Fed reconfirms its authority over Alabama gaming tribe, OKs bingo offerings
In a letter last month, Eric Shepard, the National Indian Gaming Commission's acting general counsel, issued a pointed rebuke to claims made by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange that his office has legal authority over the tribe's gaming operations, according to a press release provided by the tribe.
In his letter, Shepard clearly states "federal, not state, law applies to gaming within the Poarch Band's Indian lands and the NIGC, not the state, has jurisdiction over that gaming."
Poarch Creek's Attorney General Venus McGhee Prince responded to Shepard's letter saying, “We have always been careful to follow the laws governing Indian gaming. No one is more concerned about conducting our business the right way than we are, and we are hopeful that this will end any further discussion on the issue.”
In his letter, Shepard noted that this was the second time in two years that NIGC has written Alabama elected officials in an effort to clarify regulatory authority. A similar letter was sent in March of 2011. “Though I believe that letter thoroughly articulated the NIGC’s authority over Indian gaming on Indian lands, the recent action taken by your office against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, as well as subsequent statements in press releases and newspaper editorials, gives me cause to reiterate that federal, not state law, applies,” wrote Shepard.
The National Indian Gaming Commission was established as part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which Congress passed in 1988 and then-President Ronald Reagan signed into law. The NIGC serves as a federal regulatory authority for gaming on Indian lands.
General Counsel Shepard included copies of specific IGRA statues in his letter to Strange and closed by stating unequivocally that “The Poarch Band is a federally recognized Indian tribe ... the Poarch Band may operate bingo, as defined by IGRA, on its Indian lands...”
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state of Alabama, operating as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws. Poarch Creek Indian Gaming manages three gaming facilities in Alabama, including: Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore; Creek Casino in Wetumpka; and, Creek Casino in Montgomery. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is an active partner in the state of Alabama, contributing to economic, educational, social and cultural projects benefiting both tribal members and residents of these local communities and neighboring towns.