The recently published editorial by The Tampa Tribune “Squeezed by the gaming vice” (Our Views, April 10) attempts to make a compelling argument urging Florida lawmakers to reject entering into a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI). However, the argument they attempt to make is based on the wrong information.
The editorial states that the PBCI “is not federally recognized in Florida; only the Seminoles and Miccosukee Tribe are” and therefore, Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Legislature should not entertain the idea of allowing PBCI the same rights and options when it comes to gaming offerings on their land.
This statement is false. The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes are the two federally recognized tribes with headquarters in Florida. But PBCI, although headquartered in Escambia County, Ala., is a federally recognized tribe with land in trust in Florida, and approximately one third of its tribal members reside in Escambia County and Santa Rosa County in Florida.
In accordance to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, PBCI’s federal trust land in Escambia County is eligible for gaming activity, and the tribe has a right to enter into an agreement with the governor and the state of Florida.
The editorial goes on to say that when negotiating the Seminole Compact, “state officials had little option but to allow the Seminoles to offer high-stakes games at the tribe’s casinos in Central and South Florida.” Florida law grants the Seminole tribe specific rights, options and exemptions when it comes to the use of their land for gaming activities. The reality is that PBCI meets the same criteria that would allow them the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the state, just as the Seminole tribe has done.
The editorial concludes by stating the “best course of action is to renew the compact with the Seminoles and maintain the status quo.” The reality is PBCI has the same standing as the Seminole tribe. Why, then, would it not be appropriate, if PBCI meets the same legal definition that the Seminole tribe does, to engage in such negotiations and bring revenue to the state, for PBCI to be given the same opportunity now?
James Dorris is president/CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Gaming Authority.