Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pocono Casino Owner Charged With Perjury

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The owner of the Mount Airy Casino, Louis DeNaples, was charged with perjury for lying to the state's gaming board about his relationships with organized crime figures.

DeNaples was charged with four counts of perjury in a Dauphin County, Pa. grand jury probe that has lasted for seven months. DeNaples denied the charges through his spokesperson.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board suspended DeNaple's gaming license. DeNaples is barred from entering the casino property, exerting control over the property and he will not profit from the property.

The casino, which is about 20 miles from the Mohegan's Pocono Downs slot parlor in Pennsylvania, will now be under the control and oversight of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

See related article:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tribe Interested In Cheaper Atlantic City Property

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New Jersey´s Star-Ledger newspaper reported today that the Mohegan Tribe may be interested in purchasing the Trump Marina casino-hotel in Atlantic City.

The tribe had previously expressed interest in Atlantic City´s Tropicana but it may prove to be too costly for the tribe´s pocketbook. Analysts have estimated that the Tropicana could sell for $1 billion whereas the Trump Marina property would likely sell for under half that price.

Due to the tribe´s weak balance sheet, it would be forced to borrow the entire amount to purchase any casino property or take on partners with deep pockets.

Atlantic City casino revenues fell last year for the first time in its 29-year history as a result of the opening of Pennsylvania slot parlors. Atlantic City´s greatest competition has yet to arrive however. Two mega-casinos, one of which will be partly owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, are scheduled to open in Philadelphia in the next few years.

See article:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Foxwoods Resort Hotel Roof Catches Fire

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Four days after a rooftop fire forced the evacuation of a Las Vegas casino-hotel, another rooftop fire prompted the evacuation of the Mashantucket Pequot's Great Cedar Hotel and closed off a portion of Route 2.

The roof was seen smoking early this afternoon. There were no injuries, according to tribal spokesman Arthur Henick.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tribe Discusses Possible Casino With Palmer, Mass. Residents

By Ken Davison

Mohegan tribal representatives met with citizens of the western Massachusetts town of Palmer yesterday to discuss plans for a proposed casino and to address citizen concerns about traffic, public safety and the effects on property values. The meeting with the Citizen Casino Impact Study Group was held in the Palmer public library.

The Tribe is partnering with Northeast Realty in seeking one of three casinos proposed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The state legislature has yet to approve the measure but gathering local support would be a crucial step in the event casino gambling is legalized.

The proposed $1 billion project plans for 4,000 slot machines and 150 table games on a 164,000 square-foot gaming space in addition to a 600-room hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail space. Northeast Realty owns 150 acres across from the Rt. 32 turnpike exit and has an option for another 80 acres adjacent to the proposed casino property.

Public safety concerns were addressed by noting that hundreds of cameras inside and outside the casino would monitor the public. One committee member asked if the casino would pay for home-owners taxes and a tribal spokesman said he could not discuss that issue with the group. The tribe said a “fly-over” exit ramp could be built, similar to the one at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, to help alleviate traffic problems.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is proposing what some call a “fourth” casino in the state because of its plans to seek approval through a route that is separate from the governor’s plan. The Mashpees, partnering with Len Wolman and Sol Kerzner, are asking the U.S. Department of Interior to approve a tribal casino on reservation land.

Both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut would feel a sharp impact if Massachusetts legalizes casino gambling. Massachusetts residents reportedly make up about a quarter of the gamblers at both of the Connecticut Indian casinos.

NY Developer Ups the Ante For A.C.'s Tropicana Casino

By Ken Davison

Note: The Tribe's diversification efforts, if anything, expands tribal members' knowledge as it forces us to understand other markets, other players, other deals. This article focuses on bids submitted for Atlantic City's Tropicana casino. Keep in mind that the tribe paid its partners $130 million largely for the right to keep the name "Mohegan Sun" and $280 million for the Pocono Downs racetrack, not including construction costs for expanding that facility. Nick Ribis' comments below about the amount Wynn needs to charge his hotel guests could be easily applied to Mohegan, considering the immense construction cost of the 1,200-room hotel on the reservation.

A group of investors led by New York developer Joseph Palladino submitted the highest bid to date last week for the Atlantic City Tropicana casino and hotel. Palladino’s group submitted a bid of $950 million with a guarantee of $150 million in additional capital improvements.

Many groups, including the Mohegan Tribe, have expressed interest in the property although only two groups have submitted formal bids. Colony Capital Acquisitions, owner of the Atlantic City Hilton and Resorts casino on the Boardwalk through its subsidiary Resorts International Holdings, LLC, submitted an $850 million bid in early January.

The Tropicana was denied its casino license in December 2007 for a variety of reasons, including employee relations problems and failure to maintain the property to the satisfaction of casino regulators. Columbia Sussex acquired the Tropicana when it bought the gaming company Aztar in 2005. The Tropicana must be sold before mid-April.

About The High Bidder (Palladino)

Palladino, 47, is principal director of acquisitions for a private capital group that serves the business affairs of about 70 very wealthy families throughout the world. Palladino is also a developer of hotels in New York and New Jersey. Palladino said he has assembled a team of licensed operators that are well-known in New Jersey and will be represented by former New Jersey secretary of state Joan Haberlee.

About The Other Bidder (Colony-Resorts)

The president of Colony is Nick Ribis, a former executive to Donald Trump. The company was created in order to buy up casinos at cheap prices and increase profits by operating them efficiently. The company's first major transaction was in 2000, when it purchased the Resorts casino in Atlantic City for $126 million in cash and another $17.5 million in debt from Sol Kerzner's Sun International.

The company then purchased in 2001 the Las Vegas Hilton for $280 million and four more gaming properties for $1.24 billion in 2005 (Bally's Tunica, Resorts Tunica, Resorts East Chicago and the Atlantic City Hilton). The company sold one of them, Resorts East Chicago, at a substantial profit a year later for $675 million.

Ribis once said, "I paid $90,000 per hotel room, and Wynn's rooms cost $1 million. If I charge $130 a night, I make tons of money! Wynn has to get over $300!"

About the Atlantic City Tropicana

Ramada Inns bought the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City for $20 million in the early 80's with the intention of renovating the property. New Jersey's Casino Control Commission denied those plans, saying it wanted new properties. Ramada then spent about $400 million on the Ambassador Hotel and later changed its name to Tropicana Atlantic City. Ramada sold the property to Aztar in 1989, which later built two more hotel towers, bringing the total rooms to 2,129 and making it the largest hotel in New Jersey. The property also has 140,000 square feet of gaming space, which includes 3,900 slot machines and 197 table games. Aztar was acquired by Columbia Sussex in 2005. In 2003, a portion of the Tropicana’s parking garage collapsed and killed four people.

The Tribe In The Media Series: Bloomberg Article Featuring Mohegan Tribe

In another update of "The Tribe in the Media" series, below are two recent articles from Bloomberg News Service:

Tribal Bonds May Lose as Massachusetts Eyes Casinos
By Oliver Staley

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Bondholders in Connecticut's Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, the nation's two biggest casinos, may be the losers and shareholders in Las Vegas Sands Corp. the winners if Marilyn Souza has a choice.

Souza, a retiree from Franklin, Massachusetts, treks 90 miles (144 kilometers) almost every week to gamble at Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. "I'd rather see Massachusetts get the money,'' said Souza, 57.

She will get her wish if Governor Deval Patrick brings Las Vegas-style gambling to Massachusetts. Patrick is counting on legislative approval this year and has the support of more than half of state residents, according to one poll. If casinos open and Connecticut tribes are shut out, revenue for current properties could fall 20 percent and reduce earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as much as 30 percent, according to Wachovia Securities.

"That will definitely impact the bonds. Ebitda is the most important factor to service debt,'' said Dennis Farrell, a Wachovia analyst in Charlotte, North Carolina. "When Massachusetts does go online, the profit margins are going to be deteriorated for both.''

Farrell declined to give a precise estimate for the impact on the bonds.

Bondholders in Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. in Atlantic City, New Jersey, saw a decline in the value of their holdings in 2007 after six slot-machine parlors opened in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Three Casinos

Ebitda for Trump's three Atlantic City casinos may have dropped 3 percent last year, estimates compiled by Bloomberg show, as revenues at the city's 11 gambling facilities declined 5.7 percent.

The decline contributed to a 15 percent loss for Trump's $1.25 billion of 8.5 percent notes due 2015 last year. The debt fell about 23 cents in 2007 to 77 cents on the dollar, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owner of Foxwoods, currently obtain about 25 percent of revenues from Massachusetts gamblers. Players from Connecticut and New York provide most of the rest.

Mohegan Tribal Gaming's $150 million of 6.875 percent debt due in 2015 has fallen to 92.4 cents on the dollar from about 101 cents at the beginning of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The debt yields 8.3 percent. The Pequot tribe has $500 million of 8.5 percent notes due in 2015. The bonds have fallen to 98.3 cents from 100 cents when they were issued in November. The debt yields 8.8 percent.

