i-Team: Mayor says AG Conspiring to Keep Victoryland Closed
When Governor Robert Bentley signed an executive order last November giving enforcement authority of anti-gaming laws to local sheriffs and district attorneys, many people thought that cleared the way for Victoryland to reopen in Macon County, since it took that responsibility away for Attorney General Luther strange.
So why has the casino not reopened? Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, says it has do with politics involving Luther Strange and another casino operator.
“Luther Strange is conspiring with the Indians.” Mayor Ford says. “The Indians are even bragging about it. It’s public information. Montgomery, Alabama is a very small place so everyone knows Luther Strange has actually met with the native Americans. Everyone is talking about the fact that they made available to him $3 million or some amount to support him when we runs for governor.”
Mayor Ford claims in return for financial support during a run for the state’s highest office, Attorney General Strange is putting pressure on vending companies to keep them from providing electronic bingo machines to Victoryland. The machines are the same type being used in Windcreek Casinos around the state, which the Poarch Creek Indians operate. Ford cited several Memorandums of Understanding between the vending companies and that attorney general’s officer that were drafted in 2011.
“Luther Strange is not doing the right thing. The governor of our state has given his blessing, the court has given its blessing; the only reason Victoryland is not open today is because of Luther Strange,” says Mayor Ford
Victoryland’s owner Milton McGregor agrees with the mayor. “You know you have to stop and think who benefits by the actions of Luther strange now still attacking Victoryland and treating us differently? Nobody benefits except for the Poarch Creek Indians,” said McGregor.
“Well, I don’t comment on political rumors,” said Strange. “The only thing that we know for sure is the Poarch Creek Indians contributed $1.5 million to my opponent in the last election. So I don’t pay much attention to political rumors, so I just do my job and follow the law.”
Poarch Creek Indian Tribal Council member Robert McGhee also disgrees with Mayor Ford’s claim. “The fact is the attorney general filed a lawsuit against the tribe arguing what they were doing on that land was not in accordance with state law; he lost,” McGhee said.
In that case, last September a federal appeals court backed a lower court’s ruling that the Poarch Creek Indians had the right to operate casinos on tribal land.
“I’m sure they’re going to deny it, but the rumors are all over central Alabama that this is real; Luther Strange is planning to run for governor. The same Indians a few months ago he sued just to give the impression that he was trying to be fair, now he’s in bed with them,” said Mayor Ford.
If the Poarch Creek Indians do agree to back a Luther Strange campaign for governor, it is within their rights. The group has made several contributions to other candidates’ campaigns over the years.
According to Alabama News Network Political Analyst Steve Flowers “if someone comes to you, comes to Luther Strange and says we’ll give you personally $250 thousand if you’ll back off and not let Victoryland reopen that’s illegal, but to give to someone’s campaign with a wink and a nod, you know like we want to help you we hope you’ll help us down the road, that is still just politics.”
“Our position is we’re just going to do what the courts tell us to do. If it’s legal it’s legal if they say it’s illegal it’s illegal and I trust the men and women in law enforcement to follow the law and uphold their oath whether they personally like the result or not,” said Strange.
If Luther Strange does run for governor, we won’t know if Poarch Creek Indians donate money to his campaign until June of 2017 because campaign finance laws do not allow someone to contribute to the race for governor or any other race until one year before the primary.
The state Supreme court is expected to take up to attorney general’s appeal of the lower court ruling that clears the way for Victoryland to reopen sometime this year.