Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Feds Approve Union Vote on CT Indian Reservation

By Ken Davison
Feather News

In a decision that could eventually affect the Mohegan Tribe, a federal labor official ruled this afternoon that a union election be held at Foxwoods Resort Casino, located on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in Connecticut.

The decision is a setback for the Tribe but the fight for its sovereignty is not over.

The ruling by Peter B. Hoffman, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), would allow table dealers to vote on whether to join a union. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union petitioned the NLRB last month and is trying to organize 3,000 dealers at the casino.

No date has been set for the union election and the Tribe is expected to appeal the decision, maintaining the position that the Tribe is not subject to federal labor law.

Hoffman wrote, "I find that the incidental affects on tribal government that could potentially occur as a result of the application of the (National Labor Relations Act) to Foxwoods’ employees, which the employer claims would directly threaten the tribe’s political or economic security, are insufficient to deny the exercise of the board’s jurisdiction," he wrote.

Hoffman pointed to a ruling in the San Manuel Indian Casino case which decided that tribal businesses that are acting in interstate commerce do not fall under the ‘self-governance’ exception that apply to Indian tribes.

The Mashantucket Tribe responded by saying,“The UAW would like people to believe that this issue is about the right to organize; this is not the case. The issue is one of respecting the Tribe as a government. The Tribe has enacted a Tribal Labor Relations Law which gives employees the right to organize and bargain collectively if they choose. Tribal employees are government employees, in the same way that State employees are government employees and the Tribal law was modeled after other government’s labor laws, including Connecticut’s.

“We strongly believe that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction as the Tribe is the governing body which has the inherent authority to regulate employment on its reservation and it has historically done so. The UAW would like people to believe that the Tribe is not being fair-in fact it is the Union that is not being fair.

“There is a simple way to respect the Tribe as a government and at the same time address any organizing interests of our employees. That would be to file the petition pursuant to Tribal law. The UAW would prefer to litigate this for years to come in their attempt to undermine Tribal government, instead of respecting what they claim are employee concerns and addressing their issues in the tribal forum.”

Aquinnahs to Partner with Seneca Nation on Massachusetts Casino

By Ken Davison

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe has partnered with the Seneca Nation of New York to jointly bid for one of the three Massachusetts commercial casino licenses proposed by Governor Deval Patrick.

If the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe does not win one of the three commercial licenses, they will launch plans build a casino on tribal land. One of the locations under consideration by the tribe is the city of Palmer, which is in the western part of the state and is the same location where the Mohegan Tribe has also expressed interest for a casino.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe is located on Martha's Vineyard but will likely seek to add land into trust in another part of the state if they do not win one of the three commercial casino licenses. Another Federally-recognized in Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, recently sent an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior to take 160 acres of land into trust in the town of Mashpee and 550 acres in Middleborough. The Mashpees are proposing a $1 billion casino in Middleborough, near the east coast town of Plymouth. The Mashpee's partners are Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, the developers of Mohegan Sun and owners of a casino and racetrack in Rhode Island.

The Seneca Nation operates three casinos in or near Buffalo, New York.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mount Airy Casino To Open Today

By Ken Davison

After completing two days of trial runs to the satisfaction of state regulators this past weekend, the Mount Airy casino will open its doors to the public today.

A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 this morning and the public will be admitted at noon. The casino´s four restaurants will also open today while the 188-room hotel is scheduled to open on November 15th.

The $412 million casino is the first of the five stand-alone casinos to open in Pennsylvania. The casino currently has 2,523 slot machines and is expected to increase that number to about 3,000 slot machines upon the completion of an expansion in 2008 when it will also add 212 more hotel rooms, a conference center and retail shops.

The casino´s owner, Louis A. DeNaples, still remains under investigation by a grand jury to determine whether he misled gaming regulators by denying ties to organized crime. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week approved an independent committee that will oversee the casino pending the outcome of the investigation.

Mount Airy casino´s opening is expected to reduce the slot machine win in the near term at the Mohegan´s Pocono Downs´casino, located about twenty miles away. The Mohegan´s Pocono Downs casino, which doesn´t have a hotel, opened last year with 1,099 slot machines and now has 1,203 slot machines. Two hotels in the Poconos that are seeking to install 500 slot machines made presentations to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board this week. If approved, the Poconos region would host a total of four casinos.

In related news, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last Wednesday that it has revoked the licenses of two employees of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The revocations of the licenses for Brian Lee Baker and Frank Bergamino were effective October 2nd.



Note: Hours after the posting of this article, the Mount Airy Casino opened. A brief report can be found at:
http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-mtairy1022-cn,0,4647299.story

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board publishes slot machine figures on a weekly basis and can be found at: http://www.pgcb.state.pa.us/gaming_revenue.HTM

Old postcards of the former Mount Airy Lodge, a popular resort destination in the 60's and 70´s and later purchased by DeNaples in 2004 for $25 million as the site for the Mount Airy Casino, can be fount at the following web address:
http://www.abandonedbutnotforgotten.com/Mount%20Airy%20Lodge%20Post%20Cards.htm

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pocono Casino Scheduled to Open on Monday

By Ken Davison

Mount Airy Casino, located about twenty miles from the Mohegan´s Pocono Downs, is scheduled to open this Monday.

The Mount Airy Casino was to open last Monday but had not yet recieved state approval of the composition of its audit committee and had not gone through the required two days of dry-runs, also required by the state. Yesterday, the audit committee was approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the two days of dry-runs, in which the proceeds from an invitation-only crowd will go to charities and activities are monitored by state regulators, are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

The resort, which is in the tourist section of the Poconos, will open with approximatel 2,500 slot machines while its hotel is scheduled to open in November.

Gary Burgess Walks On

By Ken Davison

Tribal member Gary E. Burgess, 62, passed away October 4, 2007. He lived in Tampa, Florida.

Gary was a member of the Moose Lodge and was an alumni of the University of South Florida. Gary retired with 30 years of service as a general operations manager with the State of Florida Department of Health´s Office of Disability.

Gary´s nephew Gene Burgess, Jr. said, "Gary was well liked and generous to all that he walked with through his life. Gary was born with severe physical disabilities and spent several years of his childhood at Shriners Hospital going through surgeries and therapy. Nevertheless, Gram and Gramp said he always had a smile on his face. He was married and remained virtually independent his entire adult life. Gary had a quick wit and a hearty laugh that endeared him to his friends."

Passamaquoddy Referendum in Maine

By Ken Davison

On November 6th, Maine voters will decide on a referendum for a racino to be run by the Passamaquoddy Tribe. If approved, the tribe would move closer to operating a harness racing track with up to 1,500 slot machines.

Although the tribe has over 200,000 acres of land, the slot facility is likely to be built in Calais, in Washington County, where the tribe has options on 700 hundred acres of land, according to reports.

Slot machines are currently allowed at Hollywood Slots near the Bangor Raceway, which opened in 2005. Hollywood Slots is owned by Penn National,which owns 24 casino gaming, horse racing and off-track wagering and slot machine facilities and was the owner of Pocono Downs race track prior to selling it to the Mohegan Tribe for approximately $280 million.

In 2003, a referendum in Maine was approved by voters to allow up to 1,500 slot machines at commercial harness-racing tracks in Bangor and Scarborough. Another Maine tribe, the Penobscot Tribe, has proposed 400 slot machines at their high-stakes bingo facility on Indian Island. The Penobscot´s proposal will be considered in the legislature´s next session.

Bidders on New York Racino Stacked with Indians

By Ken Davison

Six groups have submitted bids for the franchise to operate up to 4,500 video lottery terminals, which are similar to slot machines, at New York´s Aqueduct Race Track.

Among the six groups are entities controlled by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes. Two tribes in New York, the Shinnecock and Seneca, have also applied for the franchise. Some of these tribes have partnered with other companies in their proposals. The Shinnecocks said they would drop their plans for a Long Island, N.Y. casino if they are selected to run the Aqueduct gaming.

In early September, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer recommended that New York Racing Association (NYRA) be awarded a franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at the state-owned facilities at Aqueduct Race Course, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Raceway. The Mohegan Tribe and its partner, Capital Play, had submitted one of the rejected bids.

After the selection of NYRA to continue running the race tracks, Governor Spitzer said, “After careful consideration, I concluded that a reconstituted NYRA is the best entity to operate thoroughbred racing in New York State. The state, in consultation with NYRA, will choose an experienced gaming operator to operate the VLT franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise.” The governor announced that he would re-bid the gaming aspect of the franchise and asked that new proposals be submitted by October 15th.

Along with the four tribes, Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment and their partner, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway submitted a proposal as well as Greenwood Racing Incorporated. Other groups expressed their continued interest in running both the tracks and the gaming at Aqueduct but did not respond to the bid deadline earlier this week for the gaming franchise at Aqueduct.

The Mohegans formed a company called Mohegan Gaming, LLC specifically for the purpose of bidding on the Aqueduct gaming franchise. Mohegan Gaming is a subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA).

The Mohegans originally partnered with Capital Play in their original proposal for the racing and gaming franchise. Mohegan officials and spokespeople for Capital Play have been publically critical of the governor over his selection of NYRA since his recommendation was made in September. Continuing in their criticism of the governor, Mohegan Sun casino officials told The Day newspaper this week that they would rather see Spitzer reverse his granting of the bid for the three race tracks to the New York Racing Association and give it to the Mohegans and Capital Play.

According to state law, New York´s legislature must approve the winner of the franchise, which is set to begin on January 1st. Republicans in the state Senate have proposed that a separate commission be set up to select vendors and manage the race tracks.

Narragansett Sachem Election in October

By Ken Davison

The Narragansett Tribe said that they will arrest any disenrolled members with trespassing if they try to vote in an upcoming election on October 27th that will determine the tribe´s next Sachem.

Tribal law enforcement officers will ask state and local police to arrest disenrolled members for trespassing if they interfere with the elections. More than 200 tribal members were kicked out of the tribe after a membership dispute last year. About half of them were reinstated after later producing documents showing their ties to the tribe.

The current Sachem, Matthew Thomas, is facing Paula Jennings in the election. Jennings is opposed to the removal of tribal members from the rolls. "These are the people that allowed us to get Federal acknowledgement in 1983. Their names were on the base roll, " Jennings told the Westerly Sun.

Wusmissing

The Wusmissing column will return next week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pocono Casino Delays Opening

The Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, located about 20 miles from the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, will not open on Monday as originally planned. A new opening date has not been set but a spokesman for the casino said ¨we think its a matter of days, not weeks.¨

New Tribal Council Officers

The Mohegan tribal council elected James Gessner as Corresponding Secretary and Allison Johnson was re-elected Recording Secretary.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Editorial Cartoon

















Indigenous Resistance Day
















By Ken Davison

In recent years, indigenous communities around the continent have redefined Columbus Day into a day of recognizing their ongoing battle for cultural and political survival despite the exploitation and genocide that resulted from the 1492 landing in the Caribbean.

Columbus first landed on the American continent in what is now Venezuela on his third voyage. Four years ago this country officially renamed the the day of October 12th, a day they traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day. It is now known as the Day of the Indigenous Resistance.

Future Development of Fort Hill Farm Moves Ahead

By Ken Davison

Montville´s Planning and Zoning Commission approved changes in their zoning regulations yesterday which could mean a massive residential development on the land abutting the Mohegan elder housing complex.

By a vote of 6-1 yesterday, the commission agreed to amend their regulations to create a housing opportunity development zone, possibly allowing for affordable housing on the 20-acre parcel of land.

The property had recently been up for sale for several years but the Tribe did not purchase the property. The proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission was made by Vizion Enterprise to build 286 units on that parcel, of which 30% of the units would be affordable housing.

According to Vizion Enterprise´s presentation, four percent of the town of Montville´s housing is currently considered affordable housing while the state´s goal is 10% for each community. The property is described as being between 1710 and 1856 Norwich-New London Turnpike (Route 32) in Uncasville.

While the Planning and Zoning Commission´s vote approved the creation of an affordable-housing zone, the next step will be for the town to vote on the actual development.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Great Mohegan Patriot

By Ken Davison

Mohegan Chief G’tinemon died on October 1st in New London, Connecticut at the age of 88. Chief Ralph Sturges was the great grandson of the legendary Mohegan Medicine Woman Emma Baker.

I saw Chief Ralph Sturges at his home last month with my cousin Bill. We were greeted with the sight of a smartly-dressed Chief leaning forward in an armchair while reading the business section of The Day newspaper. He had only recently returned from the hospital but he spoke spiritedly. He was enthusiastic about a ceremony to be held later that day in which the head of the National Indian Gaming Association, Ernie Stevens, was to honor him.

The Chief helped guide the Tribe through its Federal recognition in 1994 and to the selection of a top-notch partner that built and managed the original Mohegan Sun casino. The Chief was jovial and witty and a man of integrity. He won over the outside community to support the Tribe’s endeavors at a time when the public was becoming increasingly nervous about having another Indian casino in the region.

When he stepped down from his duties as chairman of the tribal council for health reasons, the Tribe lost a prudent tribal council chairman who had espoused transparency in government and the need for the Tribe to pay off its debt. The Chief was privately critical of many decisions made by subsequent tribal councils, including the terms of the buyout agreement with Trading Cove, the Sunburst expansion and the Pocono Downs acquisition. Chief Sturges was upset that Roland Harris, who replaced him as chairman of the tribal council, was given only a reprimand after the internal corruption investigation of 2001. Shortly after the Chief’s departure from the tribal council, tribal membership meetings were changed from monthly to quarterly and tribal council meetings were closed off to tribal members (council meetings are now open to tribal members although members are barred from making comments or asking questions).

Ralph nonetheless remained the Tribe’s Lifetime Chief and continued to work daily to keep the outside community on our side. He was accessible to anyone on any day of the work week while he was at his office on the reservation or eating lunch at the Chief’s Deli or, in later years, the Uncas American Indian Grill in the casino. He loved the public and the public had a tremendous amount of respect for him.

But on that sunny September morning, he was not the Chief to me. He was a friend that I knew was going through a difficult time. I did not know the seriousness of his illness and he complained little of his condition. He spoke more fervently when the topics were about the Tribe. Chief Sturges told Bill and me to get the word out to tribal members about the honoring ceremony later that afternoon. He spoke of returning to his daily routine on the reservation. The Tribe was clearly still at the forefront of his thoughts. He talked again of tribal politics. He still sounded like the Patriarch.

Chief Sturges will forever be remembered by the people of the Mohegan Nation for the milestones we reached under his leadership. I will always remember him as the great patriot of our nation.