After 2012

Increased competition would hit bonds maturing after 2012, the earliest Massachusetts casinos could open, Farrell said. Mohegan has more than $800 million in outstanding bonds that mature in 2012 or later, according to Bloomberg data.

Capital Research & Management Co., a Los Angeles-based investment firm that is the largest owner of Mohegan bonds, declined to comment, said spokesman Chuck Freadhof.

Patrick, 52, has proposed licensing three casinos, requiring a capital investment of $1 billion each, to create 20,000 permanent jobs and win back as much as $900 million in revenue lost to its neighbor. A University of Massachusetts poll released Oct. 5 said that 55 percent of residents approve of the governor's plan, while 27 percent oppose it.

Speaker's Skepticism

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who in 2006 opposed legislation to add slot machines at racetracks, has said he is skeptical of Patrick's bill. Patrick, however, made passage a legislative priority and may include $800 million in license fees in the 2009 budget to encourage action.

DiMasi's spokesman David Guarino didn't return calls asking for comment. Patrick wasn't available to comment, said spokeswoman Becky Deusser.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and Las Vegas Sands, both led by executives with local roots, are favored by analysts to win licenses. Shares of Las Vegas Sands, run by Sheldon Adelson, would climb if a casino law passes, said Robert LaFleur, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group in Stamford, Connecticut. The operator is a "clear favorite,'' LaFleur said.

Las Vegas Sands would invest if it could receive a return of at least 15 percent of its investment, said Bill Lerner, an analyst at Deutsche Bank in Las Vegas, who recommends buying the shares. That could yield annual Ebitda of $150 million given Patrick's proposal and add $2 a share to its stock price, based on a sum-of-the-parts valuation, he said.

"A Lot of Interest"

"It's a market we have a lot of interest in. I think it would be a vibrant business,'' said Harrah's Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman, in a November interview in Las Vegas.

The Connecticut tribes are exploring casinos in Massachusetts as well. The Mohegans have proposed a 4,000-slot machine facility in Palmer, 90 minutes from Mohegan Sun. Foxwoods is teaming with Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage and is looking at sites in Warren and Revere.

The Mohegans are "very interested'' in Massachusetts, said Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, in a December telephone interview.

A Massachusetts tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoags, purchased land in Middleborough, about 45 minutes from Boston, for a possible casino. The group joined with Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, Mohegan Sun's developers. Patrick said he wants the Wampanoags to participate in the bidding.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun already compete with video lottery terminals at Yonkers Raceway outside New York City and in Newport and Lincoln, Rhode Island.

More Competition

"We've always known there would be more competition in New England,'' said Etess. "We know there is a potential for loss, so you have to do other things to build revenue.''

The Mohegans opened a slots-only casino in Pennsylvania in 2006 and are pursuing a license in Kansas. Foxwoods is developing a Philadelphia casino it hopes to open in 2009 and is an applicant in Kansas. The two tribes are investing a combined $1.7 billion to improve the Connecticut properties.

Competition from Massachusetts could raise the cost of bond issues to pay for future expansion, said Michael Paladino, an analyst at Fitch Ratings in New York. If Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun "get shut out of Massachusetts, there would definitely be a negative impact to their credit.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Staley in New York at . Last Updated: January 17, 2008 18:29 EST

Lower Earnings Jeopardizing Foxwoods’ Credit Rating

Saturday, January 19, 2008
By Oliver Staley

(Bloomberg News)-The Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribal Nation, the owner of Foxwoods Resort Casino, may get its credit ratings cut by Moody’s Investors Service because of lower earnings and increased regional competition.

Foxwoods, the largest U.S. casino by casino-floor space, said first-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell $23 million, Moody’s said yesterday. The review affects $1.5 billion in bonds, including Baa3 issues that may be cut to below investment grade.

Increased competition, lower-than-expected earnings and a possible consumer-based recession may make it “more difficult” for Foxwoods, based in Mashantucket, Conn., to meet its obligations for the current ratings, Moody’s said in a release. The rating change would probably be limited to one level, it said.

Foxwoods faces competition from the Mohegan Sun casino, operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, 10 miles away in Uncasville, Conn., and regional video-lottery terminals.

Racetracks in Lincoln and Newport, as well as Yonkers, N.Y., have more than doubled the number of video-lottery terminals in those locations, to 11,065, since September 2006, Wachovia Securities Inc. said in October.

Gambling Mogul Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson, one of the people seen as a top contender for a casino license in Massachusetts and who the Tribe is likely to frequently encounter when seeking to enter other gaming markets, has an interesting background that led to him becoming one of the world's richest men:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Connecticut Slot Wars?: Revenue Declines Continue At Both Connecticut Casinos

Feather News

Slot revenues at both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun declined for the fourth consecutive month.

