|The Choctaws' Golden Moon Casino|
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were facing about $80 million in looming debt when former Alabama Governor Bob Riley launched a series of raids against bingo facilities in his state.
Was Riley trying to help the Choctaws by stamping out competitors in Alabama? Given that Riley reportedly benefited from at least $13 million of Mississippi gaming money in the 2002 race for governor, the likely answer is yes. And that means the federal bingo trial that recently ended with no convictions--but is scheduled to be retried--almost certainly was driven by Riley's efforts to harm businesses in his own state.
We have known for a while now that Choctaw gaming facilities were hemorrhaging money at the time of Riley's raids in Alabama. But recent news reports tell us just how dire the situation had become. The Choctaws' bonds now have a junk rating, and tribe officials appear to have lied about the financing for a new casino in Jones County, Mississippi. From the Associated Press:
Although the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians said in May that profits from its casino had paid off its $18 million construction costs at its Bok Homa casino in Jones County, financial documents show that the tribe used a $10-million line of credit to help pay that cost.
That hardly is the only bad financial news for the Choctaws. According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the tribe has a $70.8 million payment due in November 2011:
The latest Moody's Report, which downgraded the tribe's bonds to junk bond status, described liquidity of the Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise as "weak," citing the $10 million loan as well as $70.8 million due in November.
As of the end of March, the resort had $27.2 million in unrestricted cash, including $15 million in cage cash, which Moody's concluded "wouldn't be sufficient to cover $80.8 million of maturing debt."
So Bob Riley's Mississippi benefactors were facing more than $80 million in maturing debt, and it apparently was well known by insiders. Was that incentive for the former Alabama governor to essentially screw his own constituents?
The citizens of Alabama--not to mention federal law-enforcement authorities--need to be taking a real close look at that question.