Keahey, Poarch seek bill support
By By Adam Prestridge
With one bill aiming to get gambling on the ballot this fall headed toward a possible Senate vote this week, Poarch Band of Creek Indians officials remained behind a separate bill that would also put the issue to a public vote.
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Tuesday approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, which would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to allow electronic bingo at 10 locations. A separate bill sponsored by state Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, would allow gaming at eight locations. Keahey also represents Escambia County.
Last week, Poarch officials announced their support of Keahey’s bill.
The Senate committee approval comes amid controversy over gambling statewide, with a political fight being waged over Gov. Bob Riley’s gambling task force.
Task force head John Tyson, Mobile County district attorney, has said the state would try to stop gaming at Indian facilities after it has halted what it says is illegal gaming elsewhere in the state. Tyson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Wind Creek officials maintain that the task force does not have jurisdiction over their Wind Creek Hotel and Casino property.
Dorris said Poarch — which owns a controlling interest in Mobile Greyhound Park — is supporting Keahey’s bill in part because it offers more limits on gaming.
Bedford’s bill has loopholes that could potentially allow voting for gaming throughout counties, Dorris said.
Limiting the amount of facilities is what Dorris said he believes is the key to solving the issue.
Keahey said Tuesday he filed the bill in hopes of bringing the controversy to a vote.
Keahey’s bill would grandfather in six sites where gaming already occurs — the Mobile Greyhound Park, VictoryLand, Greenetrack and Birmingham Greyhound Racing and two gaming facilities, Country Crossing and White Hall Resort and Entertainment Center. Two other potential sites would be determined at a later date by a newly formed Alabama Gaming Commission, also proposed under both bills.
The 10 locations in the Bedford bill include the same as the Keahey bill with the addition of a second location in White Hall and one location each in the 4th, 5th and 6th congressional districts in north Alabama to be chosen by a state gaming commission.
In addition, Dorris said the Bedford bill does not include an investment component, which he believes is key for the creation of jobs.
Under Keahey’s bill, each of the eight gaming facilities would have to invest a minimum of $100 million in improvements, half of which would be required to got toward hotels, restaurants and other amenities that make a destination point.
As for taxing, the Keahey bill calls for 28 percent of the gross bingo proceeds at each facility taxed with no exceptions.
Under the Bedford bill, the taxes are less and a vendor tax is not included.
Bedford said last week he is against illegal gambling and proposed the constitutional amendment to regulate existing gaming facilities.
Riley called Bedford’s bill “crooked.”
Kerry Whipple Bean contributed to this article.