Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has decided to waste even more taxpayer money in his fight against those sinful bingo games in the state. Strange lodged a many pronged attack on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians gaming operations in the state. The new strategy was laid out in an amended complaint against the tribe filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery. Originally Strange had asked an Elmore County Circuit Court Judge to shut down the tribe’s three casinos saying they are “a public nuisance.”
Fortunately the tribe was successful in getting the case moved to federal court. It seems Strange forgot about a little detail called tribal sovereignty. The tribe has asked a federal judge to dismiss the case on grounds that the state of Alabama has no standing to sue the tribe. Under federal law the Poarch Band are a sovereign nation. Andrew Brasher, Strange’s deputy solicitor general, said in an email “We have amended the complaint to clarify the federal aspects of the State’s claim and to let the court know more about how the Tribe’s slot machines operate. Amending a complaint is something that happens all the time in the early stages of a lawsuit.”
Brasher’s statement said that taking the case to state court was a legal ruse to limit the tribe’s courtroom options. Brasher stated “We were not surprised that the tribal defendants moved the lawsuit from state court to federal court. This procedural move required the tribal defendants to acknowledge that federal law gives the State a claim against them and to waive several defenses that they could have raised. So, we are not asking the federal court to send the case back to state court; we are asking the federal court to go ahead and consider our claim now.” While the complaint says that the tribe’s casinos are a ‘public nuisance’ it expands the state’s legal options by calling into question the legality of electronic bingo machines that the state claims are slot machines.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows tribes to offer bingo using computers and other “technological aids” even if similar games are illegal in other part of the state. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act also forbids “electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of any game of chance or slot machines of any kind.” Strange is arguing that the bingo games are illegal slots. The amended complaint says of the games “The player does not need to pay attention, listen to alphanumeric designations drawn one-by-one, or match them up to a bingo card. Instead, the player presses a single button, watches slot-machine reels spin, and is told whether he or she has won by the gambling device.”
Strange is also arguing that tribal lands are not federally protected. It is difficult to understand why top state law enforcement is using so many resources to pursue a harmless game. Alabama residents would probably be better off playing online bingo!