Bingo Wars are back with a vengeance

Published 2:34pm Friday, February 22, 2013

The Bingo Wars of 2010 seemed long, long ago before today, but they came back with a vengeance.

Attorney General Luther Strange launched an all-out offensive against electronic bingo gambling on Tuesday.
The moves targeted the Poarch Creek Indian gaming sites in Wetumpka, Montgomery and Atmore, as well a resurgent salvo against former Gov. Bob Riley’s old nemesis, Milton McGregor.
The news capped a stunning six-day salvo of news surrounding the $246 million construction project in Wetumpka which has filled the city’s skyline with towering cranes and the promise of a thousand-plus new jobs.
Just last week, I was witness to a standoff between management at the casino and a group of Oklahoma Muscogee Creek who claim the project is building on the graves of their ancestors.
They were flanked by a pair of local pastors, who then joined the group of traditionalist Native Americans in prayers in the parking lot of San Marcos.
After the group was turned away in a tense but peaceful encounter Thursday morning, three of the Oklahoma men — who wore matching red sweatshirts dubbing themselves “Hickory Ground Warriors — let fly with a blood-curdling scream I can only describe as a war cry.
It was eerie, and the handful of customers I passed on the way through the parking deck looked as unsettled as I felt.
The next day, the three “warriors” were joined at the intersection of River Oaks Drive and U.S. Highway 231 by a group of protesters who took up picketing positions on the sidewalks.
The three men from Oklahoma were joined by a man from Clay County who called himself Maggot.
Defying the casino management who ejected them from the property the day before, they whooped, rattled and drummed circles around tribal security’s big black SUVs, all but begging to be arrested.
Whatever the merits of their arguments, they seemed determined to create images of their arrests and a sense of “political prisoners” for media reports helpful to their cause.
I’m afraid I’m too close to this whole episode to comfortably give an opinion in this space.
Theirs is an emotional issue which splits the nationwide desire for commerce and employment with a desire to look after familial graves.
Now learning that one of the “Hickory Ground Warriors” was actually named Miguel Mendoza, and knowing the whole goal Friday was for the men to get arrested, casts a different shade across the proceedings.
The legal issues that exploded Tuesday brings in a whole new element.
The status of VictoryLand has been in legal limbo since the Riley administration ended.
The Justice Department’s fiasco in Montgomery further confused and obscured the matter.
And the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which lets tribes offer gaming that allowed elsewhere in the state, connects the two competing gaming interests — Milton McGregor’s VictoryLand and the Poarch Creek’s expanding Wind Creek brand — in a symbiotic relationship that’s probably a challenging topic of all levels of legal knowledge.
Why did Strange file the suit in Elmore County Circuit Court, not in PCI’s homebase in Atmore, or down the street from his office in Montgomery?
Why now?
What happens if Strange loses?
Do the local judges realize the storm brewing on their dockets’ horizon?
I honestly havent’ a clue, ladies and gentlemen, but I couldn’t let a day such as this go unnoted.
I’m a columnist. So my opinion is, buckle up and strap in because Wetumpka just became the epicenter of the state’s latest political tempest.

David Goodwin is political editor of The Wetumpka Herald.

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