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Eagle Forum warns that Senate gambling bill could result in Class III casinos

Alabama Eagle Forum has stanchly denounced the gambling bill. They did not like the House version and they don't think the Senate version is much better. Now Eagle Forum is claiming that the much-reduced Senate version of the bill will allow Class III gambling at the three facilities in Wetumpka, Montgomery, and Atmore operated by the Poarch Band of Creek. Indians.

Alabama Eagle Forum bases this on a brief written by the Southeast Law Institute.

"The sub for HB151 will allow unlimited PCI gambling, including all casino style games," the SLI brief claims. "The operative language of the sub adopted March 5, 2024, is found at lines 245 to 252: (a) The Governor shall negotiate and may execute a Tribal-State compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, as contemplated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq., to provide for any and all activities allowable under that act; provided, the Governor may not grant authority for any activity to be conducted outside of lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Emphasis add. The referenced 25 U.S.C. §2701, et seq., begins the federal law of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. "Et seq." is an abbreviation for what follows. In this case, 25 U.S.C.§2703 follows and defines Classes I, II, and III of all permitted Indian "gaming", from simple home games to unlimited casino games. So, when the bill says, "any and all activities allowable under the Act", it means the Governor may agree with the PCI to have casinos on tribal lands."

"Additionally, retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdoch provided insight into what may include tribal lands," the ALI brief continued. "The Secretary of the Interior may add land into a Tribal trust land status if he determines it is in the tribe's interest. Therefore, it is anticipated the PCI may have added lands in Birmingham, Huntsville, Baldwin County or other places in which to operate casinos."

Eagle Forum claims that "It was stated in committee this bill did not include Class III gaming. Quite the contrary! It permits PCI to have every type of gambling at more places than its existing three. The charade to deceive Alabama citizens continues."

A spokesperson for the Poarch Creeks flatly denied the assertion that the Senate bill creates an Indian gaming monopoly and stated that the House bill includes provisions to limit the number of licensed gambling facilities that the state will allow any one entity to own.

House Bill 151 is the constitutional amendment and House Bill 152 is the enabling legislation that will be put into effect if the constitutional amendment is passed and then ratified by the voters.

The House version of the bill would have authorized the Alabama Gaming Commission to license as many Class III casinos around the state in Mobile, Houston, Macon, Greene, Lowndes, Jefferson, Montgomery, Elmore, and Escambia Counties.

The Senate is a much more scaled back bill, though it is not a pure lottery bill either.

Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) spoke on Friday about the Senate bill in an interview on Capital Journal.

"We talk about it being scaled but it also creates facilities legally in those counties where they talked about putting casinos in," said Ledbetter. "It is not as scaled back probably as some would think; because those facilities will be open whether they are casinos or existing facilities."

The Alabama House of Representatives could vote to concur with the Senate version of the bill and said it to the voters. They could vote to nonconcur and hope a conference committee can prepare a substitute that can pass both Houses of the Legislature. Ledbetter did not indicate what the House will do when it returns from its spring break.

"It's a big decision," Ledbetter said. "People want to vote on it. There is no question about it overwhelmingly; but from our standpoint we have got to get it right too."

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