Ala. AG letter targets Indian casinos

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

Update: The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has responded to AG Strange's letter. It reads:

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians are proud to be citizens of Alabama. We are also proud that, during these challenging economic times, we are able to provide more than 2500 jobs throughout our State. Additionally, we feel very blessed to be able to provide more than $2 million to local schools and non-profits at a time when there are serious shortfalls in the State's budget and cuts in Federal discretionary spending.

We stand ready to work with the Bentley Administration on issues that are important to our State, including how gaming dollars can help address some of Alabama's greatest needs.

Our Indian gaming enterprises are regulated by the Federal, not the State government through the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). Bingo is legally played in the State, and under NIGC statutes, our enterprises are indeed, legal to operate within Alabama.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's new attorney general is calling the electronic bingo machines used by Indian gaming centers illegal and is asking the National Indian Gaming Commission to remind its members of the state's laws related to gambling and bingo.

"I urge you to make clear that Native American Indian tribes located in Alabama cannot engage in gambling activities that are patently illegal under Alabama law," AG Luther Strange wrote in a letter dated February 11.

[ Letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission (.PDF)]

The letter comes as the NIGC conducts a comprehensive review of its standards and regulations that determine how "electronic bingo" is played on tribal lands, Strange's office said. Changes made to those rules "could have a definite impact on Alabama...".

Strange's letter could be seen as the first signs of an attempt to remove electronic bingo machines from Indian facilities, the only facilities still open after Task Force raids forced the closure of every major non-Indian facility in 2010.

Native American Indian Tribes can operate casinos under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which permits Indian tribes "the exclusive right to regulate gaming activity on Indian lands..." However, Native American tribes cannot operate a gaming activity that is illegal within the state that it's being played.

Strange argues that because Alabama's constitution and Supreme Court rulings uphold the illegality of gambling and define bingo only in the traditional form, electronic bingo machines are illegal in Alabama, and subsequently, at all Indian facilities in Alabama.

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