Poarch Band of Creek Indians Claims Attorney General Asks Interior Secretary to Deny Alabama Indians Fair Treatment, Ignores Explosion of Unregulated Gaming

Aug 11, 2006, 01:00 ET from Poarch Band of Creek Indians

    ATMORE, Ala., Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Poarch Creek Indian Reservation
 -- In a recent press release referencing a letter to the Department of
 Interior, the Alabama Attorney General, on behalf of his office and the
 office of the Governor, has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to
 deny the request of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (Tribe) to "expand
 gaming within the borders of this state," according to the Poarch Band of
 Creek Indians. In taking such a political stand, the Attorney General is
 turning a blind eye to other gaming within this State and denying the Tribe
 a level playing field.
     "No matter what your stand on gaming, it is clear there is an absolute
 lack of logic and fair play in the state's action," Tribal Chairman Buford
 L. Rolin noted. "The Attorney General's position protects unregulated
 non-Indian gaming while denying our right under federal law to operate a
 highly regulated gaming enterprise that could significantly benefit the
 State. Not only is this bad business -- it is bad public policy that does
 nothing to control the expansion of gaming in Alabama."
     The Tribe's gaming operations are regulated by federal law,
 particularly the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Under the IGRA, the
 Tribe can play "Class III" games in only one of two situations: 1) where a
 state enters into a compact with a Tribe for the types of Class III games
 permitted within the state, or 2) if the state refuses to negotiate, the
 Tribe may petition the Secretary of Interior for procedures that allow the
 Tribe to play the types of Class III games permitted within the state.
     "It appears Attorney General Troy King does not understand the Tribe's
 request to the United States Department of the Interior," says PCI Tribal
 Attorney Venus McGhee Prince. "Secretarial Procedures are not intended to
 expand gaming within a state, but to ensure fair treatment of all parties
 -- the Tribe and the State. They are an option reserved for those rare
 situations, like ours, where a state's governor refuses to negotiate in
 good faith with an Indian tribe. Alabama is one of only two states that has
 categorically refused to negotiate with its federally recognized Indian
 tribes. The State's refusal to communicate has left the Tribe with no other
 choice but to appeal to its only option for achieving equality -- the
 Secretary of the Interior."
     The Tribe has attempted to work with the State of Alabama for more than
 fifteen years to negotiate a scope of gaming that makes sense for Alabama.
 Although refusing to negotiate a compact with the Tribe, every governor of
 Alabama since Jim Folsom, Jr. has told the Tribe that the State would agree
 to allow the Tribe to play any game it allowed the dog tracks to play. Yet
 pari- mutuel betting, sweepstakes, poker tournaments and one-touch bingo
 are currently being played at dog tracks and other venues in Alabama. These
 games, which fall within the IGRA's definition of "Class III" games, are
 prominently advertised on billboards, newspapers, radio and television
 throughout Alabama.
     According to the Tribe, the State's decision to dismiss the Tribe while
 ignoring other non-Indian gaming has resulted in more than an explosion of
 gaming in Alabama. The State has lost millions of dollars in economic
 benefits -- dollars that could have been put toward education, health care
 and other needs of Alabama's citizens.
     There is clear evidence that Poarch Creek Indian Gaming is good for the
 economy of Alabama. In 2004, the Tribe's gaming enterprise created more
 than 900 jobs in Alabama, with over 90% held by non-Indians. Tribal
 operations buy locally, and generate federal, payroll, sales and excise
 taxes, and state government revenue. Federal law mandates that the Tribe
 use its gaming revenues much like any other government uses tax revenue: to
 support programs like education, healthcare, social and community services.
 In addition to using gaming revenues to support a Tribal community and
 business development in rural Alabama, the Tribe is a good neighbor in the
 state, volunteering manpower and financial resources in times of need.
     "None of us could imagine the State denying any other kind of business
 -- a construction company or a manufacturer or a retailer -- the right to
 grow while looking the other way as their competition does so. But that is
 exactly what is happening to the Tribe," said Arthur Mothershed, Tribal
 Council Treasurer. "Governor Riley refuses to comply with federal law and
 meet with the Tribe to discuss a scope of gaming that is equitable for the
 Tribe and the citizens of Alabama," he added.
     The Tribe remains willing to discuss these issues with the Attorney
 General and the Governor. All the Tribe needs is for the Attorney General
 and Governor to listen.

SOURCE Poarch Band of Creek Indians