Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flash: Quarterly Casino Profits Fall By About 90 Percent

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported today that the combined profits for the Mohegan Sun and Pocono Downs fell to about $5 million from April through June, an 89 percent decline when compared to the same three months last year when the profit was about $46 million.

The casinos in Connecticut have cyclical pattterns, with the summer months generating the highest revenues.

After deducting the full 5 percent MTGA pays of its Mohegan Sun revenues to Trading Cove Associates, that profit actually becomes a loss. The full amount of the TCA fees is not recorded due to the accounting treatment of the "egregious" contract, which should net TCA about $1 billion in profits by the time the contract ends in 2014. The amount not reflected in the three-month income statement is at least $10 million in additional TCA fees.

This adjusted loss also does not take into account casino distributions to the tribal government, which averages about $20 million every three months.

Once both of these transactions are included (the full TCA 5% fee and the distributions to the tribal government), the adjusted loss (yes, loss) is at least $25 million for the three-month period of April through June.

A detailed analysis of the results will be written upon MTGA's filing of the the balance sheet and statement of cash flows, expected in about two weeks.

MTGA's press release on its earnings can be found in the "Googled" article section on the top-right hand side of this site. Keep in mind that inaccurate statements may appear in MTGA's press release, such as the statement that the Pocono Downs expansion was completed under budget. Upon release of the full set of quarterly financial statements in mid-August, a link to the SEC report will be added to the right-hand column of this site.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority To Release Latest Three Month Earnings Report Tomorrow

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is expected to release its latest earnings (profit) report tomorrow, which will cover the three months of April through June.

The Feather News will report on the earnings results tomorrow after MTGA files its report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a related finance matter, a representative of the Mohegan Tribe was told "bluntly" by an official that the proposed Menominee Indian casino in Wisconsin would likely not be approved under the Bush administration. This negative signal is to be reported in the upcoming Tribal Wuskuso newsletter and is consistent with Feather News' reports since the beginning of 2008.

It's unclear if this and other failures of a similar nature will result in the Tribal Council relinquishing their self-appointed duties as lobbyists and hire professional lobbyists to ensure greater success in Washington D.C. and other jurisdictions. It's also unclear if the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's bankers will allow any more expenditures on the proposed Wisconsin project.

In addition to the approximately $9 million the Tribe has spent on the Wisconsin project (as of February), the Tribe has also spent about $20 million on the proposed Cowlitz Indian casino in Washington State (as of March).

The combined earlier total spent on these two projects alone is the equivalent of about $29,000 per tribal adult.

New Features: Low Cost Gasoline

Feather News

Due to out-of-town travels, postings on this site have been minimal over the past week.

The Feather News has added, however, a new feature in which tribal members can locate gas stations in their region that sell the cheapest gasoline. Scroll to near the bottom of this page for this feature. All you have to do is enter your zip code and the feature will show the cheapest gasoline in your area. The gas station gasoline prices are updated daily.

Another feature that has been added is the latest business news by Forbes magazine, which can be found at the bottom of the right hand column on this website.

The Feather News will resume a heavier posting schedule in the coming days.

Tribes In The Media: Diabetes And The Indian Community

Feather News

In the Tribes In The Media series, an AP article on diabetes in the Indian community is reprinted below:

Native Americans Suffer From Highest Diabetes Rate In United States
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Native Americans suffer from the highest diabetes rate in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday.

Based on 2007 estimates, 16.5 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives suffer from the disease. That's more than twice the national average of 7.8 percent.

Among racial and ethnic groups, Native Americans ranked the highest. The rate among African-Americans was 11.8 percent, followed by Hispanics at 10.4 percent.

In contrast, only 7.5 percent of Asian Americans suffered from diabetes. And only 6.6 percent of Whites were diagnosed with the disease.

Overall, the CDC estimates that nearly 24 million people are affected by diabetes. The figure represents a 3 million increase in the last two years.

"It is concerning to know that we have more people developing diabetes, and these data are a reminder of the importance of increasing awareness of this condition, especially among people who are at high risk," said Dr. Ann Albright, director of the CDC Division of Diabetes Translation.

Tribal affiliation played a role in the risk to Native Americans. Among Alaska Natives, for instance, only 6.0 percent suffered from diabetes.

But among tribes in southern Arizona, 29.3 percent of adults are diagnosed with the diseases. Pima tribes in the state suffer from one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.

In New Mexico, the diabetes rate in counties with large Navajo populations was higher than counties with large Pueblo and Apache populations. In South Dakota, nearly every county that is home to a reservation had a diabetes rate higher than 10 percent.

In Montana, Big Horn County had the highest rate in the state -- 12.3 percent of the population has diabetes. The county is home to the Crow Reservation.

Besides Alaska, the only other state with a diabetes rate that was lower than the national average was Colorado. The state is home to two Ute tribes.

Diabetes can have costly effects. It's the nation's seventh leading killer, according to data from 2006.

Diabetes can also contribute to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney disease.

Despite the disparity in Indian Country, health experts have claimed success in the war against the disease. Through programs funded by the Congressionally-authorized Special Diabetes Program for Indians, tribes have been able to address some key health indicators in the last decade.

With additional funding, tribes hope to do even more. They are asking Congress to authorize $200 million a year over the next five years, up from $150 million a year currently provided through Indian Health Service grants.

"Eight years is not enough time to turn around the rates of diabetes," Buford Rolin, the chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, said at a Senate hearing in February 2007. "Give us time."

The Senate has been considering a Medicare bill that includes $150 million a year for the diabetes program. But Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on the overall Medicare bill, according to the National Indian Health Board.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats Washington 82-60

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun beat Washington yesterday by a score of 82-60, giving them the Eastern Conference lead once again.

The Connecticut Sun's record is 16-10 and New York is in second place with a record of 15-10. Detroit (16-11) has fallen to third place in the Eastern Conference after losing their last three games.

The Sun's next game will be August 28 against Indiana.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats L.A. 87-61

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun beat Los Angeles last night by a score of 87-61. The attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena was reported to be 9,518 fans.

The Sun's next game is Sunday at Washington. The game begins at 4 p.m.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Las Vegas Sands No Longer Pursuing Kansas Casino Bid

Feather News

Las Vegas Sands announced their withdrawal from the race to win a casino in the Wyandotte/Kansas City region of Kansas.

Las Vegas Sands said it will no longer pursue its $777 million proposed casino in Kansas due to neighboring Missouri's move to potentially allow customers to increase wagers and the increased borrowing costs for development.

Sands President William Weidner said, "As we pursue our development plans and evaluate potential opportunities around the globe, we constantly review those plans to determine which ones are the most beneficial for the company, its shareholders and our employees, as well as the communities in which we intend to operate. Our proposed development plans for Kansas included significant investment in a world-class integrated resort facility. It now appears that proposed statutory changes in Missouri will allow gaming operators there to significantly increase the amounts being wagered at their competing facilities. This change, together with the increased borrowing costs in today's financial marketplace, significantly decreases the expected returns from our proposed development in Kansas and limits our ability to generate appropriate risk-adjusted returns on the proposed investment vis-à-vis our expected returns on our other global investment opportunities."

Four groups still remain in the running for a Wyandotte County casino in Kansas, including a $792 million proposal submitted by a group that includes the Mohegan Tribe.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Plays Last Home Game Tonight Before Breaking For A Month

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun will play Los Angeles tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m. The game will also be televised locally on WCTX and is the team's last home game until August 31st.

Los Angeles stirred up the league on Tuesday night when players brawled on Detroit's court. Video of the fight can be seen on the following website:

Monday, July 21, 2008

State To End Fiscal Year With $22 Million Surplus

Feather News

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said Monday that the state should end the fiscal year with a surplus of about $22 million.

The state's fiscal year ended on June 30th. Officials predict the state will incur a deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, which began on July 1.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Could Face Lower Credit Rating

Feather News

Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods reported last week that June slot machine revenue on the Reservations fell by about 9 percent compared to the same month of last year.

The difference was that Foxwoods had just opened in mid-May their $700 million expansion, which includes hundreds of additional slot machines on a new gaming floor. The expansion's failure to halt the declining slot revenues at Foxwoods prompted a major credit rating agency to put the credit rating of Foxwoods' owners, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, under review.

An entity's credit rating could result in higher interest expenses on future borrowings.

Although Standard & Poors lowered the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's credit rating from BBB- to BB+ last November, based in part on its high debt levels, S&P announced last week that they were once again reviewing the financial condition of the Tribe and are considering another downgrade of the Tribe's credit rating.

In May, S&P downgraded the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's credit outlook from "stable" to "negative" but did not change MTGA's BB- rating.

According to S&P's rating scale, the highest rating is AAA, followed by AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, and R is the worst credit rating. The positive (+) and negative (-) denote relative standings within each grouping.

Moody's, another major credit rating agency with its own unique rating scale, downgraded the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in May while the Mohegan's MTGA has been under review by Moody's since February.

S&P recently downgraded Harrah's credit outlook from "stable" to "negative" and the rating of some of the other largest gaming concerns have been put under review by Moody's, including Las Vegas Sands and MGM. Casino revenues have fallen in the nation's two largest gambling markets, Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Penn National Gaming was taken off a S&P's credit watch in early July and its BB- rating maintained after news that the planned purchase of the Penn National had fallen through and that Penn's suitors would be required to pay Penn $225 million in cash and a preferred stock plan that amounts to a $1.25 billion long-term interest-free loan for Penn. The substantial cash inflow is seen by analysts as giving Penn a strong advantage over its competitors.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats Chicago 74-67

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun beat Chicago on Sunday by a score of 74-67 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The number in attendance was 7,367.

The Sun's last home game until August 31st (after the August Olympic break) will be Thursday against Los Angeles at 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To Chicago 73-65

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun lost Friday night to Chicago by a score of 73-65.

The Sun have lost five straight games and will face Chicago - once again - at home in the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday. The Sun (13-10) are now three games behind Detroit (16-7) for the Eastern Conference lead.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Volunteers Needed For Aug 15,16 Mohegan Wigwam Festival

Notice to tribal members from the Tribe's Cultural and Community Programs Department:

The Cultural and Community Programs department is in need of volunteers for this year's Wigwam Festival. Ask your family, friends and neighbors if they would like to volunteer with you. We will provide all volunteers a staff shirt, hat, a meal card and one raffle ticket for each shift you work that will be entered into a drawing for some fabulous prizes.

Volunteers are needed for parking, information, greeting and general help.
Parking shifts are 9am-1pm, 1pm-5pm, 3pm-7pm
Information booth shifts are 8am-12pm, 12pm-4pm, 4pm-8pm
Greeters shifts are 9am-12pm, 12pm-4pm, 4pm-7pm
General help shifts are 9am-1pm, 1pm-5pm, 4pm-8pm

The volunteer prize drawing will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Winners need not be present to win.

Contact Suzette Tanguay at 860-862-6277 or SUTANGUAY@MOHEGANMAIL.COM

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan's Bid To Manage N.Y. Slot Parlor

The Tribe In The Media series republishes below an article that is to appear in tomorrow's edition of The Thoroughbred Times on recent events in the Tribe's bid to operate a 4,500 VLT slot parlor at a racetrack in Queens, N.Y.:

Vetting of bidders latest snag in Aqueduct racino decision
By Paul Post
The Thoroughbred Times

The head of a group seeking Aqueduct’s gaming contract has stepped down to expedite the state’s decision process, which could take several more weeks.

Irish-born Karl O’Farrell had been chief executive officer of Australia’s Capital Play Inc., which challenged the New York Racing Association to run the state’s Thoroughbred racetracks and now is seeking the contract for Aqueduct’s proposed video lottery terminal facility.

The state Division of Lottery, which oversees VLTs, is investigating the principals of each bidder, which in O’Farrell’s case is taking much longer because information must be obtained from overseas. Temporarily, he has turned the company’s reins over to Mitchell Etess, president and chief executive officer of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino, Capital Play’s gaming partner in the Aqueduct proposal.

“We were always going to put Mitchell in charge of the VLTs anyway,” O’Farrell said on Wednesday. “I’ve stepped aside in my position. I’m still with the company, but I’m not making management decisions until my review is complete.”

New York-based Delaware North Companies and S.L. Green Realty Trust, a Manhattan real estate company partnered with Hard Rock Entertainment, also are seeking the gaming contract.

Although incorporated in New York, Capital Play’s roots are in Australia, whose racing model it has touted since emerging as a competitor for the state’s racing and gaming contracts.

O’Farrell was highly critical of NYRA during the racing franchise selection process and NYRA President Charles Hayward said recently that Capital Play is the only group he does not want to get the gaming contract.

State officials said on Friday that a gaming decision might be forthcoming within a next week or ten days. O’Farrell, however, said he was told that his vetting process could take another four to six weeks to complete, prompting him to step aside.

“We know that the state wants to make a decision,” he said. “My review was going to hold it up. I’m the only foreigner on any of the teams. There’s pressure to get this decision made.”

The state is losing more than $1-million per day for every day the Aqueduct racino is not operational. The 4,500-machine facility is expected to generate at least $450-million per year, which could provide major new revenue streams for NYRA, horsemen, and breeders as well as much-needed capital improvements at all three NYRA tracks—Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.

Racino construction is expected to take at least a year, meaning it could come on line by late 2009.

The state’s failure to act is a mystery to some of its top elected officials.

“Most of that’s being done behind closed doors,” said Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady), who district includes Saratoga Race Course.

Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Governor David Paterson, said there is nothing specific holding up the process.

“It’s just taking longer than expected,” Hook said. “We want to allow Senator [Dean] Skelos a certain amount of time to get up to speed with the governor and speaker [Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan)] on these three bidders.”

Skelos (R-Long Island) recently succeeded Joseph L. Bruno as Senate Majority Leader. Bruno has decided not to seek re-election and announced on Wednesday that he will not finish out his term. Friday will be his last day on the job.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Steep Slot Machine Revenue Decline At Mohegan Sun In June

Feather News

June slot machine revenue at Mohegan Sun fell by approximately 9% in June to $67.8 million. June's results are the second worst monthly slot revenue decline since April 2007, when slot revenues first began to trend downward.

In June, $805 million was wagered, before payouts, at the slot machines versus $861 million in June 2007.

Mohegan Sun slot machine revenue has declined in 9 out of the last 10 months. The only exception was May, when slot revenue increased by less than 1 percent. Although the amount wagered at Mohegan Sun's slot machines fell in May, the percentage of those bets kept by the casino increased and resulted in a net slot revenue increase for that month.

Foxwoods casino, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, reported June slot revenue of $63.6 million, also about 9 percent less than June 2007. The decline comes despite the opening of a $700 million expansion in mid-May which included hundreds of additional slot machines. Foxwoods posted a 7.7 percent increase in May slot revenues.

July is generally a busy month for Connecticut's Indian casinos. A record amount was wagered at Mohegan Sun's slot machines last July, which was the only month in its history to have recorded over $1 billion in total slot wagers.

Slot machines at Mohegan Sun generate the bulk of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's total revenues.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To N.Y. 77-71

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost Tuesday night to New York by a score of 77-71 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tuesday's loss was the fourth straight for the Sun. The Sun's next game is Friday night at Chicago and will play Chicago again on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Council Of Elders' Election Ballots To Be Counted Saturday Morning

Feather News

Ballots for the Council of Elders election will be counted at 9 a.m. this Saturday, July 19. Tribal members can attend the ballot counting process at the tribal government building.

According to Election Committee Chairman Jim Gray, "We will be more than happy to accept ballot envelopes up until that time."

Jim also noted that "there will be a candidates’ forum on Monday July 21st beginning around 6:00 p.m. This will be held and recorded in the Tribal Meeting Room where quarterly meetings are normally held. We ask that all 8 primary winners be there by 5:30 p.m. to allow for breathing room and preparation time. The forum will be similar to a traditional talking circle. Tribal members are urged to attend and may submit questions to the candidates at any time (in a moderated, orderly fashion of course). A recording of the event will be distributed to Tribal members via a DVD that will be inserted with the August 31st election balloting materials."

All tribal members should naturally refer to Election Committee communications should dates or other details change.

June Slot Revenue At Mohegan Sun Falls About 9%

Feather News

According to initial reports, June slot machine revenues at Mohegan Sun fell by approximately 9% compared to June of last year. Figures for the month of June are not yet available for Foxwoods casino.

The MGM Grand expansion at Foxwoods opened in the middle of May, sparking a 7.7% increase in Foxwoods slot revenues for that month. The amount wagered at Mohegan Sun's slot machines fell in May but the percentage of those bets kept by the casino increased, which resulted in a net slot revenue increase of less than 1% for May.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Photo: Old Mohegan Reservation Boundary View

Pocono Downs Grand Opening Details Released

Feather News

Details were released today on Thursday's grand opening of the expansion at the Mohegan Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania:

WHEN: Thursday, July 17, 9:30am

WHERE: Adjacent to Porte Cochere and Valet Entrance

DETAILS: Grand Opening ceremonies will take place Thursday, July 17 at 9:30 am and feature remarks from company executives and a representative of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. A Mohegan tribal smudge ceremony will add to the positive spirit of the event. Members of the United States Parachute Team will leap from a plane and touch down just steps away from the entrance. They will be met by a color guard from the 109th Field Artillery Battalion of the Pennsylvania National Guard, headquartered in nearby Wilkes-Barre, who will lead a procession to officially open the doors of the new casino.

The descent and landing of the parachute team will highlight the grand opening ceremony at the new $208 million gaming and entertainment complex that dramatically transforms Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The complex has been designed to deliver an exceptional gaming and entertainment experience to residents of Northeast Pennsylvania and tourists traveling through the region.

To celebrate Northeastern Pennsylvania, the new Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has drawn on architectural design concepts inspired by its regional context, the rolling majesty of the Pocono Mountains and the richness of the Susquehanna River Valley as well as the rich cultural traditions of the Mohegan tribe. “I’m not aware of any project in Northeastern Pennsylvania that celebrates Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Bobby Soper, President and CEO of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. “This has been our guiding motivation,” he said.

The grand opening date is pending approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, following the results of a test run on Tuesday, July 15th.

Unity Drum Assists In Presidential Wreath Laying

Feather News

The Unity Drum, a drumming circle of Mohegans and members of other Indian tribes, performed yesterday during the wreath laying ceremony at the Norwich tomb of Samuel Huntington, the first president of the Continental Congress.

Yesterday's ceremony was attended by city historian Bill Stanley, the First and Second Governor’s Horse Guard and several dignitaries. Norwich historian Thomas Fleming spoke and Ct. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal praised Stanley's efforts.

This year will mark the fourth formal wreath laying at former President Huntington's tomb in what has become a local effort to attract public recognition for the ten men who served as presidents of the Continental Congress.

Technically, they were presidents of the United States under our first Constitution, Stanley told the Norwich Bulletin. Last week marked 277 years since the birth of Pres. Samuel Huntington.

Pres. Huntington was also one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. His tomb is in Norwich's Colonial Cemetary.

Stanley led the project to restore the tomb but thanked the people of Norwich, the banks, public works, the Mohegan Tribe and others for their participation in the restoration effort.

This Week's Tribal Council Meeting Cancelled

Feather News

Wednesday's regularly scheduled tribal council meeting has been cancelled.

Tribal councilors are expected to be spending time in Pennsylvania for pre-opening and opening festivities for the $208 million expansion at the Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor. A tribal member trip to the Pocono Downs is scheduled for tomorrow and the grand opening, which must be approved by the state, is currently scheduled for Thursday.

The Mohegan Sun is expected to release its June figures this week for slot activity at the Mohegan Sun on the Reservation.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board releases slot machine activity on a weekly basis at facilities in Pennsylvania. The latest week reported upon was for the week that included the July 4th holiday. The Pocono Downs' slot revenue for the week was down about 20% compared to the same week last summer.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To Washington

Feather News

The Tribe's WNBA basketball team, the Connecticut Sun, lost to Washington yesterday by a score of 69-64. Attendance at the Verizon Center was 9,610. Details of the game can be found through links to articles on the right hand side of this blog page.

The Connecticut Sun are 13-8 for the season and and trail Detroit (14-7) by one game for the lead in the Eastern Conference.

The Connecticut Sun's next game will be Tuesday night, July 15, in the Mohegan Sun Arena against New York. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Three home games and two games on the road still remain on the Connecticut Sun schedule until the WNBA league takes a month-long break for the Olympic Games. The next three games at the Mohegan Sun Arena before the break will be tomorrow's game vs. New York, this Sunday vs. Chicago and a week from Thursday against Los Angeles.

UMass Poll Indicates Residents Favor New Bedford Casino

Feather News

One of the developers interested in building a casino in Massachusetts sponsored a UMass poll that showed a majority of New Bedford residents favor a casino in that city.

Out of the 474 people called in the poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 53 percent said that they favor a casino in New Bedford, 20 percent were opposed and 27 percent were undecided. According to SouthCoastToday, these statistics were reported in a press release from Dr. Clyde W. Barrow, director of the UMass Center for Policy Analysis that conducted the poll.

Commercial casino gambling is not legal in Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick's commercial casino plan was rejected by the state's legislature this year but the pursuit of both megacasinos and arming racetracks with slot machines is likely to again be taken seriously in next year's legislative session.

The Northeast Resort Group, the poll's sponsor, suggested the Logan Heights section of New Bedford as a site for a possible casino. Besides New Bedford, the Northeast Resort Group originally proposed a casino in the western Massachusetts town of Palmer. It is the Palmer site where the Mohegan Tribe, partnering with the Northeast Resort Group, put forward as a prospective location should casinos be legalized.

The voters of Palmer supported casino gaming in a nonbinding referendum in 1997, according to Paul I. Brody, Mohegan's vice president of development.

A Forbes article in March "With Friends Like These" said "(Dragone) been sued twice by investors who claimed he defrauded them in deals involving gambling. He was ordered to pay restitution in one case and settled the second for undisclosed terms. Mohegan's Etess says Dragone is merely the landowner and would play no role in the casino."

Peter Picknelly, president of Massachusetts-based Peter Pan Bus Lines, joined Dragone's Northeast Group as an investor in January. It was at this time that the they announced their interest in New Bedford as their second proposed location. Picknelly is reportedly investing in both the Palmer and New Bedford casino projects. Picknelly also served as a member of Governor Deval Patrick's transition team in addition to running Peter Pan Bus Lines, the largest privately-owned bus company in the country.

The Pennsylania Real Estate Trust is also part of the group that includes the Mohegan Tribe.

Tribe Expected To Announce Three Month Earnings Report By July 31

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority scheduled a conference call with analysts at 11:00 a.m. on July 31.

MTGA generally releases its income statement on the same day as its quarterly conference call although it could be released earlier. The period reported upon will be for the thee months from April 1 until June 30.

Tribes In The Media: Television Campaign Launched Against Cowlitz Casino

An article in Washington State's The Columbian newspaper is republished below as part of the ongoing Tribes In The Media series. The June 14th article documents a television campaign launched by opponents of the Cowlitz Tribe's bid for a casino in Clark County, Washington. If the Cowlitz casino is approved by the U.S. Department of Interior, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority would take part in developing and managing the casino.

Grand Ronde’s anti-casino ads trash Bush
By Jeffrey Mize,
The Columbian
June 15, 2008

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are done with asking the public to call Clark County commissioners and defeat La Center’s mayor.

In their latest advertising blitz opposing the Cowlitz Tribe’s casino plan, owners of Oregon’s top-grossing Indian casino have moved up the chain of command.

Through their proxy, Citizens for a Healthy Clark County, the Grand Ronde government is paying for television commercials saying that “George Bush’s plan for Clark County” would inflict chronic traffic jams, create nasty pollution and bankrupt small businesses.

The commercial ends with photos and phone numbers for Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressman Brian Baird, all Democrats.

“Tell our leaders to stand up to Bush,” the narrator implores. “Oppose the casino. Time is running out.”

Ann Rivers, a spokeswoman for Citizens for a Healthy Clark County, said the commercials are in reaction to the May 30 release of a final Cowlitz casino study.

“The sudden release of the environmental impact statement by the Bush administration really puts the casino on the fast track for approval,” Rivers said.

The commercials ask county residents not to pressure the administration but instead to lobby their congressional delegation and Gov. Gregoire.

“I have seen Brian Baird and Sens. Cantwell and Murray do amazing things,” said Rivers, whose coalition includes North Clark Conservationists, No Ridgefield Casino and Faith and Freedom Network. “Now it’s time for them to do something amazing for their constituents.”

Rivers, as she has in the past, declined to say how much the coalition is spending on its commercials.

She said the campaign will likely last through June 30, which is the end of a 30-day comment period on the final casino study.

The Grand Ronde has previously paid for commercials pressuring county commissioners to repeal their 2004 agreement with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and to not broker a new deal.

Last year, the tribal government paid for campaign mailers targeting La Center Mayor Jim Irish, who was running for re-election.

Irish won re-election with 56.3 percent of the vote.

His opponent, former Councilman Dale Smith, believes the Grand Ronde’s mailers hurt, not helped, his campaign.

The Grand Ronde own Spirit Mountain Casino, about 70 miles southwest of Portland near the Oregon coast.

Two years ago, tribal representatives told federal officials that a Cowlitz casino would “devastate” their economy and cost Spirit Mountain $65 million to $82 million a year in lost revenue.

But the final casino study cites a 2007 analysis by E.D. Hovee & Co., a Vancouver consultant, which predicted that Spirit Mountain could potentially lose $17.3 million in gambling revenue in 2011 — or 13 percent of its current gambling revenue.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Atlantic City Gaming Revenue Falls 11% In June

Feather News

Atlantic City's 11 casinos reported an 11% decline in gaming revenues in June, compared to the same month last year. Slot revenue fell 12.2% while table game revenue fell by 8%.

Andrew Zarnett, gaming analyst with Deutsche Bank AG, "Ugly, that's the only way to put it. The American consumer is getting hit hard by higher energy prices, by higher food prices, and is being affected by overall uncertainty in the economy. "Discretionary dollars are significantly less," he said, "and gaming is feeling the impact. It's really bad."

Atlantic City's casino revenues are also being hampered by seven slot parlors in neighboring Pennsylvania that have all opened in the span of less than two years, beginning with the Mohegan's slot parlor in November 2006. Two Pennsylvania slot parlors have opened since June 2007, adding 4,600 slot machines between them and bringing the state's total to 15,401 slot machines in operation.

The $310 million Penn National Hollywood Racetrack opened in February on land Penn National has owned since the 1970's and is near Harrisurg, Pa. The $412 million Mount Airy slot parlor opened in November and has a 188-room hotel. Mount Airy is located in the Pocono Mountains, about 20 miles from the Mohegan's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor. The Mount Airy Lodge was purchased in 2005 for $25.1 million.

Zarnett said the worst may yet come when New Jersey's casino smoking ban takes effect Oct. 15.

Las Vegas casinos also saw their revenues drop recently, accord to the latest figures. Las Vegas' casino revenue fell by 16.4% in May.

The latest revenue figures reported by Mohegan and Mashantucket are for the month of May and include only slot machine revenues for that month. Foxwoods slot revenues increased by 7.7%, in large part due to its opening of the MGM Grand at Foxwoods casino expansion in the middle of May. The amount wagered at Mohegan's Sun's slot machines fell in May but the casino kept a larger portion of the slot machine bets, resulting in a slot revenue increase of less than one percent over the same month last year.

June slot revenue figures for Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are expected to be announced next week.

Tribes In The Media: Mashantucket Tribal Judge Rejects Petition

An article from The Day newspaper, Tribal Jude Rejects Budget Challenge, is republished below as part of the ongoing Tribes In The Media series:

Tribal judge rejects budget challenge
Mashantucket petition seeking referendum not valid
By Heather Allen
The Day Newspaper
July 11, 2008

Mashantucket Tribal Court Judge Thomas J. Londregan ruled this week that, under the tribe's constitution, a petition circulated by tribal members seeking input in the government's budgeting process through the ability to send the spending plan to a referendum was not valid.

The petition, which was signed by 800 to 900 members of the tribe, was filed with tribal council in March and asked that members have a say in how to trim $40 million from the tribal government's budget. The petition asked that tribal members do so through a referendum.

The petitioners were particularly concerned when they learned that 170 tribal-government employees would be offered buyouts and laid off as a result of budget cuts.

Londregan, in the 14-page decision issued Wednesday afternoon, ruled that the petition is “not the proper subject matter for a referendum” under the tribe's constitution.

The petition's sponsors declined to comment on Londregan's decision.

The main sticking point was a fundamental problem with the petition, which outlined six things that the petitioners hoped to achieve.

The tribe argued a referendum petition must be in a form that can be reasonably capable of being understood on a ballot, according to Londregan's decision. The tribe also argued that because the petition combined more than two forms of relief, it is impossible to present a question calling for a single “yes or no” answer on a ballot.

”This case,” Londregan wrote in his decision, “demonstrates the strained relationship that develops between the power of the people to legislate directly through the process of referendum and the mandate requiring elected officials to discharge their duties in accordance with law.”

And while Londregan's ruling came down to the mechanics of the petition, he hinted that if tribal members are dissatisfied with the tribal council they should keep that in mind in future tribal elections.

”It is not the province of this court to determine what information, reports, or participation, if any, the Petitioners should have in the formulation of the budget,” Londregan wrote in his decision. “The electorate's satisfaction with the Tribal Council in matters such as disclosure of reports and information and listening to the Tribal voters is best left to the ballot box and not the courtroom.”

Since the tribe has already laid off nearly 200 government employees and another 100 or so at Foxwoods Resort Casino, which it owns and operates, it remains unclear what recourse tribal members may have.

While she did not sign the petition, Tribal Elder Barbara Poirier attended both hearings in tribal court relating to the case and reviewed a copy of Londregan's decision.

Poirier said this case should serve as a lesson on how to use the right of referendum.

”We must respect the decision of the tribal court and use this as an opportunity to learn and grow and become more unified,” she said.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Leader Of Tribe's Team Seeking N.Y. Slots At Racetrack Quits: Replaced By Etess

Feather News

The leader for one of three groups competing to build and operate a 4,500 VLT slot parlor at New York's Aqueduct Racetrack has stepped down today from his leading role in the effort.

Karl O'Farrell, the president and founder of Australian-based Capital Play, will be replaced by Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan casino's chief executive officer. Capital Play asked the Mohegan Tribe last July to join them in their bid for a slot parlor at the Queens, N.Y., racetrack. The Tribe's partners in the bid are Capital Play, Extell and Plainfield Asset Management.

Two other groups, Delaware North and the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock-SL Green, are competing against the Mohegan Tribe's group for the 30-year franchise.

New York appears in the final stages of its selection process, one of the last steps being background checks. A Capital Play spokesman told Blood Horse News, "Karl is doing this to expedite the Lottery Division’s ability to reach closure and not hold up the process." Hank Sheinkopf also said that O'Farrell will remain with Capital Play as its community and government relations executive.

The selection of a group must be made by Gov. David Paterson and the state legislature.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Narragansett Indian Stabbed At Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow

Feather News

The AP reported today that Narragansett Indian Norman Gonsalves was stabbed early Sunday morning at the Mashpee Wampanoag powwow.

The mother of the 18-year old Gonsalves, Bella Noka, said her son was trying to break up a fight at the powwow. The Providence Journal reported Gonsalves to be in stable condition at a Cape Cod Hospital.

Mrs. Noka told the Providence Journal that her son has a "punctured liver and diaphragm, and a collapsed lung after being attacked from behind while trying to protect a woman."

July 16th Tribal Council Meeting Cancelled

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To Detroit

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun lost Tuesday night at Detroit by a score of 88-82. The Sun was in first place in the Conference before the game but now trails Detroit for the Conference lead by a half game.

Detroit is the only team in the league that is undefeated at their home court and Tuesday's win clinched their regular season series against the Sun, winning two of the three games they have played against each other. That series edge could prove valuable for Detroit and give them home court advantage in the playoffs, should the two teams meet in post-season play.

The Sun's next game will be Sunday at Washington. The game begins at 3:30 and will be televised on ABC. The next home game is against New York on Tuesday, July 15.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Photo: Mohegan Congregational Church

Gaming And The Economy

By Ken Davison
Feather News

Penn National Gaming, the firm that sold the Pocono Downs racetrack to the Mohegan Tribe, announced on Thursday that two companies were abandoning their roughly $6 billion private equity takeover plans for the gaming company.

Fortress Investment Group and Centerbridge Partners agreed to buy Penn National last year for $67 per share and, since then, Penn has been seeking the required approvals from regulators in each state where the company is doing business.

Remember when tribal members questioned the purchase of Pocono Downs? A clause in that purchase agreement said that the Tribe could terminate the purchase of the Pennsylvania racetrack under certain conditions and be paid back by Penn National an appraised value of the property.

Well, guess what Fortress and Centerbridge and company had to pay Penn National for terminating their purchase agreement? The proposed buyers and their affiliated banks must pay Penn National $225 million in cash and they will also buy $1.25 billion in redeemable preferred equity, which some describe as essentially an interest-free loan.

Penn National Gaming is the owner of 19 racetracks and casinos. Its stock price has fallen by about 50% since the beginning of the year and closed last Thursday at its lowest point in two years.

Many gaming stocks have fallen sharply amid a sluggish economic climate, rising fuel prices and a retreating stock market. As of last Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 20 percent since its all-time high last October. The 20 percent threshold is considered a classic sign of a bear market.

The peak of the frenzy over gaming stocks, perhaps best illustrated by the $28 billion buyout of Harrahs in January, has ended. Harrahs is the world's largest casino company.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. stock reached a two-year low during trading last week and one analyst, Jake Fuller of Thomas Weisel Partners, said last week that the Sands’ Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip is reducing its hotel room rates by 25% for summer visits. Wynn Resorts is reducing room rates by 10-12% and MGM Mirage’s Bellagio by 20%, he said.

In a May conference call, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Mitchell Etess told analyst Jane Pereira of Lehman Brothers that there were no plans to discount hotel rooms at Mohegan Sun.

Shares in Isle of Capri casinos, a gaming company heavily-weighted with properties in the South and Midwest, hit a nine-year low. Shares of Wynn Resorts traded at their lowest point since November 2006 and MGM Mirage hit a three-year low during intra-day trading in recent days. MGM is down 60% just since October. Keybanc Capital Markets analyst Dennis I. Forst downgraded MGM at the end of June, citing a sluggish economy, high fuel costs, competition from a Wynn hotel opening next year and reduced airline capacity into Las Vegas.

The Northeast:

Two recent expansions opened in the Northeast within the last two weeks: MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming opened a $400 million, 900-room hotel (called the Water Club) at their jointly-owned Borgata property in Atlantic City and Penn National Gaming opened a $132 million 1,000-machine slot parlor and 154-room hotel expansion in Bangor, Maine.

The Mohegan Tribe’s Pocono Downs’ $208 million expansion is set to open July 17, pending the approval of state regulators. The property will roughly double the number of slot machines currently in use to about 2,500 machines.

The credit ratings of two competitors of the Tribe were recently downgraded. The company that operates the Twin River greyhound track-slot parlor in Rhode Island was downgraded in March and the Mount Airy racetrack-slot parlor in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania was downgraded in June. These actions follow credit and credit outlook downgrades for both MTGA and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in recent months.

Twin River said it would consider filing for bankruptcy or other debt restructuring moves if the state does not lower their 62% take of VLT slot machine revenues. The company offered the state of Rhode Island $560 million in exchange for the state slicing its 62 percent effective tax rate on its slot revenue to 25 percent. Rhode Island is not likely to agree to such terms.

The Tribe’s Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania is currently paying a similar tax rate as Twin River. Pocono Downs pays the state of Pennsylvania just over 60 percent in taxes and fees from its slot machines but that rate could drop a few percentage points based upon the increased revenues.

Even the credit rating firms took a hit last week. A report issued under the auspices of the Bank for International Settlements, which acts as a central bank for the world’s monetary authorities, said the major ratings agencies should enhance their grading process of asset-backed securities and other bonds and make rating documentation more accessible to investors.

The report is part of an attempt by governments and regulators to give greater scrutiny to the role and practices of credit-rating companies in securitizations and better oversight of the mortgage finance system. The report said that Moody’s, S&P and Fitch Ratings “underestimated the severity of the worst U.S. housing slump since the Great Depression.”

Twin River's Dilemma

By Ken Davison
Feather News

The financial problems of the Twin River greyhound track-slot parlor in Lincoln, R.I., caught the business community by surprise.

Twin River's parent company, UTGR Inc., first missed a loan payment in March, had its bond rating downgraded in March and had liens totaling $6 million placed against it by a contractor.

The owners of Twin River also built and managed the Mohegan Sun casino and one of the principles, Sol Kerzner, is an internationally renowned gambling magnate that created the Sun City casino in Africa, bought Atlantis in the Bahamas and bought and sold the Resorts casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

Twin River's owners will also build and manage the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's $1 billion casino that is slated for the town of Middleboro, Massachusetts. Twin River's owners no longer manage Mohegan Sun but will continue to receive 5% of Mohegan Sun's revenues until December 2014. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority paid the group, known as Trading Cove Associates, $77.5 million in fiscal year 2007 alone. MTGA is expected to pay TCA over $1 billion over the course of their 15-year payment stream in a contract that ended TCA's services halfway through their seven-year casino management contract that began in 1996.

UTGR is owned by BLB Investors, which is comprised of Kerzner International Ltd., the Waterford Group and Starwood Capital Group.

Standard & Poor's (S&P) downgraded UTGR's credit rating in March, citing its risk of bankruptcy.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its credit rating to CCC-. The ratings remain on Credit Watch, where they were placed March 4 with negative implications.

According to S&P, "The downgrade reflects our ongoing concerns about a potential bankruptcy filing as the company reportedly continues to negotiate a forbearance agreement with its lenders. While we believe that incentives exist for the company and its lenders to reach an extended agreement, the new ratings better reflect the near-term risk factors for a potential bankruptcy filing if the parties are not able to come to an agreement."

Rhode Island was the first of 11 states to approve racetrack-casinos, also called racinos, in 1992. According to a spokesperson for Twin River, the company's financial problems stem from the state's hefty 62% tax rate on its VLT slot machine revenue. The company has offered the state of Rhode Island a one-time payment of $560 million in exchange for reducing the tax rate to 25% but the state is not likely to accept that offer.

Twin River's now has 4,750 VLT slot machines and generated $342 million last fiscal year in slot revenue. By contrast, the Mohegan Tribe's Pocono Downs generated $156 million last fiscal year. The Mohegan's Pocono Downs was open for 11 months during fiscal year 2007. Similar to Twin River, Pocono Downs pays an effective rate of about 62 percent to the state of Pennsylvania now but that rate may fall by a few percentage points once the expanded facility's slot machines begin to generate more revenue.

Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said he believes Twin River's owners paid too much for the slot parlor and greyhound race track in 2005 and spent too much on trying to turn it into an upscale gambling destination. The investors spent $445 million for the Rhode Island property and four Colorado racetracks in 2005 and its Rhode Island renovations cost $225 million, for a total outlay of $670 million.

"(They) paid casino money for a ‘racino,’" said Barrow, who noted that an Atlantic City casino - the Trump Marina Hotel Casino - was sold in May for only $316 million.

It is possible that they expected to turn Twin River into a full-fledged casino, with table games, but that hasn't happened. Twin River received permission in April to remain open 24 hours per day on weekends and holidays but wasn't permitted to add table games to the slot parlor.

Any legal action by Twin River's creditors, chiefly Merrill Lynch Capital Corp., to collect on $577 million in outstanding loans have been delayed until July 31st.

Mohegan Sun Announces Summer Promotions

The following is a summary of select events publicized by the Mohegan Sun casino:

Beginning June 28th through September 2nd, thousands of guests will win their share of $888,888 with Mohegan Sun’s Hot Dates & Crazy Eights promotion, just by swiping their Player's Club card once a day at any promotional kiosks in Casino of the Earth or Casino of the Sky. Each time a guest swipes their card, they’ll have the chance to receive a game piece. When they match three game pieces, they win! Any three-card combination will win cash or Player’s Club points ranging from 10 points to $25,000. The more a guest swipes, the more chances they have to win. Patrons can also swipe and win 88, 888 and 8,888 in cash and Player’s Club points instantly.

New for 2008, Hot Summer Fun launches a one-of-a-kind and exciting series called Mohegan Sun’s “Live Idols,” which features former American Idol contestants.

On select Tuesday’s “Live Idols” will take place with a live, public performance in The Shops at Mohegan Sun Concourse at 7:00pm, followed by a signing event at 7:30pm. The series kicks off on July 1st with Season Four contestant, Constantine Maroulis.

Each Tuesday during Hot Summer Fun, guests will enjoy deals at some of the best retailers at Mohegan Sun including Spin Street, Yankee Candle and Michael Jordan’s 23.sportcafe as well as two-for-one specials at a number of restaurants including, Ben & Jerry’s, Geno Auriemma’s Fast Break, Seasons and Sunburst Buffets, Lucky’s Lounge and The Dubliner.

Other dining specials offered throughout Hot Summer Fun only at Mohegan Sun include all-you-can-eat “Peel and Eat Shrimp” at Seasons and Sunburst Buffets; the “Best Breakfast Under the Sun” in Seasons Buffet for $10.50; Saturday and Sunday breakfast in Birches Bar & Grill from 9:00am to 2:00pm; “Midnight Steak and Eggs” at Fidelia’s from Midnight to 6:00am for $12.95; and early bird dinner specials from 3:00pm to 6:00pm daily at Birches Bar & Grill.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To Indiana

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun lost to Indiana on Saturday by a score of 81-74. The Connecticut Sun's next game is on Tuesday night, July 8th at Detroit.

Late Chief G'tinemong Honored

Feather News

The late Mohegan Chief G’tinemong Ralph Sturges was inducted into the Connecticut Hall of Fame last month, joining six others given that honor since its inception last year.

Chief Sturges “was the lifetime leader of the Mohegan tribe. He was instrumental in helping the Tribe gain federal recognition. He also worked with financial supporters to help develop and build the Mohegan Sun Casino, one of the leading Native American owned casinos in the world,” according to the organization's press release.

Chief Sturges died last October at the age of 88.

The Chief’s son, Paul Sturges, accepted the award on behalf of his father.

"These are people who made a commitment and a contribution not just to Connecticut but to the nation,” said Representative Michael Caron (R-Danielson)

Katherine Hepburn, Mark Twain and Igor Sikorsky were inducted last year and in June four more were inducted, including the late Chief and legendary baseball star Jackie Robinson. The two others inducted in the June ceremony were Marian Anderson and retired United Technologies Chief Executive Officer Harry Gray.

Chief Sturges was a public relations director for the Salvation Army and during World War II, he served in the Army's intelligence division in New Guinea and the Philippines, earning a Bronze Star.

Gov. Jodi Rell praised Chief Sturges last year, "He will be forever remembered for his contributions not only as a wise leader - having most notably served his people during their successful campaign for federal tribal recognition - but as a skilled sculptor," she said in a statement. "The state of Connecticut and the Mohegan Tribe have lost a great friend and treasured talent, but in cherishing him we will maintain his spirit always."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Photo: Narragansett Smoke Shop

Three Narragansett Indians Sentenced In Smoke Shop Case

Feather News

Narragansett Indian Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and two other Narrangansett tribal members will not serve jail time in their recent sentencing for their roles in a 2003 tribal smoke shop raid by state police.

Eight Narragansett Indians were at first arrested for the scuffle after the Rhode Island state police raided the Charlestown, R.I. shop for not collecting state taxes on sold cigarettes. Charges were dropped against four of the eight Narragansett Indians in April and the other three were charged with misdemeanors.

In the sentencing, Hiawatha Brown received a one-year suspended sentence and probation and was ordered to take anger management counseling. Chief Sachem Thomas was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service by educating school chidren about the Tribe and Randy Noka was told to perform 25 hours of community service.

So far, Hiawatha Brown has appealed his conviction on misdemeanor disorderly conduct and simple assault.

John Brown, the son of the Tribe's Medicine Man, told Feather News' contributing editor Bill Bauer in April that the state knew about the smoke-shop search warrant for two days before the 2003 raid but failed to show it to the Tribe before or during the raid. Instead of holding government-to-government discussions with the Tribe, the state sent about 50 police officers to the smoke shop. Brown is the Narragansett Tribe's Historic Preservation Officer.

In a separate civil suit, a federal appeals court judge last week told a Narragansett tribal member and a state trooper to reach a settlement over an injury that resulted in the raid. Three years earlier, a jury awarded the tribal member $301,000 for his broken ankle. In that case, the jury agreed that the trooper violated the tribal members rights by twisting his ankle until it broke but a U.S. District Court judge overturned that verdict. Judge Ernest Torres found that the state trooper was protected by a qualified immunity which shields officers from liability when they act reasonably in performing their job.

The state of Connecticut also asserts that Indian tribes cannot sell cigarettes without collecting state taxes while the state of New York allows tribes to sell cigarettes tax-free on Indian reservations. Cigarettes sold on Indian reservations in New York are estimated to account for one third of all cigarettes sold in that state.

Correction: Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Plays Tonight

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun will play at Indiana on Saturday at 7 p.m. The matchup was listed incorrectly in yesterday's article.

Mystic Fisherman And Tribal Member Mike Russell Passes Away

Feather News

Groton - Michael T. Russell, 55, of 11 North Road, Groton passed away Tuesday evening, June 24, 2008 at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London.

He was born on November 14, 1952, in New London the son of Mary Kerwin Russell of Mystic and the late Robert J. 'Tex' Russell.

He was married to Valerie Rocherolle on December 28, 2002, in Groton. Michael graduated from Robert E. Fitch Sr. High School in the class of 1971. He was the co- owner of Latimer Light Oyster Company. A member of the Mohegan Tribe with the tribal name of Longbow, he was on the boxing commission, worked with the Mohegan Aquaculture program and participated in the Native American Games. He loved clamming at Bluff Point, off shore scalloping, all water activities and had owned the former Thames Edge Restaurant.

Besides his wife and mother; he is survived by a daughter, Crystal Russell of Connecticut; three brothers, John Russell and wife Linda of Demopolis, Ala., Philip Russelland his wife Paula of Moosup, and Robert Russell II of Mystic; three step children, Nina Deppen, Joel Deppen and Bray Deppen; and a grandson, Dirren.

Visiting hours were held at the Mohegan Congregational Church, Church Lane Uncasville, and a graveside service was held at noon on Monday at the Mohegan Burial Ground, Shantok Rd., Uncasville.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be directed to the Deppen Children College Education Fund, c/o Bank of America, 738 Long Hill Road, Groton CT 06340. Byles Memorial Home, New London is in charge of arrangements.

Please visit for online obituary, directions or to send a condolence note to the family.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Man Charged In Tribal Casino Scam

Feather News

One of 14 members charged with conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise. The 'Tran Organization' bilked both Foxwoods, the Mohegan Sun and other casinos out of millions of dollars over a three-year period, according to the plea agreement.

Son Hong Johnson admitted that on numerous occasions between approximately March 2003 and July 2006, he participated with other alleged members of the Tran Organization to cheat casinos. In addition to the Mohegan Sun, other targets were the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods casino, Resorts East Chicago Hotel and Casino in East Chicago and Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Miss.

Johnson admitted that he and others obtained up to $7 million by cheating the casinos.

According to the indictment, the defendants bribed card dealers and supervisors at casinos to perform false shuffles during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. These "false shuffles" would result in groups of cards not being shuffled and when this section was dealt to the players, the defendants would bet on the known order of the cards.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

National Labor Board Certifes Union Election On Mashantucket Reservation

Feather News

The National Labor Relations Board yesterday certified the results of a Foxwoods union election held last November among dealers.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the owners of Foxwoods casino, assert that the National Labor Relations Board has no jurisdiction over labor relations on their reservation and are appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Dealers at the Foxwoods casino voted 1,289 to 852 to form a United Auto Workers union that will bargain on their behalf with Foxwoods' management. The election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

The Tribe asserts that the United Auto Workers must abide by tribal law and if they wish to organize, they may do so under tribal law. "The union could already have a contract by now if they had followed tribal law," said the Tribe's general counsel Jackson King after the NLRB decision yesterday.

Last year, ten months before the dealers election at Foxwoods, 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 San Manuel Band of Mission Indian’s arguments that adherence to the National Labor Relations Act would violate their sovereignty. The Tribe did not appeal the decision. In the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians case, a union had formed under tribal laws while another union claimed it was being denied that same access to employees.

A union election has never been held at the Mohegan Sun casino.

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Loses To Phoenix Today

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun lost to Phoenix at the Mohegan Sun Arena today by a score of 87-80. The Sun have the league's best record at 13-5.

The Sun have 16 games remaining on their schedule. Eight of those games will be in July, before the month-long break break to accomodate league players who will participate in the Summer Olympics in August. The Sun will play their last game before the Olympic break on July 27 and will resume their last eight games against Indiana on August 28.

The Connecticut Sun will play at Indiana on Saturday at 7 p.m. Indiana beat the Sun on May 27 by a score of 75-46. Sunday's game will be the second of three matchups between the two teams in this year's regular season schedule.

Photo: Fourth of July Activities

Thames River Fireworks Schedule

Feather News

Norwich's fireworks, on the Thames River, will be the first of the three major fireworks displays on or near the Mohegan Reservation over the next two weeks.

Norwich will hold their fireworks on Saturday, July 5 and New London's fireworks will be one week later, on Saturday, July 12.

New London's fireworks are part of their annual Sailfest event and said to be the second largest Grucci fireworks display in the nation. Although Foxwoods backed out as a sponsor of the Norwich fireworks, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is a major sponsor for the fireworks at New London. Another good spot to see the New London fireworks on the Thames River is from Fort Griswold, high up on the Groton side of the Thames River.

Between those two dates and those two cities on the Thames River, the Mohegan Sun will begin its annual summer fireworks displays on Wednesday, July 9. The fireworks will be held on every Wednesday until August 27 and can be seen from the top of the Riverview Garage.

Mohegan Sun is also a sponsor the Hartford/East Hartford region's fireworks on the Connecticut River. Mohegan Sun presents Riverfest 2008 with fireworks to be held Saturday, July 5th. The fireworks will be launched from barges on the Connecticut River between East Hartford and Hartford.

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum will host a powwow festival with dancers, music and American Indian food and crafts on July 9 and 10. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day on the museum's terrace and is free with museum admission. For more information, call 1-800-411-9671 or visit This event shouldn't be confused with the Mashantucket Pequot's annual Schemitzun Festival, which will be held August 21-24.

Local fireworks schedule at a glance:

Saturday, July 5 - Norwich
Saturday, July 5 - Hartford/East Hartford on Connecticut River
Wednesday, July 9 - Mohegan Sun Riverview Garage
Saturday, July 12 - New London/Groton
Note: Pocono Downs will have fireworks displays on July 3 and July 4.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tribe's WNBA Basketball Team Beats Houston

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun beat the Houston Comets by a score of 78-68 tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Attendance was reported at 6,357.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lisa Bernier For Tribal Council 2009

Dear Mohegan Family,

I am writing in the hopes that you will take careful consideration when voting this election. I would appreciate your vote.

Why you might ask? My name is My Heart Speaks the Truth, because that is one of my greatest qualities — that I always speak with honesty even in the toughest of times. I lean on the creator to guide me in all things no matter what. I am not afraid to speak up. I have the ability and the desire to work very hard for our Tribal members. I have worked a variety of jobs including social services within the Tribe and have volunteered for 30 years in various capacities: education, special needs, strategic planning, food pantry, sunday school and youth group.

Things I would like to accomplish for the betterment and future of our Tribe:

Mohegan leaders need to uphold their positions with the utmost respect and Integrity.

We are the leaders in our industry and should expect leaders of the Mohegan Tribe to act appropriately and never take the positions of leadership of the Mohegan Tribe for granted.

To make decisions that is in the best interest for all the Mohegan Tribe.

No more useless spending to keep our future generations in debt: The Mohegan Tribal members should not have to cut back the budget in their own homes while the administration that are working for us are getting wealthy.

The Mohegan Tribe should be in charge of our business with more Mohegan Tribal members in positions of administrative leadership.

Tribal members getting services with respect:

The Mohegan Tribal members should receive the services we deserve without being made to jump through hoops or exhausting every state and local agency before turning to the Tribe. The Mohegan Tribe should be the first place Mohegan Tribal people turn for help, not the last. We have a business to provide security for and meet the needs of the Mohegan Tribe, all Mohegan people, present and future.