The one difference is that Foxwoods' handle, which is the total money bet by its slot customers, increased substantially - by almost 17% in December over the same month last year. Foxwoods once again experienced a revenue decline only because it paid out a much higher percentage to its customers, preferring to forego profits in order to gain more of Connecticut's market share.

Slot revenues for the month of December at Mohegan Sun fell by about 19%, to $65.9 million from $81.2 million in December of the previous year. The Sun paid out 91.7% to its slot customers in December vs. 91.5% in December 2006. December 2006 was an exceptionally good month for both Indian casinos.

Foxwoods' slot revenue in December fell by about 17% when compared to the previous year. Slot revenue in December at Foxwoods was $55.6 million compared to $67.1 million for December of the prior year. Foxwoods paid out 93.5% to its slot customers in December, about 2% more than last December.

At the insistence of the state, the face value of fee play coupons issued by Foxwoods to its slot customers is included in the handle and payout figures, resulting in an overstatement of both.

This articles uses December slot revenue figures reported by both casinos to The Day.

Related Article (November 2007 slot report):

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sachem Fund Press Conference On Tuesday

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Norwich city mayor Benjamin Lathrop will host a press conference with leaders of the Mohegan tribe at 4 p.m. Tuesday to accept the Mohegan tribe's first $200,000 contribution to the Sachem Fund, a fund created by the city and the tribe to be used for cultural programs, tourism and economic development in the city of Norwich.

Both the city and the tribe each committed to giving $200,000 per year for five years toward the Sachem Fund.

The city has already made their contribution to the fund. The new seven-member board, which includes tribal councilors Mark Brown and Bill Quidgeon, are expected to attend the event. The press conference is open to the public and will be held in the city council chambers at City Hall.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snow Storm Arriving in Connecticut

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The National Weather Service says a powerful snow storm will hit southern New England on Sunday night and dump up to about a foot of snow in Connecticut by the time it is over late Monday afternoon. An AP report states that a heavy snow warning was to go into effect at 9 p.m. in western parts of the state and end at 7 p.m. in eastern portions. Northern sections of Connecticut are expected to receive the most snow. Coastal areas in Fairfield, New Haven and Middlesex counties can expect 5 to 8 inches of snow, while coastal New London county will get 2 to 4 inches. The storm is expected to begin with rain in some areas before switching to snow. The Weather Service says the heaviest snow is expected during the day on Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum Feb 25-26

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A press release on the 4th annual Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum states, "Experts from throughout the industry will provide racing and gaming professionals with critical insight into the latest economic, operational and political trends and developments impacting the racetrack operations."

The conference will be held February 25-26 at the Whitaker Center and Harrisburg Hilton. The Harrisburg Hilton is offering a special "Pennsylvania Gaming Congress" room rate by calling 800-HILTONS.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum will feature dozens of expert speakers and a Luncheon Keynote Address by William P. Weidner, President and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., whose company is building a destination gaming resort in Bethlehem, PA.

The event begins with the opening day racing program, sponsored by Widener University, followed by an evening cocktail reception, sponsored by MEI. The next day, attendees gather for the intensive, daylong gaming conference.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum is produced by Spectrum Gaming Group, an independent research and professional services firm, and presented by Fox Rothschild, a full-service law firm with one of the country's largest gaming practices. Other sponsors include All Star Incentive Marketing; Bally Technologies; Casino Career Institute; Casino Journal; Cope Linder; Gaming Industry Observer; Global Gaming Business; IGT; JCM Global; Label Rite; LPCiminelli; MEI; Slot Manager; South Jersey Industries; SOSH Architects; Top Flight Media; WMS.

Registration is available at early-bird rates at

The Next Kansas City Casino

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The next casino to open in Kansas City, Ks., may not be one of the groups who submitted proposals in late 2006. After closing its doors four years ago, the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma is scheduled to re-open its 7th Street Casino in Kansas City, Ks, on Thursday.

Both the National Indian Gaming Commission and then-Attorney general Phil Kline ruled in 2004 that the casino was operating illegally and seized gambling machines. The Wyandotte Nation invested $21 million to re-open the casino, which will have 400 slot machines, according to reports.

The Mohegan Tribe, along with its partners in the venture, submitted a proposal for a casino in Wyandotte/Kansas City, Kansas. A partnership between the Mohegan Tribe, Kansas City-based RED Development and Olympia Gaming of Las Vegas are proposing a $770 million casino in Wyandotte County.

A total of six proposals from five groups were submitted to the state lottery commission, which is expected to choose one of the proposals by late Spring.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tribe Snubbed By Its Massachusetts Partners

Feather News
Updated January 10, 2008

Two of the Mohegan tribe's partners in a joint bid for a casino in western Massachusetts are now proposing a casino in the eastern part of the state that so far excludes the Mohegans from the deal. reports that Massachusetts developer Leon Dragone and the Pennsylvania Real Estate Trust, partners with the Mohegans for a proposed casino in Palmer, are also now attempting to bring a casino to the Hicks-Logan neighborhood of New Bedford.

Dragone's Northeast Resorts owns options on 35 acres between Route 195 and the Acushnet River. Dragone is also partnering with Steven Norton, a casino developer and a former executive of the Sands Hotel and Casino. Dragone said they would be announcing a gaming development partner within the next few weeks.

Although some casino developers have expressed interest in New Bedford, Dragone said "we're the only ones putting our money where our mouth is in New Bedford."

In related news, the president of Springfield, Massachusetts-based Peter Pan Bus Lines has reportedly joined Dragone's Northeast Group as an investor in both the Palmer and New Bedford casino projects. Peter Picknelly also served as a member of Governor Deval Patrick's transition team in addition to running the largest privately-owned bus company in the country.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Interior Delivers Blow To Tribe's Diversification Program

By Ken Davison
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The U.S. Department of Interior issued new policies that will further restrict the ability of Indian tribes to add land for casinos to their reservation land-base if the properties aren't close to their reservation. The Interior Department subsequently denied numerous applications that were either incomplete or were awaiting decisions.

While applications from the two tribes that are partnering with the Mohegans are not yet close to reaching the final decision stage, the new policy may not even permit the Wisconsin casino land-into-trust application to be approved once the application does satisfy the criteria that existed before last week's policy changes.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Carl Artman, also sent letters to two tribes that are seeking permission to build mega-casinos in the Catskill Mountains of New York, 70 miles northeast of the Mohegan's Pocono Downs racino in Pennsylvania.

The St. Regis Mohawks and the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans of Wisconsin, both seeking a Catskills casino, were among various tribes whose applications were denied on Friday. The Stockbridge-Munsee are partners with Len Wolman and Sol Kerzner, who developed and initially managed the Mohegan Sun. Their company, Trading Cove Associates, recieves 5% of every dollar spent at the Mohegan Sun until 2014 in a consulting contract which, ironically, ended their management consulting services with the tribe in 1999.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe negotiated a compact with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and completed an environmental assessment, the two steps needed before land can be put into trust as reservation land and had long been seeking a ruling from Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne. In late October, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe sued the Department of Interior for not making a decision on their pending application. In their suit, the tribe claimed Kempthorne's personal views against off-reservation land additions were affecting his responsibilities as Interior Secretary.

Under the Interior Department's new guidelines, the land in the Catskills was too far from the St. Regis Mohawk's Akwesasne Reservation, therefore is too far away for tribal members who live on the reservation to work and if they did relocate, it would hurt the reservation. "The departure of a significant number of reservation residents and their families could have serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity as a community,” Kempthorne said in his letters to both tribes. The Catskills property is about 300 miles from their Akwesasne reservation on the U.S.-Canadian border. Some Indian leaders are bothered by the paternalistic nature of the new guidelines.

The Mohegan Tribe has wagered tens of millions of dollars on two future casino ventures with tribes in Wisconsin and the state of Washington that hinge on the Interior Department eventually taking off-reservation land parcels into trust for the casinos. Neither project has yet to reach the point where its application is complete but the new guidelines, which stress local government support, could further hamper their efforts. An agreement reached with the local government where the Cowlitz Tribe hopes to build their tribal casino in Washington was recently invalidated in court last year. The proposed location for the casino is in Clark County, near La Center and 25 miles from a recently relocated Cowlitz headquarters in Longview.

The Interior Department did not rule on the $800 million casino project between the Mohegans and the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, however, an application from the Lac Du Flambeau Chippewa tribe of Wisconsin was denied in which the tribe sought to build a casino in southeastern Wisconsin, 308 miles from their reservation. The Kenosha casino would be about 200 miles from the Menominee reservation. The Mohegans will manage the proposed Wisconsin casino for seven years if it opens. Out of the Mohegan's share of management fees, 85% would go to MTGA while the other 15% could go into the tribal government's treasury (through a subsidiary controlled by the Mohegan tribal government).

The application from Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican of Wisconsin was denied for the same reasons as those stated in the letter to the St. Regis Mohawks.

The Interior Department also denied a request by the Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox tribes to take 40 acres of land in Wyandotte, Ks., into trust due to incomplete information. The tribes can resubmit their applications with information that will satisfy the new regulations, according to new guidelines.

It is likely that the tribes whose applications were denied last week will resubmit their applications during the next administration, after President Bush and appointees like Kempthorne leave office.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Priest Charged in Probe of Pocono Casino Owner

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A Scranton, Pa., priest was charged with perjury on Wednesday in a continuing grand jury investigation of the owner of the Mount Airy Casino and Hotel, Louis DeNaples. The Mount Airy Casino opened in October and is about twenty miles from the Mohegan's Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Father Sica is accused of lying to the grand jury in August when he testified that he had no relationship with organized crime boss Russell Bufalino and was acquainted with Bufalino only in passing. Photographs surfaced during the investigation, however, that showed the two men arm-in-arm at a barbecue. Father Sica sent a note to Mr. Bufalino and his wife that was signed "love, Joe" and one witness said the Bufalinos attended Father Sica's ordination.

Mr. Bufalino was the boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family known as the Bufalino family from 1959 to 1989. He was involved in bootlegging in upstate New York along with Joseph Barbara, who later hosted the infamous "Appalachian Conference" in 1957 at his ranch that included all 26 U.S. crime families. Federal and state agents raid of the property was a major blow to the secrecy of organized crime. Bufalino replaced Barbara as boss of the small crime family, running it for the next thirty years. Bufalino died in 1994.

"Sica's testimony regarding the level of his relationship with Bufalino was intentionally false," the grand jury said. "This relationship was far beyond the one described by Mr. Sica in his grand jury testimony. "Because of the length and closeness of their friendship, Father Sica's relationship to known criminals was material to whether Mr. DeNaples had a relationship with the same known criminals," according to the presentment.

Sica went to various Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hearings with DeNaples but was not a character witness and did not testify before the board. Former PGCB chairman Chairman Tad Decker said that nothing has yet been exposed that would have changed his mind about having given DeNaples a gaming license. "Only a (DeNaples) indictment or conviction" would change his mind, he said.

Francis T. Chardo, first assistant district attorney in Dauphin County, who is prosecuting the case, said, "This involves allegations of perjury before a grand jury in a matter ... that could involve billions of dollars. For someone not entitled to a gaming license, that's what would be reaped," Mr. Chardo said.

A January 25th hearing has been set before Dauphin County Court Judge Todd Hoover. Judge Hoover, who is supervising the grand jury, set bail at $20,000 after Mr. Chardo said the priest had purchased a handgun in the last year and that he was carrying $1,000 cash when he was arrested in front of his home yesterday morning.

Mr. Chardo also accused Father Sica of making "a veiled threat" against a trooper who transported him to the courthouse. Mr. Chardo said the threat didn't involve physical harm, but related to defamatory information the priest allegedly learned about the trooper from a former officer who now works at the Mount Airy Casino.

Indigenous Language Reclamation Conference Feb 20-22 on Mashantucket Pequot Reservation

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The fourth biennial Conference on the Reclamation of Indigenous Languages will be held on the Mashantucket Pequot Nation's reservation on February 20-22 at the Museum and Research Center. The conference is sponsored by the tribe's language reclamation project overseen by the Historical and Cultural Preservation Committee. Tribal Council Secretary, Charlene R. Jones, has led this project since it began.

Four themes will be presented this year: technological innovations, artistic application of language, linguistics in the context of language preservation and reconstruction and instructional techniques. Participants may have the opportunity to earn credits.

Dr. Leanne Hinton of UC at Berkeley will be one of two keynote speakers. The three-day conference fee for those who register before February 1 is $125, $75 for students (with school ID) and seniors (55 and older) and includes breakfast, lunch, and admission to the Museum exhibits. Per diem rates are $75 for Wednesday and Thursday and $50 for Friday. The banquet is $50. For more information, contact Tribal Council Secretary Charlene Jones, ATTN: Language Conference, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, 2 Matt's Path, Mashantucket, CT 06338, or e-mail

Rhode Island Lawmaker Wants Slot Parlors to Become Casinos

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A Rhode Island lawmaker said he plans on filing legislation in the General Assembly that would allow the state's two slot parlors to operate 24 hours a day and a separate bill that would allow the slot parlors to become full-scale casinos. The two slot parlors are Twin River and Newport Grand.

Representative William San Bento says he expects a vote on round-the-clock gambling within a couple of weeks. Last year, voters in Lincoln, R. I., rejected 24-hour gambling at Twin River in a nonbinding referendum.

