Obama Administration Steps in to Support Tribal Bingo in Alabama

The great Alabama bingo feud continues byt attorney general and professional killjoy Luther Strange’s efforts to shutter the tribal casinos in the state has run into a very serious roadblock; the Obama administration and the National Indian Gaming Commission. After closing all gaming establishments in Alabama Strange turned his attention to the casinos owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. In a self serving statement Strange said “Are we going to be able to make them, or is it going to be some bureaucrat in Washington? It’s a national issue. It raises questions of state authority. It’s right in the wheelhouse of conservative attorneys general around the country.”

Since taking office President Obama has courted Native Americans and his administration has relaxed or reversed restrictions imposed by the Bush administration that made it difficult for tribes to expand reservations and build new casinos. The Obama administration hopes to lower the current 12.3% unemployment rate among Native Ameruicans and help tribes to boost their economies to provide jobs, schools and health care facilities. In his third adress to Native American leaders on December 2nd 2011 Obama said “One day, we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say that this was a turning point. This was the moment when we began to build a strong middle class in Indian country, the moment when businesses large and small began opening up in reservations, the moment when we stopped repeating the mistakes of the past and began building a better future together.”

The tribe, supported by the current administration, says that the state of Alabama has no jurisdiction over the Native American facility. They also say that the electronic bingo machines at their casinos are not slots even though they may closely resemble them. Federal regulations define bingo as a game played against other players. When pulling a lever or pushing a button the player is playing against the machine according to the tribes. The great bingo battle began in 2009 when then governor Riley decided that the electronic bingo machines were in reality illegal slots. Over the objections of his own Attorney General Troy King, a fellow Republican,  Riley sent his nminions to close all non tribal gaming in Alabama.

Riley got even with King by throwing his support behind current attorney general Strange. As it turned out the Alabama GOP took $500,000 in campaign contributions from the Poarch Creeks. The money was funneled through a third group to hide its origins. Bingo is a popular game in Alabama. The land based version and electronic bingo are played by thousands in the state. If Strange’s shenanigans continue players may have to switch to electronic bingo to enjoy their favorite game.