Gaming debate continues

Published 8:28 am Monday, February 22, 2010

By By Adam Prestridge
State gambling task force commander John Tyson said he isn’t planning to raid the Poarch Creek Indians’ Wind Creek Casino, but he does want to “knock on the door” of the Indian Gaming Commission during his fight against illegal gambling in Alabama.
The task force in January attempted to raid two facilities — VictoryLand in Shorter and Country Crossing in Dothan — but was stopped by a district court ruling. The Supreme Court ruled later that the lower courts did not have subject matter jurisdiction to halt the raids. Since, both facilities have closed, and workers have begun filing for unemployment.
Tyson said it is his mission to stop the non-Indian gaming facilities before tackling the issues that surround gaming among tribes.
PCI’s sites — in Atmore, Wetumpka and Tallapoosa County — are certified for being compliant with regulations set forth by the National Indian Gaming Commission, said Jay Dorris, president and CEO of PCI Gaming.
Dorris could not be reached for comment Friday, but earlier this month he said that Tyson “has no jurisdiction” to attempt to shut down Poarch’s casinos, including the $240 million resort Wind Creek Casino &Hotel in Atmore.
Tyson said he acknowledges the Indian Gaming Authority, but believes later on in his quest to end illegal gambling in the state he could “influence” authorities.
But if those machines are declared illegal in Alabama, Tyson said that would change how the Indian casinos operate.
“Where I think we’ll have an impact is that when we clearly have established that these electronic bingo games, which really are nothing more than slot machines, when we have established that is illegal in the State of Alabama, I do believe that the Indian Gaming Authority will react to our request that they have the Indian facilities in the State of Alabama comply with the Alabama law in that regard,” he said.
As for future raids, Tyson does not believe one will be necessary on the Indian gaming facilities.
Tyson said he does not necessarily believe Wind Creek would have to shut its doors, but he said Poarch would have to revert back to its old ways of operating, such as offering paper bingo.
Tyson said illegal gaming machines have taken many forms and names over the years — from telephone cards to redemption machines.
Two bills, one sponsored by Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, who also represents Escambia County, and one sponsored by Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, have been proposed, both aimed at limiting, taxing and regulating gaming in Alabama.
Dorris said Poarch — which also owns a controlling interest in Mobile Greyhound Park — is supporting Keahey’s bill in part because it offers more limits on gaming. The main differences is that Keahey’s bill allows for eight facilities opposed to Bedford’s bill with 10; Bedford’s bill allowing for each county to have a local vote for gaming within their limits and Keahey’s bill preventing that; Keahey’s bill having an infrastructure component of a minimum of $100 million in tourist destination amenities such as hotels and restaurants, Bedford’s not and Keahey’s bill taxing gaming machine vendors and Bedford’s bill not.

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