Posted on: March 14, 2023, 03:04h.
Last updated on: March 14, 2023, 03:05h.
Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the state’s lone federally recognized tribe, has scored a major economic victory by way of NASA.
PCI Productions LLC, a Huntsville-based media company controlled by the tribe, was last week awarded a communications contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The deal is worth up to $217.6 million should the full contract — an initial 16-month agreement followed by a 20-month optional extension — be executed by the US government agency.
PCI Productions, a subsidiary of PCI Federal Services, will help develop NASA’s marketing and communications materials. NASA said the media firm will produce communications for NASA’s space missions, stakeholder relations, public engagement, archives services, and Freedom of Information Act requests.
This type of contract is not new for the tribe,” Poarch Band spokesperson Kristin Hellmich said of the NASA contract.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is relatively small with about 2,700 members. But the tribe’s economic arms consist of several multimillion-dollar enterprises.
Along with its federal contracting arm, the tribe is invested in aviation maintenance, engineering, construction, facilities support, consulting, and tech. PCI Productions participated in a competitive bidding process as a qualified 8(a) federal organization, a designation reserved for Native Americans and other groups considered historically disadvantaged.
The tribe, of course, is also economically supported by its gaming division — Wind Creek Hospitality. Wind Creek has three Class II casinos in Alabama — Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Wetumpka, and Wind Creek Montgomery. The Poarch Creek Indians additionally have ownership stakes in the Mobile Greyhound Park and Pensacola Greyhound Park racetracks, which are respectively located in Alabama and Florida.
The tribe also owns and operates Wind Creek Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, Wind Creek Curacao, and Wind Creek Aruba.
Home State Gaming Expansion
Alabama has no commercial casinos or Class III Indian casinos. As Class II gaming properties, Wind Creek’s casinos in Alabama can only operate bingo-based gaming machines — not Las Vegas-style slot machines, table games, or sports betting.
The tribe has long lobbied state lawmakers to ease their opposition to traditional gambling. Poarch Band leaders want the state to pass some form of gaming expansion that allows their three Wind Creek casinos to incorporate slots and table games.
The tribe is willing to concede its monopoly on gaming with the introduction of a state-run lottery and possibly competition from commercial casino operators in exchange for a Class III compact.
Though no legislation to expand gaming has yet been introduced during the Alabama Legislature’s 2023 session, the tribe recently debuted another gaming expansion campaign in the Cotton State.
Dubbed “Winning for Alabama,” a 30-second commercial recently began airing in Alabama. The spot features actors dressed as a teacher, computer tech, farmer, doctor, construction worker, and firefighter promoting the possible economic benefits of expanded gambling.
The actors claim a gaming and lottery bill could create 12,000 new jobs and $700 million a year in new tax revenue for the state. That revenue, the spokespeople claim, could be used to improve infrastructure in the state, education, health care, high-speed internet expansion, and public safety initiatives.
Call to Action
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians argues that Alabama’s neighboring states are benefitting from its lack of allowing more forms of gambling. Commercial casinos operate in neighboring Mississippi, and Tennessee is home to legal online sports betting.
“Tell your legislator to get in the game now and support a smart gaming plan teamed with a state lottery,” another Winning for Alabama campaign spot says through a narrator. “Don’t sit on the sidelines. Together, we win.”