Alabama Senator Faces Bribes Allegations in Gambling Bill Lawsuit

A fresh challenge for Marsh

An Alabama gambling expansion bill currently making its way through the state legislature now faces a significant hurdle after the filing of a lawsuit against the senator proposing it.

accepting bribes and receiving money from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians

Three non-profit charity organizations, Age With Dignity, Inc., OIC Dream Greene County, and Dream County, Inc. filed the suit on Monday. As reported by WBRC FOX6 News, they accuse Senator Del Marsh of accepting bribes and receiving money from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in relation to his proposed Senate Bill 214. The plaintiffs also argue that the senator aims to create an illegal monopoly through the legislation.

In an interview on Monday, Senator Del Marsh denied the allegations outright. “I’ve never, ever insinuated to anyone that I will cast a vote for money. That’s a flat out lie,” he insisted. Meanwhile, Robert McGhee, director of governmental affairs and public relations for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, described the accusations as “unfounded and nonsense.”

What are the allegations?

Senator Del Marsh first filed his Senate Bill 214 in February this year. The legislation would introduce a state lottery and legal casino gambling at five Alabama venues, including four dog tracks and one casino run by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The bill will go to the Senate floor for consideration on Tuesday, according to Marsh.

The lawsuit allegations center around Marsh’s decision to only allow casino gambling within those five venues, specifically focusing on the inclusion of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The plaintiffs accuse Marsh of launching a “pay to play” scheme, through which he stands to gain financially by permitting the tribal organization to participate.

bill would block the charities’ access to a vital source of funds

The filing further alleges that SB 214 would illegally create a gambling monopoly. Thomas Gallion, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, explained that the three charities currently receive funds from the state’s legally operating gambling facilities. He said that by giving “a monopoly to a select few,” pointing specifically to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the bill would block the charities’ access to a vital source of funds.

Although the plaintiffs have taken issue with Marsh’s bill, a number of other states have similar gambling legislation in place. In Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation both hold a monopoly over the state’s casino market. Similarly, the Seminole Tribe currently benefits from its own 20-year exclusive casino gambling deal in Florida.

Gambling expansion has a long way to go

Marsh’s gambling bill still faces a long journey before it can become law. The senator began reworking the legislation late last month in an effort to gain more support from state lawmakers. This included the addition of details regarding gaming tax and how it can be utilized by the state. He also considered adding two more casinos to represent the state’s congressional districts.

Some of the senators don’t want to cast that vote knowing it is just going to die in the House.”

Although Marsh now believes he has the votes to pass SB 214 in both chambers, a report from AP News on Monday suggested that negotiations regarding the legislation’s details were still ongoing. Senate Rules Chairman Jabo Waggoner (R – Vestavia Hills) described the bill as being “up in the air”, adding: “Some of the senators don’t want to cast that vote knowing it is just going to die in the House.”

If the Senate does approve the legislation this week, then it still requires a public vote as per the demands of Governor Kay Ivey earlier this year. It is unlikely that this will take place before November 2022, meaning any Alabama gambling expansion may have to wait until 2023 at the earliest.

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