Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oregon Activist Refers To Mohegans As A "Resuscitated" Tribe

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Mohegans may no longer be described as "lurking" but in a letter to an Oregon newspaper yesterday, the Mohegans were erroneously described as "resuscitated" by one anti-casino activist. Just for the record ... I personally may have witnessed some Mohegan tribal members lurking, maybe I haven't, I ain't sayin', but the point is whether we should or shoudn't do something about the letter this guy wrote to the Oregon paper.

For some Oregon readers, this letter may be the only thing they read about our tribe. If that's the case, they would be wildly misinformed about the nation of Mohegan. This, I think, makes it different from letters to local Connecticut newspapers where there is a much wider coverage of our tribe.

Perhaps we could see a polite but educational response from our tribal government to set the record straight to the Oregon public that we are not "resuscitated." Some of the Oregon market, after all, will be part of the customer base in a possible Cowlitz casino in the state of Washington in which the Mohegans would recieve fees.

The activist goes on to describe the Mashantucket Pequots as "reinvented." All of our communities reinvent themselves in some manner or other over time and perhaps the author should have pointed that out in his letter. Communities evolve and that is far desireable to the reverse.

We owe it to those who fought and those who continue to fight for our tribe's existence and excellence to publically defend our tribal nation's true reputation: that we have existed for centuries under conditions much different from the tribes recognizable to the Oregon readers.

The full letter is below:

Guest Viewpoint
Recession will expose state’s gaming habit
By Arnold Buchman Published: Published: February 4, 2008 04:38AMPublished:

Connecticut provides a cautionary tale as an industry-wide downturn in gambling revenues foreshadows the end of a long winning streak for that state’s taxpayers. Two casinos, among the world’s largest, that replaced hardscrabble chicken farms in rural eastern Connecticut came up $10.5 million short for the month of December in their year-over-year contributions to the state’s coffers. Oregon would do well to take note.

The contributions to Connecticut’s general fund are the winnings from a deal struck 20 years ago by a shrewd governor of the state once known as the Land of Steady Habits. He was smart enough to negotiate a piece of the action from the gambling industry sponsors of a reinvented Mashantucket Pequot tribe. In exchange for the old state-tribal gambling compact, the deal gives Connecticut 25 percent of the slot action at the Foxwoods Casino. Several years later, the state doubled down by duplicating the deal with sponsors of the resuscitated Mohegan tribe for its Mohegan Sun Casino.

December’s $10.5 million shortfall was bad news for a state that today has a steady habit of dependency on its fourth-largest general fund revenue source: legalized gambling. Tribal gambling, unlike casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, pays no state or local taxes. At the same time, it adds to the burden on government programs and services.

The downturn in gambling reflects bad news as well for every state that has become dependent on gambling — whether through compact payments, state-run slots or electronic lottery games. Nationwide, as reported by USA Today, there was one slot machine in operation on Jan. 1 for every 395 Americans.

The number is growing by the tens of thousands as states scramble for more cash. California and Florida want to “compact” their way to a bigger piece of tribal casino action, and Maryland wishes to have slots at its race courses. Indiana, Kansas, New York and Oklahoma will significantly increase slots this year. Legislators in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Texas are clamoring to join the party.

Oregon, which lacked the foresight to negotiate Connecticut-style compacts, will not directly participate in any casino revenue downturn. But downturn or not, Oregon suffers a budget drag created by the social costs of gambling and the indirect costs of tax- and regulation-free competition to its tax-paying small businesses from wide-ranging, casino-funded enterprises. To boost its gambling take, Oregon’s governor introduced perniciously addictive video slot games to its lottery.

Like Connecticut, Oregon faces a national recession. But Oregon’s revenues have been shorted as well by curtailment of federal timber revenues. At the same time, the federal Office of Management and Budget shows $100 million a year in federal “assistance” is going to Oregon’s cash-soaked casino tribes.

Tribal casino operators are confident they will survive the downturn. After all, casino gambling is said to be recession-resistant. But a lottery-dependent Oregon budget — insidiously weighted down by the silent impacts of its tribal casinos — has as much chance of beating the recession odds as the blue-haired lady pumping quarters into the slot machine has of beating the house odds.

Gambling revenue comes largely from the community’s poorest and most vulnerable at great social costs in addiction, bankruptcy, spousal abuse and crime. It’s time for Oregon’s governor and Legislature to own up to the state’s lottery dependency, for Congress to revisit tribal gambling immunity and for government to readopt the steady habits that reject the fantasy that an ongoing ability to meet budget responsibilities is just one more slot spin away.

Written By:
Arnold Buchman of Florence is a former spokesman for People Against a Casino Town.

The article can be found at the Register-Guard newspaper of Oregon: