poarch Creek gaming facilities do not have to follow Alabama’s definition of bingo, a letter from the National Indian Gaming Commission told Attorney General Luther Strange — but Strange said he disagrees.
In a letter from the National Indian Gaming Commission sent to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, NIGC Acting General Counsel Eric Shepard reinforced that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians maintain the right operate electronic bingo machines on their grounds in the state.
But in a letter responding to the NIGC, Strange told officials he disagrees.
“Rest assured, I have no ‘misunderstanding’ about the National Indian Gaming Commission’s legal position,” Strange wrote. “I just believe that you are wrong.”
Strange who recently filed a lawsuit against the Poarch owned casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka, has reported to the NIGC that the tribe’s casino’s operate illegal gaming that does not meet the classification of Class II gambling, which is legal in areas in Alabama.
The same day Strange filed suit against PCI in Elmore County, he obtained a search warrant and raided VictoryLand in Shorter. Strange filed the suit saying that despite his belief that PCI operates illegal gaming machines, state officials are not legally able to search the premises or confiscate any machines due to the tribe’s federal protection.
In his letter to the NIGC, Strange said he knows they will continue to stand behind PCI, but plans to continue on with his civil suit.
“I know that the NIGC intends to allow the Poarch Tribe to profit from so-called ‘electronic bingo,’ even though ‘electronic bingo’ is illegal under Alabama law,” Strange wrote. “I know that, even if a state permits paper bingo only, it is your position that ‘a tribe within that state may play electronic bingo.’ Your letter is contrary to clearly established law when it asserts that state law does not apply to slot-machine gambling on Indian Lands. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act expressly distinguishes between ‘technological aids’ that may be used with Class II games like bingo, which can be operated without the state’s permission, and Class III games such as ‘slot-machines,’ which cannot be operated without the State’s permission.”
Strange also asserted that the NIGC is overlooking the decision of a controversial Supreme Court case, Carcieri v. Salazar, in which the ruling held that the Secretary of Interior did not have the power to set aside land for Indian tribes to use for gambling if those tribes were not recognized and under federal jurisdiction in 1934.
In 2012, the secretary of the interior told the Escambia County Commission, who were pointing to the case as a reason PCI should pay local property taxes, the decision did not apply to the tribe, which they said was a known tribe in 1934, despite their official federal recognition in the 1980s.
Due to the ongoing litigation with Strange’s office, officials with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians declined to comment on the situation, stating that it is their official policy not to comment on such matters.