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Oklahoma Creeks oppose Alabama Indian gambling compact

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Oklahoma Creeks, upset over an Alabama's tribe's casino development on what they said is sacred ancestral ground, this month asked Gov. Robert Bentley to reject calls for a gambling compact with the tribe.

The Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, descendants of Alabama Creeks who were forcibly removed on the Trail of Tears, sent Bentley a June 2 letter urging him never to sign a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The Oklahoma Creeks have opposed the Poarch Band's construction of a 20-story hotel and bingo casino in Wetumpka. The Muscogee Nation said the Wetumpka land, known as Hickory Ground, is a sacred burial and ceremonial site.

"A gaming compact with the Poarch Band would implicitly ratify that desecration and fraud, because the revenues paid to your state would come from a casino built on our historical site, ceremonial grounds and ancestors' burial grounds," Muscogee Principal Chief George P. Tiger wrote.

Bentley is not in compact negotiations. The letter came after some legislators suggested legalized gambling, either by allowing the tribe to have another bingo location, or Las-Vegas-style casino games at their existing bingo sites, as a solution to the state's budget problem.

The Oklahoma Creeks sued the Poarch Band and have been critical over the land's development. Tiger wrote that the Poarch Band obtained the land from the state in the 1980s under the guise of historic preservation but built a "morally reprehensible" casino there. Tiger said the remains of 57 were excavated and reburied by the development.

The Poarch Band said it has been respectful in the land's development.

"It is unfortunate that the Muscogee Nation continues to wage a misinformation campaign against our Tribe and is now trying to bring another government into what is an inter-tribal dispute," Robert McGhee, Government Relations Advisor for the Poarch Band, said in an emailed statement. "The Muscogee Nation lives in Oklahoma. The property in Wetumpka belongs to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and we make decisions regarding it that are in the best interest of our people."

The Poarch Band currently has casinos with electronic bingo machines, which resemble slot machines, on tribal lands in Wetumpka, Montgomery and Atmore. The new Wetumpka casino opened in 2013.

Bentley Communications Director Jennifer Ardis said the governor is not in favor of a compact as a revenue option. Alabama's general fund budget faces a projected $200 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

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