Nameless contributors push tribal casinos in AL to pay state taxes

Organization aims to push tribal casinos to pay taxes

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Former state Senator Gerald Dial is leading a new dark money group aimed at holding the Poarch Band of Creek Indians accountable for how they spend their gaming revenue.

“This organization is concerned with the growing influence in our state of the Porch Creek casino operation,” Dial stated in a news conference Tuesday morning.

Dial serves as the executive director of Poarch Creek Accountability Now, or PCAN. He says his organization won’t lobby or draft legislation, its goal is to educate the public about major revenue leaving the state.

“This should never happen in Alabama and today we’re here to hold them accountable,” he said.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate three casinos across Alabama on tribal or sovereign land, which falls under the regulatory arm of the National Indian Gaming Commission. The state has no jurisdiction and the tribe has no obligation to pay state taxes on their gaming revenue, according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA.

Over the last decade the tribe has invested millions in state elections by way of campaign contributions and donations to special interest groups. Dial says as a former lawmaker, he’s seen lobbyists work to kill bills that would hurt the tribe and its gaming operation.

“They’re spending big bucks in Montgomery to make sure those laws don’t apply to them,” he said. “I’m concerned about the future of Alabama politics if we allow one group to have as much influence as they’re beginning to have."

The tribe purchased Sands Bethlehem Casino in Pennsylvania for $1.3 million, which is now Wind Creek Bethlehem, a commercial casino that will pay state taxes. It’s also invested in casinos in Nevada, Florida, Curacao, and Aruba.

“That money will go to educate those kids in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’ll build those people roads in Pennsylvania, it will help their government in Pennsylvania - where that is our money generated in Alabama that’s going to Pennsylvania. They spent over a billion dollars buying a casino out of money generated in casinos here in Alabama. That’s just not right.”

In order to tax gaming revenue, states must enter a compact with the tribe or tribes operating casinos on sovereign land. Alabama is one of five states across the country without a tribal compact, according to public information listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“They’re simply playing by the rules that exist,” stated Chip Hill, with PCAN. “We’re simply saying that those rules, we do not feel, are fair and that they need to be revisited.”

WSFA 12 News reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Office, who confirmed no talks of a compact are underway. Press Secretary Gina Maiola stated Ivey hasn’t been presented with viable options and she hasn’t reached a firm stance on the issue.

Campaign finance records with the Secretary of State’s Office show Ivey received contributions from special interest groups that benefited from tribal donations - however there’s no record of a direct contribution to Ivey’s campaign from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

At the time of publication, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians had not responded to our requests for comment.

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