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Poarch Band of Creek Indians propose compact that could pay billions to State of Alabama

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) on Tuesday officially rolled out “Winning for Alabama” — a public awareness campaign focused on communicating details of their new comprehensive plan for gaming in the Yellowhammer State.

The PCI plan would be a historic boost to Alabama’s coffers, according to projections.

The proposal would see the PCI enter into a compact with the state, in which the tribe gets exclusive gaming rights in the state. This agreement would allow the PCI to operate Class III gaming, or what is commonly known as traditional casino and table gaming.

Per PCI estimates, the tribe would pay the state over one billion dollars after the first year — $725 million from license fees and compact exclusivity, as well as nearly $350 million in annual taxes from new development and revenue share on Class III games at existing sites.

This new development would consist of “[t]wo additional first-class gaming and tourism destination sites with unlimited gaming (black jack, craps, and other table games, a sports book, and top-notch hotels, restaurants, spas, and other amenities),” according to the Winning for Alabama website.

In a video posted on that website, the PCI asks the important question, “What could Alabama do with a billion dollars?”

Additionally, the comprehensive plan underlines the PCI’s continued support for a clean, traditional lottery.

Such a lottery would generate significant additional revenue for the state, which was not included in PCI’s projections.

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) sponsored a clean lottery bill that passed the State Senate this spring but was defeated in the lower chamber. Albritton had estimated annual revenues for the state through his legislation at approximately $170 million.

In addition to extra revenue that would stem from a lottery, the PCI plan would create “thousands” of new jobs through its new development and add Class III gaming to existing sites. The two new developments would be “in the northern part of” Alabama, according to a PCI press release. Gaming involved in the plan would be regulated.

In a statement, PCI Tribal Chair and CEO Stephanie Bryan said, “We have long believed that the economic power of gaming should be strategically harnessed to create opportunities for everyone who lives in Alabama. This plan does that, and we are committed to making sure that our positions on gaming and our commitment to helping improve the quality of life in Alabama are clear.”

The release of Winning for Alabama follows the formation of the so-called “Poarch Creek Accountability Now” — what a PCI press release dubbed as “a public misinformation campaign funded by an anonymous group.”

“The sole purpose of that group’s work was to misrepresent the Tribe’s position on gaming in the State, confuse the issues surrounding gaming regulation and taxation, and damage Poarch’s reputation,” the release added.

The Winning for Alabama website provides facts countering much of this “misinformation.”

The website also gives citizens a platform to voice their opinions on specific gaming issues and make their needs heard.

“We hope that the information we are making available will prompt both citizens and our State’s legislators to seriously consider a solid plan for gaming that can have real economic benefits for Alabama,” Bryan concluded. “We believe that it is important everyone in the State has access to honest information and constructive ideas so they can make the best decisions about an issue that is critically important to Alabama’s economic well-being and quality of life.”

Is it time?

Relevant to the issue at hand, Yellowhammer News recently obtained polling data that shows a plurality of Republican primary voters in Alabama support legalizing casino gaming while a strong majority of the same demographic supports a state-run lottery.

The survey was conducted October 10-12 by Montgomery-based Cygnal on behalf of the Alabama House Republican Caucus. There were 536 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.23%.

When asking about a constitutional amendment allowing a state lottery, 64.6% indicated their support and 30.2% opposed. This included 46% who strongly supported the lottery and 22.9% who strongly opposed.

Support varies across media markets for the lottery. In the Mobile market, 72.9% supported while only 19.1% opposed. Then comes the Huntsville (70.3% – 26.4%), Birmingham (63% – 32%) and Montgomery (56.3% – 38.1%) markets, respectively.

In a separate question, 49.7% of respondents chose public education as their ideal beneficiary for lottery revenues. The next highest response was infrastructure at 20.6%. Medicaid expansion (7.4%) came in below options such as “doesn’t matter.”

When it comes to legalizing casino gaming in Alabama, 49% were supportive and 45.6% opposed.

In the Mobile (61.4%) and Birmingham (50.4%) media markets each, a majority supported casino gaming. The Montgomery media market is the only region where casino gaming’s support is underwater — 56.8% opposed and 39.9% supported. In Huntsville, 47.9% supported and 44.5% opposed.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn