Wind Creek Casino table games
The Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Ala., is the jewel of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' casino operations in Alabama. (Press-Register/Mike Kittrell)
MONTGOMERY, Alabama - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has asked the federal agency that oversees Indian gambling to take action to prohibit slot machine-like electronic bingo machines at the state's Indian casinos.
Strange sent a letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission during the comment period for proposed regulations on bingo games, also known as Class II gambling games. Tribes cannot offer Las Vegas-style Class III games such as table games and slot machines unless they have a compact with the states where they are located. No such compact exists in Alabama.
"In Alabama, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians operate Class II gambling that approximates the same kind of slot machine gambling that one might find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, " Strange wrote in the April 25 letter.
"The Tribe's ability to obscure the line between Class II and III makes it harder for my office to enforce Alabama law outside of Indian land. Alabama citizens are understandably confused when Indian tribes are allowed to call their Class III slot machines 'bingo, ' but gambling promoters within the State's jurisdiction cannot use the same gimmick, " Strange wrote.
Strange told the agency the proposed rules, "do nothing to give teeth to the important distinction" between a bingo game played with an electronic aid and a slot machine.
The attorney general has argued the machines operated on lands owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are illegal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Strange, like former Gov. Bob Riley, has worked to shut down electronic bingo casinos that operated on non-Indian land across the state.
"It puts the state in an untenable position when you are enforcing the rule of law in the state but yet the National Indian Gaming Commission will not enforce the federal rule of law on tribal lands, " Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan said.
Reagan said the attorney general wants the commission either to take action "or give us the authority to take action."
"In short, the status quo is unacceptable. Because the commission has previously told me that I do not have authority over gambling conducted on Indian lands, I am requesting that the commission act to enforce the bright line between Class II and Class III gambling that already exists in federal law. The commission's regulations should either give me the authority to enforce the law or make clear that gambling devices that look and operate like slot machines are 'facsimiles' of games of chance under IGRA, regardless of whether they purport to aid in playing the game of 'bingo, '" Strange wrote.
Poarch Creek Indian Gaming operates three Alabama casinos with electronic bingo machines, including their flagship 17-story Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore.
Daniel K. McGhee, Tribal Gaming Commission Administrator for the Poarch Creeks, said he is confident the tribe's gambling machines are allowed under IGRA.