Montgomery City Leaders Talk New Casino, Financial Impact

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By Ashley Thompson

The Poarch Creek Indians' tax-exempt status hasn't kept them from making charitable donations to local organizations. In 2012, one-million dollars was donated to Montgomery Public Schools. More recently, 100 thousand dollars was given to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

 

Cody Williamson with the Wetumpka Casino says it's all about being involved in the community.

 

"I think we want to be good neighbors," he says. "We do a lot for the community other than that but that's a big part of it."

The Montgomery Creek Casino employs about 700 people. With the newly rebuilt Wetumpka casino, could an expanded Montgomery location be next?

"If we see that there is a need in Montgomery, obviously we can expand and even expand in Atmore," says Williamson.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange says it's an idea he would welcome.

"We'd welcome any legal gambling that any entity that would want to do," he says. "Unfortunately, we have a clouded issue right now."

That issue is the legality of gambling in Alabama. It's a debate that has Montgomery City Councilmen split. But most can agree that money from the casinos does stimulate the local economy.

"You've got a group that doesn't like it but you've got a group that does and they certainly try to work with everybody and I think it's a good fit," says Councilman Arch Lee.

"I think when you're generating that much revenue in any locale, in order to be a good neighbor, you ought to be able to support local agencies and local institutions," says Councilman Tracy Larkin.

Councilman Richard Bollinger says he has mixed feelings about accepting donations from casinos, although he says he does see how the Poarch Creek Indians have financially helped communities.

"I think it's great in Wetumpka," he says. "They knew that they would need a fire department just for their facility because it was so large that Wetumpka didn't have the assets. I know they joined in over there. Should they do more? I don't know."

 

Governor Robert Bentley says although he believes casinos bring jobs and money into the area, he says he doesn't think they are a positive influence on the community.

 

The brand new Wind Creek Casino opened today in Wetumpka to large, eager crowds.

The Poarch Creek Indians also own casinos in Atmore and Montgomery. Money from all venues have gone to local organizations but how do some elected officials feel about these donations, when gambling is illegal in Alabama?

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