State misguided in attack of Indian casino properties

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What is wrong with this picture? The State of Alabama (land that I love) is “hell bent” on closing Indian casinos. Due to the closing of non-Indian casinos, the revenue of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians is soaring. While the attorney general may think this is a short-run problem, I beg to differ with him. As has been pointed out numerous times, he is wasting taxpayer dollars to wage a battle he can’t win.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe. What part of the federal tribal relationship does the attorney general not understand?

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, an Indian tribe has the authority to establish and operate a Class II casino within the borders of a state that permits any form of gambling. The U. S. Department of the Interior has the authority to approve an agreement between an Indian tribe and a state. Many states have opted for this compact and received millions of dollars in revenue. The IGRA also allows the secretary of the interior to intercede when a state has not negotiated in good faith with a tribe.

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This point would definitely apply to the State of Alabama after a near 30-year effort by the tribe to enter into a compact. One only has to look at states like Mississippi, North Carolina and Connecticut to realize the impact these dollars have on state coffers.
The bottom line is the limited knowledge of our state leaders about Indian law and a willingness to assume success in the effort to legislate morality. As one who does not support gaming for individuals, I do support gaming that results in improving not only tribal communities, but enhancing an area by increasing economic opportunities for all. As a fourth-generation citizen of Escambia County (Ala.), I support the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the major positive impact that gaming is having on the quality of our education, employment and economic development.

It is time for the State of Alabama to address antiquated laws (or the absurd and wrong interpretation of them) and embrace the reality of our economic times. Our leaders should move into the 21st century and approve gaming that increases the revenues of our state to ultimately be used for vital community programs and improving our infrastructure.

As a 25-year management consultant in Indian country, I know what gaming revenue has done for tribes. Once dependent on the federal government and treated as “wards of the state,” now, many of those tribes have created their own revenue for critical programs: Education; housing; health; law enforcement; social services; elder care.

Yes, at the same time, tribes improve the extended area around those reservations.

Tribal communities have struggled with the moral issue of gambling. The personal conflict is real, but the reality remains that the majority of our people support gambling. One only has to educate themselves on the statistics nationwide. This does not make advocates evil, but seeing an economic opportunity that benefits all. For those who would rally the addiction factor, let me say from personal experience, the individual who has an addictive trait will find a pacifier whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex or food. I plead for the leaders of our state to rationally compromise on the gaming issue.

– Gay Drew