Governor Kay Ivey said Wednesday she would not enter into a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians unless state voters approve expanded gambling for Alabama.

In an interview with three Alabama media outlets Wednesday morning, Ivey said she would follow recommendations from her gambling study group, which in a report released in December said current gambling restrictions would need to be changed before the governor could pursue a pact.

“Voters have to agree to expand gambling before we can sign a contract,” she said.

Ivey’s comments came as lawmakers prepared to address the gambling issue in the 2021 session. State voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment to allow a lottery or casino-like game in Alabama. A vote is not expected to take place before 2022. Ivey has no constitutional role in this process but would be responsible for negotiating a pact.

A contract with the Poarch Band – a nationally recognized tribe that operates casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka – would allow the tribe to have slot machines and table games (known as Class III games under federal law) in their casinos and give a certain one back Part of the proceeds to the state. The Poarch Band has electronic bingo in their facilities which is considered a Class II game of chance.

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Both Ivey and Robert McGhee, the vice chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, said in an interview on Wednesday that there had been no recent discussions about a pact. McGhee said the tribe would like to have Class III games in their facilities and will follow developments in gambling legislation at the meeting.

“We’re not closing the door on it,” he said. “It hasn’t shown up recently.”

The Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore.  The casino is one of three in the state operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a nationally recognized tribe.

The Alabama Constitution prohibits lotteries and most forms of gambling in the state. To pursue a pact, the governor’s study group said last December that lawmakers must first amend the law.

“Should Alabama decide to enter into a contract to allow and regulate Class III games in Indian countries, the state must first determine what forms of Class III games are allowed under its own state laws,” the report said . “Only when such a game is allowed under Alabama law can the state conduct compact negotiations.”

Senator Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Tuesday he plans to introduce laws in the current legislature to expand gambling in the state. Marsh did not provide details but said it would target education and broadband initiatives. The study group’s report last December said that expanded gambling could raise $ 700 million a year to the treasury and create 19,000 jobs.

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Governor Kay Ivey delivered articles from her address the night before when she interviewed her in the governor's office at the Alabama State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Ala., On Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

Proposals in legislation usually focus on establishing a state lottery or clarifying the status of electronic bingo on dog tracks like VictoryLand in Macon County and GreeneTrack in Greene County.

Constitutional amendments approved electronic bingo in institutions that were major black belt employers. However, the Alabama Supreme Court has read the amendments to ban electronic bingo. Black belt lawmakers have spent years trying to clarify the status of these dog tracks and have clashed with the Poarch Band, which advocated a single gambling law in the state.

With the Republican majority divided over gambling, the lottery supporters have needed the support of the Democrats to get their bills going. But Black Belt Democrats have made their support of a lottery contingent on clearing the status of the dog tracks. A 2019 lottery change in house failed due to these concerns.

FROM 2019:Alabama lottery bill is “dead for this session,” says chairman

The expansion of gambling requires a constitutional amendment that requires voter approval if the legislature allows it. Ivey would be responsible for negotiating a pact, but the governor has no official role in passing an amendment. The governor said on Wednesday that she would “monitor” the debate.

“I want to make sure that it is accountable, transparent and that the rules are enforceable,” she said. “Of course we don’t have to play on every corner. We have to regulate it. And if we do it right, not only will we envy other states, but our people will also benefit from it in a responsible way. “

In the 20-minute interview, the governor also defended her proposal to build a prison, which is expected to cost $ 3 billion in 30 years. The proposal has been rejected by Democrats and Republicans because of the price and concerns it will not target an epidemic of violence in prisons in Alabama that has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice.

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The state signs a contract with two private companies to build three men’s prisons, each with 3,000 to 4,000 inmates, in the districts of Bibb, Elmore and Escambia. The state will lease the facilities from the companies and pay $ 94-105 million annually for the deal. The money is used from the General Fund of the State. The project was opaque and the administration declined requests for public records during the bidding process for the project.

An inmate sits on his bed at the Draper Correction Facility in Elmore County last February.

Ivey said the program was “not in debt” and the state needed to act to replace aging infrastructure. She also criticized the legislation that rejected loan proposals for the project in 2016 and 2017.

“They had two sessions devoted to this and they couldn’t make it,” she said. “And so this was an alternative for the executive and these leases – it was the only one we could do in a responsible, affordable, and transparent way.”

Ivey also said she hasn’t studied competing proposals from Reps Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, and Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, about the Memorial Preservation Act 2017, which makes it next to impossible for local governments to grant monuments 40 and over remove, including those celebrating the Confederation.

In 2020, Birmingham and several county governments voted to remove statues and icons of the Confederation, a white supremacist government, following the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Birmingham paid a $ 25,000 fine for this.

Givan’s bill would repeal the law. Holmes’ bill would increase the fine to $ 10,000 a day and make it illegal to “dishonor, belittle, or reinterpret” monuments with competing signage.

“I haven’t thought about it yet,” said Ivey. “It is important to preserve our past. We may have to do some other things to honor civil rights activists. And I’m definitely open to that. ”

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected]