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Poarch Creek Indians tribal chair: Alabamians ‘deserve to have their voice heard’ on gaming, lottery

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians on Wednesday praised the State Senate for passing legislation the day previous that would allow Alabamians to vote in a referendum on whether to legalize a lottery, casino gaming and sports betting in the Yellowhammer State.

The legislative package would also allow the State of Alabama to negotiate and enter into a compact with the Poarch Creek. This would allow the tribe to share with the State a portion of the revenue generated on their lands held in federal trust.

The Poarch Creek have made it clear they are eager to be able to contribute to their fellow Alabamians in this new way. With an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion in wages, capital, goods, services and taxes, the tribe already significantly supports the state’s economy; the tribe is also an active corporate citizen, leading on philanthropic and other civic fronts.

Stephanie A. Bryan, tribal chairwoman and CEO, released a statement following the Senate vote.

She said, “I want to thank Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, along with Senators Albritton, Marsh, and McClendon, and everyone who contributed to this effort in the Senate. This historic vote is the first step to empower Alabamians who deserve to have their voice heard on this issue.”

Under the legislation passed by the Senate and now up for consideration by the House, casino gaming would be authorized only at sites in Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County, and Jackson or DeKalb County. The licenses for these sites would go to the highest responsible bidder, with existing operators in those counties getting the right to make a final bid; for the Jackson/DeKalb site, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have the right to a final bid.

It is important to note that one entity could not own more than two of those six sites, ensuring a monopoly could not occur.

Proponents of the legislation point out that for the first time in state history, the package passed by the Senate Tuesday would fully control and cap gaming that already exists in the shadows in Alabama. Enforcement would be given teeth so illegal operators could be weeded out once and for all.

Based on work previously conducted by the Governor’s Study Group on Gambling, the package would generate between $510-710 million annually.

The distribution of revenue in the package directs proceeds to education, postsecondary scholarships, high-speed broadband internet access, rural health care, mental health care, agricultural programs, roads and bridges, and more.

The legislation, among other provisions, would ban elected officials from accepting political contributions from gaming interests.

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

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