Shadowy Political Action Group Demands Poarch Creek Band Pay Taxes in Alabama

Posted on: October 16, 2019, 05:24h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2019, 05:53h.

A political action campaign in Alabama wants the Poarch Creek Band of Mission Indians to pay taxes to the state. It is also demanding the powerful tribal casino operator be “held accountable” for its political contributions inside the state and its investments elsewhere.

Poarch Creek
The newly acquired Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, formerly the Sands. (Image: Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Poarch Creek Accountability Now (PCAN) is fronted by former State Senator Gerald Dial. But just who’s backing it is anyone’s guess.

Curiously, for a campaign that demands accountability, PCAN is a dark-money group, which means it’s not disclosing the source of its funding.

The Poarch Creek Band is the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama and operates several casinos and racetracks throughout the state under the Wind Creek brand.

Earlier this year, it completed the purchase of the Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania from LVS for $1.3 billion. It also has interests in Nevada and the Bahamas.

The Creek Don’t Rise

But the tribe’s expansion ambitions appear to have ruffled someone’s feathers. Dial told a press conference Tuesday morning that his organization was concerned about the growing influence of the Poarch Creek Band in the state, and about Poarch Creek money flowing out of it.

The goal is to hold the Poarch Creek accountable,” he explained. “They should be paying taxes. They should not be using millions and millions of untaxed dollars to influence government in this state.

“So the money that should be going to educate our children and build our roads is building other people’s roads and educating other people’s children,” he added.

Tribe Follows Federal Law

Alabama is one of five states in the US that has tribal gaming, but no revenue-sharing agreement with its tribal casinos.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes are generally permitted to offer class II gaming — defined as “non-casino games,” such as bingo and poker — on their lands without the permission of the state.

The Poarch Band offers slots-like electronic bingo machines at their on-reservation casinos, which are not subject to state tax in compliance with federal law. In fact, it would be illegal for the tribe to pay taxes on its casinos in Alabama under IGRA.

The only way for the state to profit from the Poarch Creek gaming operations under IGRA would be to legalize full-blown class III casino gaming and to enter into a revenue-sharing compact with the tribe.

Who’s Baking the PCAN Pie?

But that could be precisely the point of PCAN’s unnamed backers.

Among their number they count a political consultant named Chip Hill, who was instrumental in setting up the now-defunct Alabama Jobs Foundation (AJF), a political action committee that, according to The Montgomery Advertiser, spent nearly $1 million pushing for the legalization of casino gambling in Alabama in 2015.

AJF was no dark money group. It was largely financed by VictoryLand, a dog track turned casino-hotel that has for years fought battles against the state for its right to offer the same kind of electronic bingo machines as the Poarch Creek.

Pressuring Alabama to enter into a compact with the tribe could have the knock-on effect of legalizing casino gaming, which would strengthen Victoryland’s hand in its long-standing fight with the state.