Rhode Island became the first state to allow pari-mutuels to operate video gambling in 1992, when slot machines were first introduced into Lincoln Greyhound Park (now Twin River) and Newport Jai Alai (now Newport Grand). Twin River now has nearly 4,700 and Newport Grand has 1,070. Newport Grand is adding 835 new slot machines.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Union Defeated at Indian Casino in Michigan

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Last year ended with a union defeat at an Indian casino in Michigan. The housekeeping staff at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe’s Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort voted 192-88 against forming a Teamsters union on December 21.

The Saginaw Chippewas adopted a tribal labor ordinance but union officials are challenging it.

Last February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that a casino operated on tribal land was subject to federal labor laws, striking down the tribe’s arguments that adherence to the National Labor Relations Act would violate their sovereignty. The Tribe did not appeal the decision. In that case, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a union was already formed under tribal laws but another union claimed the Tribe was denying it the same access to employees.

Ten months after the San Manuel Band ruling, Foxwoods dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in an election supervised by the NLRB to form a United Auto Workers union to bargain on their behalf with casino management.

The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on January 15th in Hartford to address the Mashantucket Pequot Nation's complaints that the November union vote held at Foxwoods Resort Casino should be invalidated because of improper election conduct on the part of the United Auto Workers union.The NLRB has already dismissed a Mashantucket complaint that was based on its tribal sovereignty.

Tribe Has One More Kansas Competitor

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The Las Vegas Sands Corporation submitted two casino proposals to the Kansas Lottery Commission on Monday, making it a total of five groups that are vying for a single casino near Kansas City.

One of the five groups includes a partnership between the Mohegan Tribe, Kansas City-based RED Development and Olympia Gaming of Las Vegas that proposed a $770 million casino in Wyandotte County. County officials approved the Mohegan's application and two others, Pinnacle Entertainment and the Cordish Company, in December but rejected the Sands casino application at that time. Another application from Golden Gaming was forwarded to the lottery commission on behalf of the city of Edwardsville and will compete against the others.

All applications must be approved by the local government which is why the lottery commission requested that applications be reviewed first at the local level. Although the Sands proposal was rejected by Wyandotte County officials in December, they can still be eligible if they get the required county approval before the selection date.

According to the Wichita Business Journal, the lottery commission has 90 days to review proposals before they will forward a contract to the gaming facility review board. The entire process is expected to last five months.

Court To Hear Narragansett Smoke Shop Case January 7

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Narragansett Indian leader John Brown accused prosecutors and the judiciary of acting in bad faith after a breakdown in a plea deal and a Friday state Supreme Court ruling that will not require Rhode Island Governor Carcieri to testify about the orders he gave the state police to raid a tribal smoke shop in 2003 in which 7 tribal members were arrested.

"There's no way we're going to get a fair hearing in Rhode Island," Brown told the Providence Journal.

Brown and six other tribal members, including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, were charged with misdemeanor counts including simple assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The court urged the tribal members' lawyer, William P. Devereaux, and the attorney general's office to work out a plea agreement but since the tribal members refused to plead guilty and prosecutors want "accountability on all their parts," they could not reach an agreement prior to last Friday's Supreme Court hearing. They will go to trial on Jan. 7.

The state police raided the smoke shop on July 14, 2003, after the tribe began selling cigarettes without charging Rhode Island taxes. Tribal members claim the police did not show a search warrant and that troopers "came in attacking people left and right."

An ABC news report shows video footage of the smoke shop raid in 2003:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Mohegan Footprint in New York

By Ken Davison

In New York’s capital city of Albany, this year’s countdown to the approaching New Year was dominated by keeping the horses running at three of the state’s racetracks. Last Friday, an interim agreement was reached to keep the New York Racing Association in charge of the racing at these tracks past January.

NYRA’s contract to run the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks ended on December 31st and the governor had been seeking the required legislative approval for NYRA to continue running the tracks for the next 30-years. Governor Eliot Spitzer and the leaders of both legislative chambers, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, had been in lengthy negotiations over the terms of NYRA’s contract throughout the final days of December to prevent a possible shutdowns of the racetracks.

The agreement will allow NYRA to run the racing until after the legislature can meet and approve a longer term deal in January. Governor Spitzer selected NYRA in September from four groups that submitted proposals, including a partnership between the Mohegan Tribe and Capital Play.

Capital Play is made up of a group of Australian horse racing executives that reportedly asked the Mohegan Tribe to join them in bidding for both the thoroughbred racing at three tracks and operating slot machines and retail, restaurant and entertainment outlets at the Aqueduct and Belmont racetracks. Capital Play would handle the racing, their specialty, while the Mohegans would operate the gaming and other components.

