Poarch Creeks open to Alabama gambling compact; say it’s up to governor to initiate

By Mike Cason
www.al.com

MONTGOMERY, Alabama The vice chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians said it’s up to the governor whether to open talks about an agreement to share revenue from expanded gambling.

Robert McGhee said the tribe has not heard from state officials and has not contacted any since talk has bubbled up in recent weeks about a state-tribal gambling compact. “The Poarch Creeks will always be open to the possibility,” McGhee said. “It just depends on if it’s something that’s favorable for the tribe and the state.”

Gov. Robert Bentley has said he expected a compact to be one proposed solution to the state’s General Fund budget problems. The governor has said he does not think gambling is a good way to fund government but that he’s open to considering a state-tribal compact and a lottery.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said today the governor has not made any decision on whether to pursue a compact with the Poarch Creeks.

The governor said today that he and legislative leaders still have time to figure out how to close a General Fund shortfall projected at $200 million or more. The legislative session starts in March.

The Poarch Creeks operate casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. The facilities appear to be thriving. PCI Gaming had net earnings of $322 million in 2012, according to the tribe’s annual report. The Poarch Creeks have opened a new hotel and casino in Wetumpka in the last year and recently announced plans to expand operations and build a hotel in Montgomery. The three casinos offer electronic bingo on games that look like slot machines. The state does not regulate them or share in the revenue.

Attorney General Luther Strange sued the tribe to shut down the casinos, but lost in federal court in Montgomery earlier this year. The state has appealed. From the tribe’s point of view, the lawsuit does not have to be resolved before talks begin on a compact, McGhee said.

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