The Mohegan Tribal People to have the Freedom to make decisions:

We need our Tribal families to have more freedom in making decisions for our Tribe and the plans of our business. The plans within our government and business should be transparent as to not seem that there are hidden agendas from our leaders when making decisions that do not benefit the whole Tribe including the future of our children and their trust fund.

We can all work together for a better future.

I thank you for taking the time in reading a few of my thoughts.

Lisa Bernier

Note: All candidates are welcome to submit literature and/or a photo. No readers comments on candidates will be accepted by Feather News.

Bill Donehey For Tribal Council 2009

All candidates are welcome to submit literature and/or a photo. No readers comments on candidates will be accepted by Feather News.

Photo: Tribal Council Chairman John Henry Clark

Tribe's Casino Partner In Kansas Project Leaves Group

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribe filed today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to report that one of their partners las left their group that is vying for a casino in Kansas.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Commission, through an subsidiary called Mohegan Resorts Kansas acquired the interest held by Olympia Gaming-KC in a $792 million proposed casino for Wyandotte County-Kansas City. The Tribe now owns two-thirds of the venture, called Leg Sun, while the other third is owned by Kansas City based-RED Leg Sun.

According to the filing, Mohegan Resorts Kansas, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mohegan Resorts, LLC, which is in turn wholly owned by Mohegan Gaming & Hospitality, LLC, a joint venture between The Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut and MTGA Gaming, LLC, a subsidiary of the Authority.

The cost for buying out Olympia Gaming-KC was not specified.

The group in which the Tribe is a partner is one of five groups seeking to build and manage a casino in the Wyandotte County-Kansas City region under a plan that will create four megacasinos in the state. Out of the six proposals submitted by those five groups for a Wyandotte County casino, only one will be selected. A decision is expected in September.

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegans In The Revolutionary War

The Tribe In The Media series republishes below a column in the Norwich Bulletin by Bill Stanley which mentions Mohegans in the Revolutionary War.
"In fact, Samuel Ashbow was the first Indian killed in the American Revolution on June 16, 1775, at Breed’s Hill."

Bill Stanley: Fourth of July celebrations lost to history
Norwich Bulletin
Posted Jun 29, 2008 @ 12:00 AM

Once upon a time, we used to celebrate the Fourth of July. We don’t do that anymore.

Today, we witness the celebration; that is, we watch fireworks, but we don’t personally shoot off fireworks as many of us did when we were young. It is not the same. Like all things in life, something has been lost with celebrating the Fourth of July.

While I am not a historian, I do so love history and probably understand more than most what the Fourth of July represents. It was a day when 56 men signed their own death warrant. One of those men was from Norwich, Samuel Huntington. They declared their independence from England, which was an act of treason punishable by death. Perhaps it is fair to say for those 56 men, it was very fortunate we won the American Revolution. Otherwise, all of them would have been publicly executed.

‘Pomp and parade’
It was back in 1776 when John Adams, who was later our second president, proclaimed Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade ... bonfires and illumination from one end of the continent to the other from this day forward forever.”

Those words were spoken by a man who was there in the beginning, who was a friend of Huntington, as was Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and, oh yes, Thomas Jefferson.

When I was young, the Fourth of July was so much fun. It was a true celebration. We looked forward to it with the same enthusiasm as we looked forward to Christmas. At least the boys did. That was the one day a year when we could shoot firecrackers, sky rockets, Roman candles and pinwheels.

Years ago, many of us had newspaper routes. We would save our money and tips and then go to Campbell’s Sporting Goods and several of the other hardware stores in downtown where there were big, special displays of fireworks for sale.

There were Chinese firecrackers, which were strung together. When you lit the fuse, they were timed to go off one after the other. They sounded like a machine gun, and while there must have been 60 or 70 little firecrackers, I do believe they only cost 4 cents. You could get a package of 2-inch firecrackers for a dime and a sky rocket for 15 cents.

Accidents did happen
We had Roman candles, which were never to be hand-held. But, most of us held the Roman candle and, while it was dangerous, often pointed them dangerously close to our friends. To be sure, there were accidents.

The trick in lighting firecrackers was to light the fuse with the left hand, holding the firecracker in your right hand, but then throwing it quickly before it went off. Sometimes the fuse was short, and it went off in your hand. You would have these uncomfortable black blisters all over your hands for a week or more.

Now, as an old man, talking about fireworks in today’s society sounds reckless and dangerous. When we were young, we somehow took it in stride. Yes, maybe George or Harry had firecrackers go off in their hands. Those powder burns hurt, but rarely were there serious burns.

Oh, yes, we celebrated with parades, and people actually went to them. This morning’s picture, I believe, was taken on the Fourth of July in downtown Norwich after one of the many parades that always were well-attended. We haven’t seen Norwich with crowded streets like that for the past 50 years.

Those who are too young to remember cannot imagine downtown when it was so busy that people actually had to walk in the street because the sidewalks were filled.

Told to celebrate
We had firecrackers because we would celebrate the Fourth of July. We were, after all, only doing what President John Adams told us we should do.

In fact, on the day they signed the Declaration of Independence, Huntington noted in correspondence that the sky was lit with fireworks, and there was great celebration as the 13 colonies declared their independence from England.

The history of America is so spectacular. One almost has to believe we had divine intervention. England was the greatest military power on earth, and it was only with volunteers that a rag-tag army was gathered and, against all odds, beat the greatest power on earth.

Many from Norwich made a difference. We all know Benedict Arnold was Washington’s greatest general before he became the nation’s most notorious traitor. We all know our Huntington signed the Declaration of Independence and served as President of the Continental Congress.

There were other dedicated men who served. One of the great generals of the American Revolution was another Huntington, Jedediah. Born in Norwich in 1743, he was promoted to brigadier general during the war and major general on retirement. To mention a few others, there was Lt. Jabez Fitch, Gen. Israel Putnam (“Old Put”) of Brooklyn and General Trumbull of Lebanon.

Won freedom
Norwich had many slaves during the Revolution. Many of them served in the army and won their freedom or died. Col. John Durkee supposedly enlisted Norwich’s Cato Mead who was the first black man killed in the Revolution.

Many Mohegan Indians also served in the Revolution. In fact, Samuel Ashbow was the first Indian killed in the American Revolution on June 16, 1775, at Breed’s Hill.

He was the son of the Rev. Sampson Ashbow, who lost three sons in that war. Another Mohegan, the widow Tanner, lost five sons.

At least 30 Mohegan Indians served in the Revolution, many on privateer ships that protected the coast and attacked the British at sea.

The Fourth of July is the birth of our nation. Our town of Norwich, and the surrounding towns of Eastern Connecticut, played a major role in the victory that followed.

Oh, how I wish we could once again celebrate the Fourth of July as we once did.

Everything in life is dangerous, as are firecrackers. But, I do believe our young people would get a better sense of the holiday if they were part of it and celebrated as we once did.

Bill Stanley’s prize-winning, latest book, “The 9-Mile Square,” is available at Lawrence & Memorial and Backus Hospital gift shops, Magazines & More, all branches of the Dime Bank, Chelsea Groton, Eastern Federal, People’s United Bank, Johnson’s Flowers and Gift Shop in Norwich, Wonderland Books in Putnam, or credit card by calling 1-800-950-0331

Employee Travel Reimbursement Rates To See Increase

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Effective Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service increased the standard mileage reimbursement rate by eight cents. The rate increased to 58.5 cents per mile for business travel. Many businesses adjust their employee travel reimbursement rates following IRS rate changes.