In 2006 and part of 2007, the four firms that bid for the combined racing-gaming franchise spent over $2 million in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. Governor Spitzer was the major benefactor, receiving $632,000 in campaign contributions from the companies bidding on the racetracks. Excelsior Racing alone paid $403,579 in campaign contributions to the governor. Capital Play CEO Karl O’Farrell was reported saying that he’s concerned other firms spent two to three times more than his firm in contributions and lobbying.

Upon announcing NYRA as his choice to operate the racetracks, the governor said he would conduct a new round of bidding for the franchise to operate 4,500 slot machines at Aqueduct racetrack but not at Belmont, as originally proposed. Slot machines at two racetracks were included in the original bid but the governor chose to award NYRA the racing component only and he re-bid the gaming component for only the Aqueduct racetrack. 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 (slot machine) franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise.”

Six groups, including the Mohegans (with the support of Capital Play), submitted their gaming proposals in mid-October but Sptizer has not yet made a selection. Three other tribes are also bidding: the Mashantucket Pequot, Shinnecock and Seneca Nations. The Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment and their partner, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway submitted a proposal as well as Greenwood Racing Incorporated.

Senate Majority Leader Bruno battled Gov. Spitzer over his selection of NYRA, a non-profit organization that has had financial and legal troubles and is currently seeking to settle with creditors in bankruptcy court. NYRA claims ownership of the three racetracks and proposed to transfer ownership to the state if they were awarded the racing franchise. NYRA’s ownership of the tracks is disputed by others but with a value on the properties of $1 billion, it was a key element in their proposal.

NYRA issued a statement late Monday saying it reached a deal with the state oversight board to that allows racing at aqueduct to begin Tuesday and run until January 23st. The state legislature will meet before then and is expected to approve the new long-term franchise agreement for NYRA.

Gov. Spitzer’s entire first year in office was marked by highly-charged clashes with Sen. Bruno.

During the summer, aides to Gov. Spitzer leaked to the press the records of Bruno’s state-financed helicopter trips to New York City and his use of State Police drivers on trips that included attending fundraisers in what was labeled Choppergate. Then it was revealed that Spitzer aides inappropriately used State Police to re-create these travel records that were leaked to the press and Troopergate emerged. Then in August, a nasty call was made to the governor’s 83-year old father that was traced to a consultant who began working for the Senate Republicans months earlier and was later fired over the allegations.

Bruno, who has led the Senate Republicans since 1996, has long raised horses on his farm northeast of Albany. He was investigated for business dealings with Jared Abbruzzese, one of the founders of a horse racing advocacy group, Friends of New York Racing, which was formed in 2005. The group issued a 2005 report that criticized NYRA and disbanded a short while later as some of the group’s members went on to form two of the companies that bid for the racing franchise: Empire Racing Associates and Excelsior Racing Associates. Bruno attended a controversial fundraiser hosted by the advocacy group last year.

Empire Racing Associates included Mr. Abbruzzese and Mr. Smith, as well as Churchill Downs and the Magna Entertainment Corporation, owners of racetracks and founding members of the Friends of New York Racing, the former vice president of the Friends and two former members of its board of advisers.

The second group, Excelsior Racing Associates, includes casino magnate Steve Wynn, Steve Swindal, a managing general partner of the Yankees; Richard Fields, a casino developer; Tishman Speyer Properties, a developer; Bill Mulrow, a former candidate for state comptroller close to Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, and Jerry Bilinski, a longtime veterinarian friend of Mr. Bruno, and R. Wayne Diesel, a former state budget director who was on the board of the Friends for New York Racing.

As the year was coming to a close, it was also revealed that a financial firm where Bruno worked at manages tens of millions of dollars for labor unions in and near his district. After the revelations surfaced, Bruno quit the company in December.

Ever since the Governor announced his selection of NYRA, both the Mohegan Tribe and Capital Play officials have frequently criticized the governor’s decision. Although Capital Play, whose specialty is horse racing, lost in their bid to secure the racing franchise, the Mohegan’s proposal to run the gaming at Aqueduct still remains on the governor’s desk awaiting a decision.

Capital Play even aired television ads that were part of a $250,000 media campaign in an attempt to discredit the governor's decision. It shouldn't be long before we learn if the Tribe's strategy of publically attacking Gov. Spitzer's racing decision while the Tribe's proposal to run the slot machines is sitting on the governor's desk was wise or not.

To see the Capital Play commercial, click here: