Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mashantucket Pequots May Bid On Kansas Casino

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The Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods Development Company may enter the bidding once again for a casino in Kansas. Bids are due tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Foxwoods partnered with MGM Mirage last year in the casino bidding for one of the four casinos permitted in Kansas but pulled out of the running before final selections were made.

The Mohegan Tribe, through one of its entities, also participated in a group bidding to build a casino near Kansas City but was not selected by the state. The Mohegans are not expected to re-enter the contest for a Kansas casino. Attempts to reach Tribal officials were unsuccessful.

Three of the four winning groups selected last Fall to build casinos in Kansas later pulled their names out of the contest, requiring the state of Kansas to start the bidding all over again. A 2007 state law paved the way for the development of four state-owned casinos in four separate Kansas zones.

Many of the groups selected to build and operate casinos in Kansas later pulled out cited the economy. For instance, Kansas Entertainment, which is a partnership between the speedway and Baltimore-based Cordish Co., was the winning group for the zone where the Mohegans had sought a casino but the group later withdrew its proposal. "Because of the equity markets and because of the economic meltdown in the United States, we decided the best strategy for entertainment properties, or for Kansas Entertainment, was to pull back the proposal and resubmit," an official said.

Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger arrived today in a NASCAR stock car to re-submit a new casino proposal to the Kansas Lottery Board. The new proposal, according to Boerger, is similar to the earlier version: a $700 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino with 3,000 slot machines and a 300-room hotel.

The Mashantucket's group last year, which included MGM Mirage, Wichita's Chisholm Creek Ventures, and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, proposed a $425 million casino project in Sumner County.

Kansas is the only state that mandates that casinos will be state-owned. The state would receive at least 22 percent of the gambling revenue from the four proposed casinos.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Photo: Chief Joseph Postage Stamp Issued In 1968

Stamp illustration is from an 1878 live painting of Nez Perce Chief Joseph. See collection at http://www.arago.si.edu/flash/?slide=1|eid=181|s1=6|

Announcement: Narragansett Indian School In Need Of Assistance

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The Feather News has a general policy of not posting fundraising solicitations but the following announcement from the Nuweetoooun School is important for our larger Indian community to take notice of. We know that some of our daily readers are elected tribal officials so perhaps they could use some of their wealth that the Mohegan people generously provide them toward a worthy purpose:

NARRAGANSETT SCHOOL NEEDS ASSISTANCE TO STAY OPEN THIS SPRING: "The Nuweetooun School in Exeter, Rhode Island, is New England's only independent, Native-American-run school currently serving Native children. The school uses a holistic curriculum, based on Native culture and history, to nurture and engage students K-8. Because most students are unable to make tuition, Nuweetooun is supported heavily by private donations from individuals, local tribes, and foundations. This spring, already stretched to the limit, school staff have learned that they must replace some old lead pipes in their building, or risk closing. The cost of the project is $8,000 and the volunteer board of directors has already managed to raise $6,000. A final push now for small donations from interested supporters could help Nuweetooun stay open and continue its mission! To make a donation, send a check (payable to TIMM, Inc.) to Nuweetooun School, 390 Summit Road, Exeter, RI 02822. Contributions are tax-deductible under IRS code 501(c)3."

400th Anniversary Of Henry Hudson's Voyage To Manhattan On Saturday

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This Saturday will mark the 400th year since Henry Hudson left Amsterdam on his voyage to find a northwestern passage to Asia but instead landed in what is known today as Manhattan.

Hudson's trip on the 85-foot, triple-masted ship was his third trip east. The first two voyages encountered Arctic ice but the third, on instructions from the Dutch East India Company, resulted eventually in Dutch control Manhattan island.

The Museum of the City of New York, in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, will open an exhibition this week celebrating the anniversary in an exhibit called "Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson."

The exhibit will include rare maps, artifacts from the 16th and 17th centuries, paintings and documents. Visitors will also learn how scientific advances in the 13th and 14th centuries assisted in 15th and 16th century exploration.

Henry Hudson, an Englishman, explored the New York Harbor in 1609 and the river that today bears his name. His voyage led to the founding of the Dutch West India Company and ultimately to the founding of New Netherland and the New Amsterdam trading post at the mouth of what is now the Hudson River.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mohegan Tribe Threatens To Stop Slot Payments To State Over Smoking Legislation

By Ken Davison
Feather News

The top headline in today's New London Day newspaper was boldfaced: "Mohegans Threaten Suit Over Smoking." Two articles detailing the flareup between the state and the Mohegan Tribe glared out from underneath that headline, one on the left of the page and one on the right of the page, like a double-barreled shotgun.

Meanwhile, the Norwich Bulletin's article on the possible fight between the sovereigns was tucked in the shadows of page three in today's edition.

The battle to come is over the Mohegan Tribe's announced threat to take the state to federal court and possibly stop sending the state its share of slot machine revenues if the state goes forward with legislation aimed at eventually banning smoking at the state's two Indian casinos by October 2011.

Except in this looming battle, the last one breathing isn't the winner - it's what the state's fight is about.

The state legislature's Public Health Committee voted overwhelmingly to move a bill forward that would eventually ban smoking at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. The bill now goes to other lawmakers for consideration.

In response to that legislation, which also includes the possibility of the state yanking the casinos' liquor permits for non-compliance with their plan that would gradually phase out smoking at the casino, both the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe concurred that it could trigger a lawsuit and stop the flow of the state's 25 percent share of casino slot machine revenue.

The amount of slot machine revenue that both Indian casinos send to the state is approximately $400 million annually.

The Mohegan Tribe sent letters to Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell and the state attorney general, Richard Blumenthal. The letters reportedly said that the legislation would infringe on the Tribe's sovereign rights in addition to the possibility of a lawsuit while halting payments to the state.

The state comes to the fight armed too. The state could deny the renewal of liquor permits at the Indian casinos which would put the two casinos in the same situation as that of the Oneida Tribe in New York. The Oneida's Turning Stone casino in upstate New York cannot serve liquor but has recently placed its nightclub into the status of a private club thereby permitted some alcohol sales at the resort location.

The compact between the tribes and the state allow the two tribes to maintain a monopoly on gaming in the state. Should that compact be breached, the state may be able to allow non-Indian casinos to be built in the state. It is not uncommon to see comments from readers of The Day newspaper suggesting that the state install toll booths at key access points near the casinos.

The last time the casinos seriously threatened to halt slot payments to the state was in the mid-1990's when the state considered allowing a non-Indian casino to be built in Bridgeport. The Mohegan Casino was being built and had not yet opened at that time.

One of the several leaders of the Mohegan Tribe, Bruce Bozsum, told The Day newspaper, "As the leader of the Mohegan Tribe, it is my obligation to protect the rights of our tribe and all indigenous people from an overreaching state legislature."

Mohegan Sun's profits have fallen dramatically over the past year. The most recent three month period for which the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued financial statements reflects a loss of about $3.8 million. That three-month period was from October through December and also marked the first time in which the losses generated at the Tribe's racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania made the difference between a profit or loss for MTGA. Had the losses at the Pennsylvania slot parlor not been included, MTGA would have reported a small profit.

Analysts suggest that a ban on smoking at the casino could further weaken revenues.

The governor seems to prefer negotiations between the state and the tribes as opposed to legislation that would force the tribal casinos into compliance with a new law that could gradually ban smoking over the next two and a half years.

It is unclear how the relationship between the tribes and lawmakers have deteriorated to this point. The influence of unions may have had an impact. Many of the sponsors of the proposed law to ban smoking are from the region where the two Indian casinos are located.

