Poarch Band of Creek Indians wants to build casinos in Alabama, seeks ‘win-win’ deal with state

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama is surrounded by neighboring states that all offer a lottery. Now, the state is again being asked to consider a lottery proposal and casino gambling.

The group behind the proposal, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, has long had a presence in Alabama.

"They were the dominant Indian tribe in the state, by that I mean they had the largest landmass," said WHNT News 19 political analyst Jess Brown. "They constituted the largest proportion of Native Americans who lived in Alabama."

The tribe wants to expand its footprint in Alabama with a proposal to establish a monopoly on casino gaming, in exchange for a $1 billion first-year payment. They would make estimated annual payments of $350 million in combined tax and revenues to Alabama, said Arthur Mothershed, a Poarch Creek Indians Tribal Council Member and Vice President of Business Development for Wind Creek Hospitality.

"Alabama is our priority," he said. "We'd really like to see something get done in the state. We understand the state needs revenue and they would like to see some revenue off of gaming.

"We're doing our best to work with them to bring forward a plan that’s a win-win for both parties."

He said the tribe would also support a clean lottery bill.

The deal would include two casinos that offer a full range of gaming  in North Alabama and a conversion to full casino gaming at its three existing locations in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. One new resort casino would be built in the Birmingham area, and the other would be at a still unidentified location in northeast Alabama.

Mothershed said that location could also attract southern Tennessee residents.

"In that northeast  corridor there are is a lot of opportunity to capture the Southeastern Tennessee market, which is untapped at this point," Mothershed said. "We think it's important, whenever we look at a site, to look at revenue outside the state, and inside."

Earlier this year the tribe completed a $1.3 billion deal to acquire a casino resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Mothershed said the deal was financed and the loan debt will be paid by profits from the casino's operations.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is also pursuing a deal in southern Illinois outside Chicago. That proposal would include an estimated $275 million resort facility.

The push for a deal in Alabama will heat up when the legislature returns in February. A lottery could be part of it. The tribe would also be open to establishing a sports book if the law is passed to allow it, Mothershed said, but he said sports betting isn't necessarily a priority.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has also started polling Alabama residents, he said, asking about spending priorities and how they would prioritize spending of potential new state dollars.

"I think there’s been a lot of concerns about transparency," Mothershed said. "We want to use our website to keep people informed from our point of view. Once they (the Alabama Legislature) start meeting, it's very fast-paced. We do want to keep the people informed about our plan. We realize our plan has to be decided by the people and we want to hear what they think about our plan."

The proposal, if approved by the legislature, would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment.

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