Dispute over Gambling Winnings at Indian Casino - Illegal Contract: Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians


Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, [Ms. 1111250, Sept. 29, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2017). In this plurality opinion by Justice Murdock (Bolin, Parker, and Wise, JJ., concur; Stuart, C.J., and Main and Bryan, JJ., concur in the result; Shaw and Sellers, JJ., recuse), the Court affirms the Montgomery Circuit Court’s dismissal of the plaintiff Rape’s contract and tort claims arising from a dispute over a $1,377,015.30 slot jackpot at Wind Creek Casino.

Plaintiff argued that the lands on which the Wind Creek Casino is located are not properly considered Indian lands, because the Poarch Band of Creek Indians was not a federally recognized tribe when Congress enacted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Plaintiff argued that as a result, the Poarch-Creek tribal courts did not have exclusive jurisdiction. After extensively discussing the history of the 1934 Act, the Court ultimately decided that it faced “a Catch-22.” Ms. *29. The Court held that if it concluded that the lands were not properly taken into trust and therefore not considered “Indian country,” those lands would remain in the political jurisdiction of the State of Alabama. Ms. *29-30. The Court then held that if the activity out of which the claim founded on the winning slot jackpot occurred on land within the jurisdiction of the State of Alabama, that activity was illegal. Ms. *30. The Court held “[i]t is well established that this Court will not aid a plaintiff seeking to recover under an illegal contract but, instead, will simply leave the parties where it finds them,” Ms. *30, and that “[t]his principle applies whether the claim framed by a plaintiff sounds in contract or in tort; either way, a plaintiff cannot recover on a claim that depends upon or requires the aid of an illegal contract.” Ms. *32.

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