The bill's sponsors include lawmakers Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, Melissa Olson, D-Norwich, Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and Elissa Wright, D-Groton. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, is also listed as a co-sponsor although she does not represent the casino region. One sponsor, state senator Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington), told The Day newspaper that he withdrew as a co-sponsor because it was not his intent to have a deadline for the smoking ban included in the bill.

The Tribes In The Media: Legislators May Penalize Philly For Casino Delays

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer discussing the possibility that Pennsylvania legislators may penalize the city of Philadelphia for delaying the opening of two slot parlors in that city. The Mashantucket Pequot Nation, through its business arm and partners, is seeking to open one of two slot parlors approved for the city.

Urging action on city casinos
By Suzette Parmley
The Philadelphia Inquirer
March 25, 2009

A Pennsylvania lawmaker plans to introduce legislation as early as Monday to strip Philadelphia of up to $64 million annually in economic development funds for failing to have its two casinos up and running.

Twenty-seven months of delays on the city's proposed SugarHouse and Foxwoods casinos have left some lawmakers across the state upset that Philadelphia is benefiting unfairly from slots revenue without contributing to the pot.

"The two casinos and Mayor Nutter have to reach agreements and have permits in place and have these casinos built and up and operational," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Wansacz, a Northeastern Pa. Democrat and member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. "If no progress is made, then the rest of the state could use that $64 million to create jobs and stimulate the economy."

Mayor Nutter said he was hopeful the bill wouldn't be necessary.

At a March 13 City Hall news conference, Nutter said there were "no barriers" to the construction of two casinos at their desired locations. The announcement, along with his statement days earlier that he would like to see the two proposed casinos "get up as quickly as possible," seemed to signal that progress was being made.

"As the mayor made clear in his March 13 press conference, the city is in no way, shape, or form a barrier to casinos in Philadelphia and both operators know that," spokesman Luke Butler said last night. "He has had numerous conversations with Rep. Wansacz.

"The mayor understands his concerns," Butler said, "but is hopeful that by continuing to work with the representative and the casino operators, we can move things along without legislation."

Wansacz's proposal is the latest in what appears to be a growing chorus of complaints, especially among Democrats in Harrisburg, over the casino delays.

Gov. Rendell has championed slot machine gambling and its revenue to meet his twin aims of reducing statewide property taxes and to boost Pennsylvania's horseracing industry.

"There is palpable discontent in the legislature with the slow pace of the Philadelphia casinos," Rendell spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said yesterday.

Wansacz said his proposal wouldn't touch Philadelphia's wage tax relief from slots revenue, but instead, would restrict funds the city is to get from the Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund for the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center - a maximum of $64 million annually for debt service and operating expenses.

Wansacz said the funds taken from Philadelphia could be funneled to other economic development projects throughout the state.

The two city casinos have been mired in political and legal delays since they were awarded slots licenses in December 2006. Both have also faced fierce neighborhood opposition.

The operators behind the two city casinos declined to comment on Wansacz's bill.

The group behind the SugarHouse slots parlor asked the state Supreme Court in January to appoint a "special master" to help it deal with Philadelphia officials, whom it accused of stalling its riverfront casino. The court appointed a special master yesterday.

Meanwhile, the operator behind Foxwoods casino, bowing to fierce opposition to its original waterfront site, announced in September that it was open to relocating its proposed $670 million casino to the Gallery at Market East near Chinatown. The group recently acknowledged that it was also considering the old Strawbridge & Clothier building on Market Street.

Wansacz, whose northeastern Pennsylvania district includes parts of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties, said he has been sitting on the legislation for three months, and that his patience "has grown thin."

His proposal received mixed reaction from groups opposed to the city casinos.

"We support his concept because no one should be entitled to revenues from a corrupt state program based on a regressive tax," said Paul Boni, attorney for Casino-Free Philadelphia, a group dedicated to keeping slot parlors out of Philadelphia.

"What's being debated in Philadelphia is about public process, transparency and the recognition of the dangers of placing a predatory industry smack in the middle of residents, schools and vulnerable business corridors," said Helen Gym of Asian Americans United, a group fighting the Foxwoods casino proposed for Chinatown. "Clearly, though, for the representative, gambling is about the best interests of casino operators - not the best interests of taxpayers."

Wansacz has at least one powerful ally. State Rep. Dante Santoni Jr., (D., Berks), chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, said yesterday that he would hold a hearing on the bill if it was introduced.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bill To Ban Smoking At Ct. Indian Casinos Approved By Legislative Committee

Feather News

The Connecticut legislature's Public Health Committee voted 28-2 today for a bill that would require both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos to be smoke-free by October 2011.

The bill mandates that the two casinos enter into negotiations with the governor to move toward eliminating smoking or face the loss of their state-issued liquor permits.

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal said the state has the right to impose laws banning smoking on the two tribal casinos while Mohegan officials have said that the tribe should dictate the casino's smoking policy and not the state.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Schagticoke Appeals Ruling That Dismissed Tribe's Fed Recognition Case

By Ken Davison
Feather News

The Schagticoke Tribe, whose reservation is in Kent, Connecticut, filed an appeal two weeks ago seeking to overturn a court decision from last August that essentially killed their chances for federal recognition.

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a final determination for the Schagticoke's federal recognition in January 2004 but that decision was reversed in 2005. The Tribe sought to overturn that reversal in federal court but it was struck down in August 2008. The Tribe is now appealing that federal court decision.

Both the Schagticoke and Eastern Pequot tribes recieved a preliminary decision for federal recognition in 2000. The BIA's final determination for Eastern Pequot federal recognition was issued in June 2002 but was reversed at the same time as that of the Schagticoke Tribe.

Perhaps the most intense lobbying campaign ever launched against the federal recognition of any tribe was launched against these two Connecticut tribes.

An orchestrated campaign against the federal recognition decisions of both tribes by local, state and federal elected officials and a powerful White house-connected lobbyist, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), resulted in the BIA reversing the final recognition decisions.

The Schagticokes claim the reversal was a result of political influence and was not reversed on the merits of their history.

The Schagticokes filed their appeal on March 6 in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York seeking to reverse the lower court's decision and to reinstate their federal recognition or to remand their case for federal recognition back to the U.S. Department of Interior for reconsideration. The Schagticokes would also accept the appointment of a special master to determine their federal recognition, according to the brief.

The BIA's reversal of both the Schagticoke and Eastern Pequot's federal recognition was the first time in the BIA's history that a final determination for federal recognition was reversed.

Their is no doubt that politicians and lobbyists applied pressure on reversing the Tribe's federal recognition. Whether the Interior Department succumbed to that pressure is at issue in the case.

Even actions of the judge that issued the decision in August against overturning the Interior Department's decision against the Schagticokes are being questioned. According to the brief, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Peter Dorsey responded to a letter from Ct. Governor M. Jodi Rell that was not filed with the court clerk's office and which was not sent to all of the parties involved in the lawsuit. Dorsey's letter allegedly said that the Tribe may not be able to claim violations of due process due to certain actions taken in his court proceedings.

Judge Dorsey acknowledged the intense lobbying efforts seeking to reverse the federal recognition decision "in the so-called backrooms of Washington" and that the targets of those lobbying efforts included the White House, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and "even this Court." It has been reported that then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton was threatened with being fired if the Tribe's recognition was not reversed. But Dorsey concluded that the lobbying efforts did not exert undue political influence on the process.

At issue in the Schagticoke's appeal is whether the tribe’s due process rights to a fair administrative hearing was violated by undue political influence and whether overturning their federal recognition was made by an unauthorized official at the Interior Department. The Department of the Interior’s Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason, who was not a Bush appointee, issued the decision to reverse the federal recognition decisions.

Many believe that the federal recognition reversals of both the Schagticoke and Eastern Pequot tribes were aimed at preventing the tribes from opening casinos in Connecticut.

Photos: Narragansett Indian Protest Rally On Sunday

Photo: Narragansett Indian Protest Rally On Sunday

Photo: Narragansett Indian Protest Rally On Sunday

Photo: Narragansett Indian Protest Rally On Sunday

Friday, March 20, 2009

Attention: Tribal Members Who Have Been Affected By Good Standing

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If you are a Tribal member who has ever been affected by good standing charges or believe you may be affected in the future we want to hear from you.

Currently, Brokenwing is challenging the constitutionality of the good standing laws in Tribal Court.

For those who have been found not to have been in good standing previously, we are interested in learning what you thought of the process. We also want to hear from those who have ever been threatened with a good standing charge.

And those Tribal members who fear they may be brought up on good standing charges in the future, I think we may be able to help your situation.

If you know of someone that falls into these categories, please ask them to contact us. Naturally, anything discussed will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Brokenwing doesn't give out his email address so please send us an email at kennethdavison1@hotmail.com

Let's try to make our Tribal Nation a better place together.

MGM Mirage $775 Million Sale Of Treasure Island Takes Effect Today

Feather News

MGM Mirage's $775 million sale of the Las Vegas Treasure Island casino will took place today.

Treasure Island was one of MGM Mirages' profitable properties and the sale will help MGM with its cash flow difficulties. "Our balance sheet has a significant amount of debt, more than we should have for our cash flow," MGM Mirage Chief Executive Jim Murren told investors and analysts on a conference call Tuesday. Facing possible default on its bank covenants, MGM announced on Tuesday that its banks "agreed to waive debt covenants through May 15".

News of the pending Treasure Island sale to Kansas billionaire Phil Ruffin was announced in December and the Nevada Gaming Commission approved the purchase yesterday. Ruffin may receive a $20 million discount on the sale price if he pays entirely in cash by today.

Treasure Island has 2,885 rooms, 95,000 square feet of gaming space and 18,000 square feet of convention space.

The Treasure Island casino is about 700 yards from the location of his former casino, the New Frontier, which Ruffin sold for $1.2 billion in 2007. The sale of the 36-acre New Frontier property made history as the highest per acre sale price ever recorded on the Las Vegas Strip.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Court Hearing On Voting Rights Case Set For April 6

Feather News

A court hearing will be held on April 6 at 2 p.m. on the case of Kenneth Davison v. Mohegan Tribe Election Committee, et al.

Davison asserts, among other things, that requiring Tribal members to vote for all seats up for election is a violation of Tribal members' free speech rights and also violates the Constitution's voting clause which states that voters "shall be entitled to cast one vote for each elective position available."

Many Tribal members have said they feel they shouldn't be required to vote for all seats up for election. For instance, in an election in which four seats are up for election, those tribal members who want to vote for one, two or three candidates are required to vote for all four positions in order for their ballot to be counted. This case challenges that requirement.

In the past two election run-offs in 2007 and 2008, Davison voted for three candidates on each ballot. Both ballots were rejected because Davison did not vote for all four elective positions available in each run-off election.

The defendants in the lawsuit, the Mohegan Tribe Election Committee and the Mohegan Tribe, submitted a motion for summary judgment at the end of February and the plaintiff, Ken Davison, later filed an objection to their motion in addition to a motion seeking to strike evidence cited in the defendants' motion. The April 6 hearing will focus on these submissions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Indian Protest March Set For Saturday In Rhode Island

Feather News

A march will be held on Saturday, March 21 in Providence, Rhode Island, to protest the recent US Supreme Court decision that denied the Narragansett Tribe's ability to have land taken into trust as reservation land.

The "March for Justice" is to speak out against human rights violations across the country, according to the sponsors. "This discriminatory decision by the Supreme Court affects tribes across this country and continues an oppressive mindset that affects all people."

A press release issued by Domingo “Tall Dog” Monroe, Bella Noka and
Dawn M. Spears of the Narragansetts further states, "We must unite, speak out and let our voices be heard. Native Americans are not alone in these injustices. Let’s join together and march to the Rhode Island State House to show our solidarity in overcoming injustice and oppression. Unity equals power. Let’s stand united."

The itinerary follows:

11:00 a.m. Starting location Roger William’s Park (Broad Street entrance)
11:30 a.m. Opening Ceremony
12:00 noon March to State House (bring your signs & banners in support of
Tribal sovereignty and of your causes)
1:30 p.m. Rally at Rhode Island State House

Native Genealogy Discussion Sunday At Institute For American Indian Studies

Feather News
March 17, 2009

A discussion called "Moccasin Tracks; Tracing Native American Genealogy in New England & Canada" will be held on Sunday, March 22 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT.

The press release states:

"Please join artist and educator Jeanne “Morningstar” Kent of as she shares her knowledge and experience in researching Native American ancestry. Jeanne will provide essential information, helpful hints and thought provoking questions for those tracing their own Native genealogy. The daughter of a French and Indian father and a German mother, she descends from the Abenaki, Nipissing, Algonkian and Montanais people of theQuebec area. She was named Spozowialakws (Morningstar) years ago by an Abenaki Elder. Her Native name translates as “one who leads others out of the darkness into light” - a teacher.

"Mrs. Kent is a retired art instructor who taught in the Hartford public schools for 20 years at all levels. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and a Master's in art education from the University of Hartford. She also studied Genealogy with the National Genealogical Society and is a member of the French Genealogy Library in Tolland, CT.

"Her art work focuses on the five-tribe Wabanaki Confederacy consisting of the Abenaki, Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy. She has taught courses on both native crafts and history to fellow educators, universities and the general public. Currently, she serves as a Native interpreter at The Institute for American Indian Studies. She is a member of the American Gourd Society and is owner of Morningstar Studio."

The Institute for American Indian Studies is located at 38 Curtis Road, Washington, CT 06793. The phone number is 860 868-0518.

Mohegan News And Notes

Feather News

No to Massachusetts slot parlors:

Scanning the news of the day, we came across a Massachusetts article that quotes Mohegan Sun chief executive officer Mitchell Etess as saying the Tribe would not be interested in a slot parlor in western Massachusetts.

"We want to build a resort-style casino in western Massachusetts because we believe the overall economics of the commonwealth are enhanced by a full facility rather than a slot parlor," Etess said of a recent proposal unveiled by Massachusett's state treasurer Timothy Cahill. The Mohegan's gaming authority is leasing a 152-acre site in Palmer, Massachusetts in the hopes of one day bidding for a commercial casino, should the state ever legalize that type of gambling.

Britney Spears postpones concert:

The Hartford Courant reports that Britney Spears will not perform at Mohegan Sun on March 26 as planned. Instead, she will add an extra day to her scheduled May 2 concert at Mohegan Sun by also performing on May 3. Logistics were cited as the reason for the postponement.

WNBA's Detroit Shock owner dies:

The owner of the WNBA's Detroit Shock and the NBA's Detroit Pistons died Friday at age 86. Bill Davidson (no relation to reporter) was chairman and president of Guardian Industries Corporation and a philanthropist who reportedly gave away more than $80 million in the 1990's. The Detroit Shock basketball won last year's WNBA championship.

Protester spotted on Sandy Desert Road:

A protester who allegedly was kicked out of the casino made up a sign and stood on the corner of Route 32 and Sandy Desert Road this weekend. His sign was critical of a former chief. Rumor has it he punched in Saturday, punched out on Sunday and was seen again on Monday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mohegan Sun Loses Slot Machine Market Share In February

Feather News
March 16, 2009

The Mohegan Sun reported $62.8 million in slot machine revenue for the month of February, $4.8 million more than the $58 million reported by Foxwoods for that month.

In February 2008, the year before, Mohegan Sun reported $70 million in slot machine revenue while Foxwoods reported $57.5 million.

We reported a few days ago the February slot figures but this article takes a look at some other slot statistics.

Mohegan Sun's market share of the slot machine revenue pie shrunk dramatically this February compared to the same month last year, to 52 percent of the total slot revenue at both facilities compared to 55 percent the year before.

Both casinos have undergone expansions since February 2008. Mohegan Sun added about 650 slot machines in their Casino of the Wind expansion in August while Foxwoods added about 1,400 slot machines in their MGM Grand expansion last May.

Foxwoods now has about 8,000 slot machines, the largest number of slot machines of any gaming property in the country. Mohegan Sun has about 6,800 slot machines, making that location the second largest in the country in terms of the number of slot machines. The slot parlor at the Twin River greyhound racetrack in Rhode Island now has 4,750 slot machines after an expansion completed last year, making that location the fifth largest slot machine facility in the country.

The slot parlor in Yonkers and Ballys in Atlantic City are number 3 and 4, respectively, in terms of the number of slot machines, according to a report issued by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Debt-Saddled MGM Mirage Looking To Sell Off Properties

Feather News
March 15, 2009

Gaming giant MGM Mirage may want to sell off properties for cash that it can use to pay off more than $1.5 billion it owes this year on bond payments and interest, according to the Wall Street Journal.

MGM Mirage owns 10 casino resorts in Las Vegas and others outside Las Vegas and MGM Mirage is Nevada's biggest employer.

The Wall Street Journal quotes sources as saying, "basically everything is for sale."

If MGM cannot change the terms with its bank lenders, the lenders could demand accelerated payments and trigger defaults. Moody’s pegged MGM Mirage's long-term debt rating at B3, six grades below investment grade.

MGM's major shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian, made billions through buying and selling the MGM movie studio. Kirkorian bought Mirage Resorts in 2000 for $6.4 billion and, later, Mandalay Bay Resorts for $7.9 billion. The 91-year old Kirkorian owns about 50 percent of MGM Mirage.

Other properties owned by MGM Mirage include Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Monte Carlo, CityCenter, Bellagio, Circus Circus Signature at MGM Grand, MGM Grand and Las Vegas'

MGM Mirage agreed to sell Treasure Island in December and has delayed its City Center project on the Las Vegas Strip.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Update: Casino Reverses Plans On Executive Dining Room

Feather News
March 14, 2009

It has been reported that the planned executive dining room at Mohegan Sun will now be converted into an internet cafe for employees.

Inside sources who saw the space indicated that it would have been able to seat an estimated 20-25 people.

After news of the executive dining room was announced on Feather News, gaming authority officials later said that it was intended to be used for lunch meetings.

Mohegan Sun's February Slot Revenue Falls 8.9% While Foxwoods Increases 1%

Feather News
March 14, 2009

Mohegan Sun reported yesterday that its February slot machine revenue was down 8.9 percent compared to last February while Foxwoods reported a 1 percent increase in its February slot revenue.

Mohegan reported $62.8 million in February slot machine revenue while Foxwoods reported $58 million. The slot revenue reflects the total amount patrons fed into the machines less the payouts. In other words, it is the amount of money the casinos retained. The two tribes must pay 25 percent of their slot revenue to the state of Connecticut.

Mohegan Sun had about 6,800 operational slot machines in February while Foxwoods had about 8,000 slot machines.

Union Election Anticipated For Foxwoods Bartenders On April 8

Feather News
March 14, 2009

Another union election could occur next month on the Mashantucket Reservation, this time among bartenders, beverage servers and bar porters.

Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union could hold an election April 8 if 30 percent of the approximately 400 targeted workers approve of the effort. The petition is expected to be turned in on Monday, according to a union spokesman.

The union is organizing under the Indian nation's laws as opposed to federal laws. The guidelines used are those of the Mashantucket Pequot Employment Rights Office.

And independent representative, from the American Arbitration Association, will review the signatures on the petition.

If 30 percent of the group approves, an election by secret ballot will be held on April 8. Under the election, 51 percent must approve of the unionizing effort.

Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has abourt 10,000 members in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. The Food union's efforts began soon after table game dealers agreed to organize with the United Auto Workers about a year and a half ago under federal National Labor Relations Act's laws. The UAW is still attempting to negotiate a contract with Foxwoods.

Since then, some unions have been unsuccesful in their organizing efforts at efforts while earlier this month, 20 Mashantucket fire fighters voted to affiliate with the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut.

Thus far, unionizing efforts have not yielded any results among employees at the Mohegan Sun Casino.

Photo: Narragansett's Russel Spears

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Narragansett News

Feather News

Tomaquag Museum's Maple Sugar Thanksgiving scheduled Saturday, March 14, 2009 has been canceled due to the death of Russell Greene Spears, a Narragansett Family Patriarch and Master Stone Mason.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Feather News Alters Operations

Feather News
March 10, 2009

Due to recently-passed tribal laws and our tribal government's interpretations of those laws we must suspend our normal operations until further notice.

We hope to continue writing about Indian Country in general but we are unsure as to whether we can continue to write about the Mohegan Tribe in particular.

We thank our readers for their moral support over the past year and a half and hope that at some point in the future we can once again bring to you independent news on our great Tribe.

We will review earlier articles and re-publish most of them once we feel they do not put us at risk of breaking tribal laws and policies. Since it is believed that the tribe is now also using unwritten policies as a guideline and we regettably lack the ability to read minds, the task may be difficult and time consuming.

It is unfortunate that Tribal members must now rely on government communications for their information on what happens in our Tribe but that is what our governing bodies seem to have chosen.

That is where we are. We are unsure what the future will bring but we encourage you to keep checking in on us daily for any new developments and stories.

Company Awarded NYC VLT Slot Parlor Franchise Backs Out Of Deal

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Delaware North was to begin building a 4,500 VLT slot machine facility this month at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, N.Y., but has backed out of that deal.

Delaware North was selected over two other bidders, one of them was a group that included the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and Capital Play. Another group included Hard Rock Entertainment and SL Green.

Construction was expected to take just over a year until the facility was up and running but now the state of New York may have to re-bid the project. Delaware North attributed their decision to the difficulty in obtaining financing for the project and the state's intent to add a VLT slot parlor to Belmont racetrack, also in Queens, N.Y.

Delaware North is a Buffalo-based company that also operates a slot parlor at New York's Saratoga Springs racetrack. New York officials said Delaware North was chosen because it offered the most money up front out of the three bidders.

Three other tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot, Shinnecock and Seneca tribes, were involved in an earlier bidding round that included six groups until it later dwindled to just three firms that bid on the project.

It is unclear if the Mohegans will once again express interest in bidding on the Aqueduct VLT slot parlor. Aqueduct is expected to become New York City's first legal slot parlor.

New York's rejection of the Mohegan Tribe came about a month after the state of Kansas rejected the Tribe's bid to build and operate one of four commercial casinos approved in that state. Three days after the state of Kansas rejected the Mohegan's proposal, the Tribe announced plans to halt construction of its high-rise hotel on the Reservation.

Note: The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority announced one day after this article appeared that it is interested in bidding on the Aqueduct VLT slot parlor once the state re-opens the bidding process.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Photos: Snow Begins To Fall ... Again

Despite temperatures reaching over 60 degrees at Mohegan during the weekend, snow began to fall early this afternoon.

Governer Is "Certain" That 24-Hour Drinking Proposal Will Not Be Introduced To Legislature

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Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said today that she is "certain" that a proposal to allow 24-hour drinking at the two Indian casinos in the state will not be introduced in the state legislature this year.

Rell's announcement comes on the heels of a fatal accident on Saturday that involved a driver who said he was drinking at the Mohegan Sun Casino before the accident. A Conn College student died as a result of the crash on I-395 in Montville.

Elizabeth Durante, a 20-year old student at Conn College, died after the van she was in was struck by a car driven by Daniel Musser. According to reports, Musser was driving without the headlights on and on the wrong side of the highway, heading south in the northbound lanes of the highway.

Musser was charged with manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Governor Rell proposed extending drinking hours at the two Indian casinos to 24 hours a day in a recent budget plan. The state's current drinking hours last until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

Durante lived in the college's "substance-free" dormitory and had campaigned against binge drinking. The students in the van were on their way to Boston's Logan International airport where they planned to leave for Uganda where they were to do humanitarian work.

The Tribes In The Media: Mashpee Wampanoag Land Request Uncertain

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Cape Cod Times about the effect of the recent US Supreme Court's decision on the Mashpee Wampanoag's ability to have land taken into trust as reservation land.

High court ruling has tribes scrambling
By George Brennan
Cape Cod Times
March 08, 2009

Nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court defined "now" in a decision that cripples the efforts of the Mashpee Wampanoag and many other tribes to build casinos, American Indians across the country are looking to define "fix."

The nation's highest court, in a decision known as Carcieri v. Salazar involving the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island, ruled the U.S. Department of the Interior doesn't have authority to take land into federal trust for Indian tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934 — the year the Indian Reorganization Act became law.

Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and casinos Several days after the Feb. 24 decision, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a statement saying he was disappointed in the ruling. "The department is committed to supporting the ability of all federally recognized tribes to have lands acquired in trust," he said in the brief statement.

Indian law experts say the ruling is a fatal blow to the Mashpee Wampanoag plans for a Middleboro casino.

That is, unless Congress moves to reverse the decision with a new law.

There are indications Congress will at least look at a so-called "Carcieri fix." U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Resources Committee, has promised to call a hearing on the issue. U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, met with tribe leaders from across the country Thursday, but his spokesman said a fix won't come quickly.

Salazar has reiterated publicly that the trust issue needs to be addressed. "We will move forward and will need your help," he told the National Congress of American Indians last week at a conference in Washington, D.C., attended by the new leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag.

The tribe doesn't believe the decision applies to them because the Mashpee Wampanoag were recognized by the state long before 1934 and federal recognition just reaffirmed their storied history. "(The federal government) has a fiduciary and moral responsibility to treat all tribes equally," vice chairman Aaron Tobey said.

While it's true that the Supreme Court decision may not affect all tribes recognized after 1934, making that claim could just lead to lengthy and costly legal battles, according to attorney Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier, an Indian gaming expert with an Arizona law firm.

Cromwell and Tobey said the Mashpee Wampanoag are committed to the effort in Congress. "It was encouraging to see leaders of tribes all focusing on one issue and trying to work in collaboration on one issue," Tobey said.

Expect opponents of Indian casinos to push back. "I'd like to see them fix reservation shopping," said Rich Young, president of two groups that oppose the proposed Indian casino in Middleboro.

The Mashpee tribe made no mention of Middleboro in its extensive application for federal recognition, Young said, but after the tribe was acknowledged in 2007 and cut a deal with South African casino moguls Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, the tribe asserted ancestral ties to the town more than 40 miles from their headquarters in Mashpee. "That's reservation shopping," Young said. "They decided on a piece of land that was going to be the most profitable, plain and simple."

It's unclear how many tribes have requested off-reservation casinos. A BIA spokeswoman could not provide that information by deadline after repeated requests, but published reports indicate there are more than 30 applications in the pipeline for casinos as far as 1,000 miles away from a tribe's main reservation.

The Mashpee tribe has said they're not applying for an off-reservation casino. They've applied to put land into trust for an "initial reservation" that includes 140 acres in Mashpee and 539 acres in Middleboro. The tribe's royal family is buried in Middleboro and the tribe has spiritual ties to an area known as Betty's Neck in the neighboring town of Lakeville, according to the tribe.

While it may be debatable whether reservation shopping applies here, it's a practice some in Congress, chief among them Sen. John McCain, the former chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, have been critical of and moved unsuccessfully to change in the past.

The so-called "Carcieri fix" gives those who support changes to Indian gaming regulations a bargaining chip.

"If they try to do something that involves amending the (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), that's going to open a can of worms," Staudenmaier said.

In an interesting twist, tribes could face opposition from other tribes, she said. "There are a lot of tribes that are opposed to reservation shopping," Staudenmaier said. "They take their lands as they see them. They don't go out looking for land in the urban areas."

But Steven Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota, said some of the vocal critics of Indian gaming regulations, such as McCain, are no longer in the powerful positions they once held.

In January 2008, the Department of the Interior denied casino land trust applications from 12 tribes, including a Wisconsin-based tribe backed by Kerzner and Wolman that sought to develop an off-reservation casino in the Catskills of New York. It was a strong message from the Bush administration about off-reservation gaming.

But there is a new administration in Washington, D.C., which made efforts to reach out to American Indians on the campaign trail and in appointing a tribe member to a key White House position in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jodi Archambault Gillette.

"What isn't a test for President Obama these days?" Light said. "All the indicators are that he is supportive of tribal interests, but that doesn't mean in any way that given the political climate, you'd see the President Obama administration say off-reservation gaming is great."

Though Indian gaming was at the heart of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, Light said any proposed fix could ramp up lobbying once again.

"It depends on what general direction the wind is blowing when the hearings start up," he said. "If the wind is blowing in the tribe's favor, the big corporate players don't need to get involved."

Connecticut Sun Essay Contest For Children Ages 4 Through 8

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The Connecticut Sun announced an essay contest for children in grades 4 through 8 are eligible to participate in an essay contest.

One-page essays on the subject of "Who is your favorite female athlete and why?" must be received by the Sun front office by April 10. Entry forms and information about prizes are available at wnba.com/media/sun/womeninsports.pdf

The first 50 entries will receive a special gift and two pre-season basketball tickets, according to the website.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Governor Rell To Reconsider Expanded Casino Drinking Hours After Saturday's Fatal Car Crash

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Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said that she will "rethink" plans to expand drinking hours at the two Indian casinos after a college student died in a fatal car crash Saturday in Montville.

Elizabeth Durante, a 20-year old student at Conn College, died after the van she was in was struck by a car driven by Daniel Musser. According to reports, Musser was driving on the wrong side of the highway, heading south in the northbound lanes of I-395 near the Troop E state police barracks.

Musser, a sailor at Groton's submarine base, was driving without his headlights on early Saturday morning when his car struck a van carrying 8 students. Musser was charged with manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol.

The students were on their way to Boston's Logan International airport where they planned to embark a flight to Uganda where they were to do humanitarian work.

It isn't clear where Musser may have been drinking prior to the accident. It may take weeks to learn of his activities leading up to the crash, according to officials.

Governor Rell proposed extending drinking hours at the two Indian casinos to 24 hours a day in a recent budget plan. The state's current drinking hours last until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

Durante lived in the college's "substance-free" dormitory and had campaigned against college drinking, according to the Hartford Courant.

Many legislators have been critical of Rell's plan to extend the casino's drinking hours and this latest incident just may torpedo the idea altogether.

Connecticut Sun Positions

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We came across this in the Hartford Courant:

"Connecticut Sun positions: The Sun will hold auditions for an in-game host/emcee (entertain the crowd and interact with fans) on March 18, 6-8 p.m., at Mohegan Sun Arena, with registration at 5:30 in front of the arena box office. Applicants must be 18. Those interested should contact operations manager Brennan Galloway at bgalloway@connecticutsun.com or at 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, CT 06382. In addition, the Sun are seeking to fill the position of Blaze, the team mascot. Auditions will be March 19, 6-8 p.m., at Mohegan Sun Arena, with registration at 5:30 in front of the arena box office. Those interested should contact Galloway at the same addresses. The Sun are also accepting applications for summer college interns, positions that run from mid-May through mid-Sepetember. Send a resume and cover letter to Jen Hildebrand, publicist, at jhildebrand@connecticutsun.com or to Internship Coordinator, Connecticut Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, CT 06382."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tribe's Racetrack-Slot Parlor's Next Competitor To Open In Late May

The Mohegan Tribe's Pennsylvania racetrack-slot parlor will face more competition when the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., opens in late May.

The Sands slot parlor is scheduled to open to the public on May 22 and plans to hold a grand opening celebration on June 9.

Sands, located about 70 miles from Mohegan's Pocono Downs, will open with 3,000 slot machines.

Future plans for the property, contingent upon financing, include a hotel, additional retail space and a museum showcasing history of the Industrial Age.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Photo: Sunset Over Mohegan - Pequot Bridge Today

Photos: Proposed Casino Site In Palmer, Massachusetts

Photos Taken Today Of Mohegan Sun Satellite Office In Palmer

Store owners on either side of the Mohegan Sun's satellite office at 1426 Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts said they haven't seen anyone go in the office. Photos taken today reveal that the office is vacant. The neighbors have been told that the space is leased. The going price for that space was $1,600 a month but it is very possible, according to other tenants, that the landlord dropped the price to fill the space. A Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority offical said last month that "this (satellite) space could serve as a design and construction office for the project." Note: Photo of the inside of empty office was taken through the window from outside.

Birch's Bar And Grill To Close Monday For Four Days

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Birch's Bar and Grill, a favorite dining spot for some Mohegan elders, will be closed for about four days next week due to construction that will divide part of the restaurant off to make room for another establishment.

Birch's will lose the bar section and some of its tables once a divider is put up this week to make room for Bobby Flay's eating and drinking venue that will open at a later date.

Although Birch's is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the authority will cede much of the space at Birch's as well as the entire Fidelia's restaurant to noted chef Bobby Flay.

It is not known why MTGA would give up Fidelias, which is also owned by MTGA, and part of Birch's to another entity that will split the profits instead of MTGA retaining 100 percent of the profits as it now does with those locations.

Some speculate that Flay was awarded half of the future profits from the two restaurant spaces due to MTGA's inability to follow through with a previous contract that was negotiated with Flay for a dining venue in a proposed expansion.

Although the bar at Birch's will no longer exist after next week, a smaller Birch's restaurant will continue and be open for 24 hours.

We have not yet learned of the closing date for Fidelias.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Free Admission To Mashantucket Museum This Weekend For Bank Of America Customers

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It has been reported that Bank of America customers can visit the Mashantucket Pequot Museum free of charge this weekend and the first full weekend of every month as part of the 'Museums on Us' program as long as you present a Bank of America ATM, credit or check card and a valid ID.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reminder: Tribal Government Office Closed Friday For Tribe's Federal Recognition Anniversary

Photo: Workhorses Working To Keep Vehicles From Making Their Own Parking Spaces

New Agreements Struck With Mohegan Gaming Authority Executives

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority filed a report to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission on new agreements with the senior executives of the casino:

"On February 23, 2009, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (the “Authority”) executed employment agreements with each of Mitchell Grossinger Etess, Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Jeffrey E. Hartmann, Chief Operating Officer of the Authority, and Leo M. Chupaska, Chief Financial Officer of the Authority. These agreements amend and restate the previous employment agreements with each executive. The terms of the agreements for Messrs. Etess and Hartmann commenced as of January 1, 2009 and expire on June 30, 2012, with annual base salaries of $1,358,291 and $1,285,565, respectively. The term of Mr. Chupaska’s agreement commenced as of January 1, 2009 and expires on June 30, 2011, with an annual base salary of $721,856. The agreements also reflect, among other things, the agreement by each executive to forgo their 2009 annual 5% salary increase and includes a 10% reduction in each executive’s salary. The agreements for Messrs. Etess and Hartmann contain automatic renewals for an additional five year term unless either party provides notice to the other on or before the 120th day prior to the end of their agreement’s stated term of an intention to terminate at the stated termination date."

The entire filing can be viewed at:

The Tribe In The Media: New Ideas For Massachusetts Gaming Discussed

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Along with the US Supreme Court's landmark decision last week that could hamper the ability of some tribes to have land taken into trust by the federal government - including the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Wampanaog tribes of Massachusetts - officials in Massachusetts are now discussing possible gaming developments without the cloud of a massive Indian casino being built in their midsts. This installment of the The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Republican newspaper of Massachusetts on the current status of gaming discussions in that state.

Slots-only casino plan proposed
By Dan Ring
The Republican
March 4, 2009

BOSTON - Saying that state government needs a financial boost, Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill on Tuesday told state legislators they should approve three casinos with only slot machines, including one in central or western Massachusetts.

Cahill said three "slot parlors" could generate as much as $3 billion in upfront licensing fees for the state and about $250 million a year in tax revenues.

"I would put one west of Worcester, in between Worcester and Springfield I think makes sense," Cahill said after testifying before a legislative panel. "That to me makes sense for fairness and also for competition. Nobody from Springfield is going to drive to Boston to play slots when they can go to Connecticut, unless there is a slot parlor in Springfield, or in Warren or somewhere in between."

Gov. Deval L. Patrick raised some doubts about Cahill's idea, saying that short-term ideas should not take precedence over the resort casinos he supported last year. Patrick said resorts would offer more economic benefits and the social costs would be less severe.

"I think the most important thing in this area and others is that we not make long-term decisions on the basis of short-term factors," Patrick told reporters. "Whatever we do or not do is going to be with us for a while."

Similar to Patrick's plan for resort casinos, Cahill would place slot parlors in Boston, Western Massachusetts and the southeast part of the state.

Jeffrey E. Hartman, chief operating officer for the Mohegan Sun, declined to comment on whether the Mohegan would bid for a slot parlor in Massachusetts, saying it's premature. No bill has been submitted to legalize Cahill's proposed slot parlors.

Hartman said he is happy that Cahill is targeting Western Massachusetts for a slots-only casino.

"We like it because it leads to economic development in the west," Hartman said. "Our focus is on developing jobs in Western Massachusetts."

The Mohegan Tribe, which owns the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., wants to open a casino on 150 acres in Palmer across from Exit 8 on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Led by former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, the state House of Representatives last year overwhelmingly defeated Patrick's bill for casino resorts.

Cahill said it makes more sense economically to start with casinos with only slot machines. Cahill said the slot parlors could eventually develop into full-blown casinos especially if the locations are right.

"You have to take into account the realities of the market," Cahill said. "There is just no financing available to build destination resort casinos today."

Supreme Court Decision Affects Regional Tribes

By Ken Davison
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Last week, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1934 law that allowed the federal government to take land into trust as reservation land for all federally recognized Indian tribes.

The decision still will allow the US Department of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes recognized as of 1934 but the court decision will affect dozens of tribes that became federally recognized after 1934.

The court case involved 31 acres in Charlestown, R.I., that the Narragansett Tribe wanted to add to its reservation’s land base. Once land is taken into trust by the federal government on behalf of an Indian tribe, the land can no longer be taxed and will not fall under the regulatory laws of state or local governments unless an agreement between the state and the tribe allow for compliance with their laws.

Since the Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983, the Supreme Court ruled they were not covered by a 1934 law called the Indian Reorganization Act.
The court decision should not affect the ability of the Mohegan Tribe to add land until the Tribe reaches its 700-acre settlement area limit allowed at the time the Tribe was federally recognized in 1994. The 158-acre Fort Shantok property is not included in the 700-acre limit.

Currently the Mohegan Tribe owns about 350 acres (not including Fort Shantok) and is awaiting a decision on its September application to add another 49.75 acres to its reservation. Land on Broadview Avenue, Church Lane and parcels at the former Trading Cove Pizza site are among the parcels listed on the 49.75-acre application, according to Tribal officials. Other land owned by the Tribe but not included in the reservation boundaries are the Cochegan Rock and Shantok Apartment parcels.

If the Interior Department agrees to add the 49.75 acres to the Mohegan Reservation, the Tribe could add another 300 acres before it reaches its 700-acre limit.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal noted in a press release two days after the ruling that that neither the Mohegan Tribe or Mashantucket Pequot Nation were federally recognized in 1934 and that the court decision “effectively prohibits the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes from annexing land outside their settlement areas. The Supreme Court decision leaves intact the existing reservations, because both were created by acts of Congress."

In the Narragansett Tribe’s case, known as Carcieri v. Salazar, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn an appellant court ruling that went in favor of the Narragansett Tribe. Carcieri is the governor of Rhode Island and Ken Salazar is the Secretary of the US Interior Department.

The attorney for Rhode Island's Governor Carcier, Theodore Olson, argued that trust status for the Narragansetts’ land could result in the development of a casino on that land. Olson said the 1934 law was meant to restore protection for tribes affected by an earlier system of land allocation and that the trust status allowed under that law, which exempts those tribal lands from state and local laws, were needed to remedy the harm done by earlier legislation.

The 1934 law defined Indians as "all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction." Olson argued that the word ‘now’ must be given its ordinary meaning and should not apply to tribes recognized after the 1934 law was enacted.

Olson argued that since the Narragansetts were federally recognized in 1983 that they should not covered by the 1934 law.

"Because the record in this case establishes that the Narragansett Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted, the Secretary does not have the authority to take the parcel at issue into trust," Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion.

The current US Supreme Court is the first court in which all of the justices had attended either Yale University or Harvard University, although one of the justices ended up graduating from yet another Ivy League school.

A brief history of the Narragansett Tribe’s relationship with the federal government was noted in court documents: “The Narragansett Tribe was placed under the Colony of Rhode Island’s formal guardianship in 1709. It agreed to relinquish its tribal authority and sell all but two acres of its remaining reservation land in 1880, but then began trying to regain its land and tribal status. From 1927 to 1937, federal authorities declined to give it assistance because they considered the Tribe to be under state, not federal jurisdiction. In a 1978 agreement settling a dispute between the Tribe and Rhode Island, the Tribe received title to 1,800 acres of land in petitioner Charlestown in exchange for relinquishing claims to state land based on aboriginal title; and it agreed that the land would be subject to state law. The Tribe gained formal recognition from the Federal Government in 1983, and the Secretary of Interior accepted a deed of trust to the 1,800 acres in 1988.”

The court ruling will no doubt hamper the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts in having land taken into trust where it has planned a massive casino. The Mashpees, federally recognized in 2007, hoped to have 539 acres in Middleborough, Mass., taken into trust for a proposed casino.

Congress may need to pass a new law that would allow the Mashpee and other tribes not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 to have land taken into trust on their behalf.
Lacking the pressure of an Indian casino in their state, Massachusetts officials may not entertain suggestions for commercial casinos. Administration officials had previously reasoned that if an Indian casino was to be built by the Mashpees, then the state should also allow commercial casinos.

According to the Cape Cod Times, an agreement that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe signed with their investors not only guaranteed the investors a hefty cut of any future casino revenues but promised to repay the investors the millions of dollars it borrowed even if the casino is not built.

A spokesman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe said, "It's still the tribe's position that the casino will proceed. There's a concern about what this decision will mean in terms of the timing, but it holds to the fact that at some point the federal government will correct the land-into-trust issue."

The Tribe In The Media: The Massachusetts Question

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is a Boston Globe article on the effect on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe by last week's US Supreme Court landmark decision.

The US Supreme Court delivered a crippling setback yesterday to the Mashpee Wampanoag in Massachusetts and many other tribes across the nation that are seeking to build casinos, ruling that the federal government cannot place land into trust for newly recognized tribes.

The ruling instantly cast doubt on the Mashpee Wampanoags' quest to build a $1 billion casino in Middleborough, disappointing tribal officials who had hoped to get 539 acres put into federal trust as soon as this spring.

The ruling also eliminates one of the political rationales that had been advanced last year by Governor Deval Patrick and other gambling proponents for approving casinos in Massachusetts. Administration officials had argued that the tribe was likely to win a Native American casino someday, so the state should get in on the action first and control the flow of revenues by setting up its own network of licensed casinos.

But the Supreme Court, ruling in a Rhode Island case involving the Narragansett Indians, said that for nearly 75 years, the federal government had been misreading the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. In a 6-3 ruling, the court decided that land-trust status should have been granted only to tribes that were federally recognized before 1934.

The result is a major reshuffling of the gambling picture across the country. Specialists said the Mashpee Wampanoag and other tribes will find it necessary to mount a fresh lobbying campaign in Congress in a bid to change federal law for dealing with Native American land.

"It's absurd on its face that the policy of the United States government would be to recognize the sovereignty of native tribes, but not allow those sovereign nations to take land into trust," Cedric Cromwell, the newly elected chairman of the Mashpee tribe, said in an interview. "We look to Congress to correct what the court could not."

Cromwell is planning to send letters this week asking US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, as well as US Representative William D. Delahunt, to file legislation to change the law. Representatives of the state's delegation, as well as the governor, said they were reviewing the decision, but took no position yesterday.

The ruling is expected to trigger an outcry among the dozens of Native American tribes that have been seeking to obtain sovereign land, and it will provide an early test for President Obama, who has promised to be more attuned to the concerns of Native Americans.

"The implications are literally coast to coast and border to border," said Dennis Whittlesey, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in Indian law and helped negotiate the multimillion-dollar agreement between the Mashpee Wampanoag and the town of Middleborough. "If this decision is not overturned by the Congress, the Mashpee project cannot go forward. There cannot be a casino there."

Some members of Congress, including US Senator John McCain, have said there are problems with current gaming laws and have suggested overhauling the federal system to restrict tribes from opening casinos off reservations and prevent outside investors from reaping huge profits from tribal casinos. Some lawmakers have also been critical of so-called reservation shopping, where tribes and developers attempt to build casinos that are, in some cases, hundreds of miles from historic tribal lands.

"There's no doubt this casts a major shadow over opportunities to expand Indian gaming on off-reservation land or otherwise," said Steven Andrew Light, codirector of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. "This is one of those bolts from the blue that potentially changes a lot of things."

The Mashpee tribe won federal recognition in 2007 and is attempting to have land in two areas put into federal trust: 140 acres in Mashpee, where its tribal headquarters is located, and 539 acres in Middleborough, about 25 miles away, where it wants to build the casino. The Mashpee tribe has been planning 4,000 slot machines, table games, a 1,500-room hotel, and amenities including a golf course.

The Supreme Court case - Carcieri v. Salazar, 07-526, which was heard in November - stems from a dispute in Rhode Island over the Narragansett tribe's argument that 31 acres of land in Charlestown, R.I., it owns should be placed in a federal trust.

State officials, concerned that the tribe would create a tax-free zone or build a casino, argued that federal law prevents the US government from taking land into trust for tribes recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983.

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston rejected the state's claim in July 2007, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision yesterday.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, along with several other attorneys general from other states, signed onto the case with Rhode Island.

Debate hinged on the phrase "now under federal jurisdiction," wording in the 1934 law. Rhode Island officials argued it meant the law would apply only to tribes that were recognized when the law was passed, while the tribe argued it was ambiguous.

"Because the record in this case establishes that the Narragansett Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted, the secretary does not have the authority to take the parcel at issue into trust," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in a fully dissenting opinion, criticized Thomas for a "cramped reading" of the 1934 law. Two justices, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, offered opinions that dissented in part.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Tribe In The Media: Tribe's Next Competitor In Pennsylvania

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in Pennsylvania's Times Leader newspaper regarding the opening of a large slot parlor about 70 miles away from the Tribe's Pocono Downs facility. The new slot parlor is expected to open in late May and will compete with Pocono Downs to some extent. The state is also looking at allowing bars to operate video poker machines which would further cut into slot parlor revenues.

Proposal to legalize video poker more a concern than Sands casino in Bethlehem
Local casinos set for Sands competition
By Andrew M. Seder
Times Leader
March 2, 2009

The opening of the Sands casino in Bethlehem this spring is sure to have an impact on the Mount Airy Casino near Mount Pocono and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Township. But both venues are prepared for the competition and believe any loss of business will be limited. Rather than other casinos, Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposal to legalize video poker machines in bars and clubs is seen as the bigger threat.

Mohegan Sun President Robert Soper said there will be some loss of customers after Sands Bethlehem opens, but he believes all three facilities can coexist in the northeastern quadrant of the state.

Doug Niethold, vice president of finance for the Sands, said the Lehigh Valley, southern Poconos and central and northern New Jersey will be the primary markets they’ll look to draw from.

None of those are within the primary markets Mohegan Sun caters to.

Soper said “less than 1 percent” of Mohegan Sun customers come from New Jersey. He said overall, as much as 4 to 5 percent of Mohegan Sun’s total revenues could be affected by the Sands’ opening.

Pete Peterson, spokesman for Mount Airy, said he’s not afraid of the Sands’ opening.

“In this industry, you can’t be afraid of competition. That’s the nature of the industry,” Peterson said.

Mount Airy lies squarely between Mohegan Sun and Bethlehem, about an hour’s drive from each. But Peterson said what Mount Airy has to offer sets it apart from its neighbors.

“We’re a complete resort facility,” he said, mentioning amenities including a hotel, spa, nightclub, slot machines and restaurants. “Bethlehem is more of just a gaming floor.”

He agreed that some Mount Airy customers will have their interest piqued by something new and may head to Bethlehem to check out the Sands when it opens, but he expects most of those that do will come back to the Poconos.

“It’s going to have an impact, but it’s something we’re going to meet head on,” Peterson said.

Jim Wise, the vice president of marketing for Mohegan Sun, agreed that “people will travel to try a new product” but said he’s confident that existing customers who have been cultivated by the casino’s promotions will remain loyal to Mohegan Sun.

That’s an “advantage to being established first,” Soper said.

Still, when Mount Airy opened its doors, wagering at Mohegan Sun fell by about 15 percent for several months, according to data from the state Gaming Control Board.

Soper doesn’t expect as much impact this time, since the Sands is much farther away than Mount Airy. He added that he takes some comfort in the idea that “ultimately we do serve fundamentally different markets” but he’s not ready to take anything for granted.

“We certainly won’t underestimate anyone entering the market,” Soper said.

Saturation is more of a concern for casinos closer to Pennsylvania’s borders, attendees at last week’s Pennsylvania Gaming Congress in Harrisburg said. Competition is here or on the horizon from Maryland, which has approved slots; West Virginia, which recently approved table games for some of its gaming venues; established casinos in Delaware and New Jersey; and New York, which has a 4,500-slot machine venue set to debut at Aqueduct Raceway later this year.

Poker proposal
Of more concern to casino operators is Rendell’s proposal to legalize tens of thousands of video poker machines at bars and social clubs.

Concerns over oversight and equitability were raised by several panel members including Wise. He said that background checks, hearings and millions of dollars were demanded of the state’s casino operators before licenses could be obtained, and for bars and clubs to now step in and be given legal authority to operate the devices reeks of unfairness.

Rendell’s plan calls for using the revenue raised from the video poker machines to fund tuition for students wishing to attend any of the 14 state universities or community colleges.

“Raising money for higher education is a worthy goal, and we would never dispute that. The method of raising these funds makes little sense,” Soper said.

He said bringing up to 80,000 video poker machines online “would be extremely detrimental to the (casino) industry.” If the goal is to raise funds for higher education, there’s a more secure and already well-regulated way to do it, he said.

Soper said legalizing table games at casinos and then allocating a percentage of the revenues for tuition for higher education makes more sense and is something he and other casino operators could support.

He said adding table games also would create hundreds of jobs across the state, something legalizing video poker machines likely wouldn’t do. At Mohegan Sun alone, it could mean between 400 and 500 new jobs, Wise estimated.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Winter Storm Expected Tonight

Feather News

Light snow began to fall at Mohegan this morning but that is expected to change tonight when a heavy snow storm arrives. The snow is also expected to continue into the daytime tomorrow, possibly leaving 8 inches to a foot of snow.

It is unlikely that the Mohegan Tribal government office will open tomorrow morning - the predictions hold true - although stay tuned to WFSB channel 3 for official Tribal announcements.

The Tribal office is closed on Friday for the annivarsary of the Tribe's federal recognition.

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan and Mashantucket Debt

Feather News

This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in yesterday's Norwich Bulletin regarding the Mashantucket and Mohegan's possibility of defaulting on creditors.

Debts may be too big for Mashantuckets, Mohegans to repay
By William Sokolic
The Norwich Bulletin
February 28, 2009

While unlikely, analysts have not dismissed the “B” word from the realm of possibility at Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods unless lending terms are renegotiated.

In November 2007, Foxwoods took out 8.7 percent high yield notes for $500 million. There is a high likelihood the credit will go into default, making it possible it would face bankruptcy, said Dennis M. Farrell Jr., a gaming analyst with Wachovia Capital Markets LLC in Charlotte, N.C.

“Both casinos are under pressure. They both carry large debt burdens. A potential bankruptcy is a risk,” Farrell said.

Bankruptcy would tread unfamiliar waters because of sovereign nation status.

“This is a very complicated situation. All of those lands in the tribal nations are in trust by the federal government. Creditors could not own the land or assets, nor run the casino. I do not think we’d be in a position to ever file bankruptcy,” said Lynn Malerba, vice chairwoman for the Mohegan Tribe.

The casino owners could stop paying creditors, but that would make it more difficult to borrow money at a later time, said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

Because bankruptcy among Indian tribes has not been tested, an out-of-court settlement seems a more likely solution, Farrell said.

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