Friday, July 31, 2009

BIA Chief To Visit New York Site Targeted For Indian Casinos

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About 90 miles northeast of the Mohegan's Pennsylvania slot parlor is the New York Catskill Mountain range, a site where three Indian tribes have been seeking to build Indian casinos.

Two of the three tribes seeking to build a casino in the Catskills have received rejection letters from the federal government but the new head of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs intends to visit the Catskill region in August prompting speculation that the tribes could eventually get a more favorable response to their casino plans.

One of the tribes, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, planned to develop and manage a casino in conjunction with the principles of Trading Cove Associates, the Mohegan Tribe's former casino managers. That plan was rejected in early 2008, when the Department of the Interior said their off-reservation casino proposal was too far from their reservation. The reservation for the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans is in Wisconsin, after they left New York in the early 1800's.

The other two tribes are the St. Regis Mohawks and the Senecas Tribe, both of New York.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been a strong advocate for Indian gaming in the Catskills region. Currently, only the Monticello Gaming & Raceway in the Catskills has slot machines.

New York's Governor supported legislation for up to five tribal casinos in the Catskills region between 2001 and 2005.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mohegan Sun Fireworks Canceled For Tonight

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According to sources, the fireworks at Mohegan Sun have been canceled tonight. The rain date is scheduled for tomorrow night.

Connecticut Sun Loses To Phoenix 95-80

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Phoenix last night by a score of 95-80 with 7,739 in attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun is in second place in the Eastern Conference, trailing Indiana by 3.5 games.

The Sun will play next at Indiana on Thursday, followed by three more games on the road. The Sun's next home game is on Sunday, August 9, against Washington.

Tribes In The Media: Connecticut's Schagticoke Indian Fights For Federal Recognition

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an Indian Country Today article on the Schagticoke Tribe's fight for federal recognition.

Schaghticoke appeal moved forward in 2nd Circuit
By Gale Courey Toensing
Indian Country Today
July 29, 2009

NEW YORK – The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has lined up its arguments for a restoration of its federal acknowledgment in a final brief filed in June in appellate court.

Tribal attorney Richard Emanuel filed the tribe’s brief in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals June 8. It is a consolidated response to objections to the restoration of the tribe’s federal status by the defendants and interveners – the Interior Department and its officials, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, respectively.

“I’m looking forward to presenting our arguments to the 2nd Circuit,” Emanuel said, but declined to discuss the details of the case. The court will likely hear arguments in the fall.

The BIA recognized STN in a Final Determination Jan. 29, 2004, then reversed itself 20 months later in an unprecedented Reconsidered Final Determination, taking away both the Schaghticoke and Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation’s federal recognition.

The 2nd Circuit Court appeal challenges a decision by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Peter Dorsey last August that denied the tribe’s Administrative Procedures Appeal of the RFD. That appeal claimed the recognition reversal was due to unlawful political influence by powerful politicians, an anti-Indian casino group and its lobbyist, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, now known as BGR, who violated federal laws, agency regulations, congressional ethics rules and court orders in trampling the tribes’ due process rights.

Dorsey’s ruling granted the defendants’ summary judgment request to dismiss the case, and denied the tribe’s summary judgment request to restore its federal acknowledgment, or appoint a magistrate judge or special master to determine the tribe’s status, or remand the issue to the Interior for further consideration.

In the introduction to his brief, Emanuel reviews the actions that took place in the time between the BIA acknowledgment and reversal of STN’s federal status: politicians’ calls for investigations, congressional hearings where the tribe’s federal recognition was attacked, violations by Blumenthal of an ex parte prohibition against communicating with federal decision makers, ex parte communications with the Interior Board of Indian Appeals by members of Congress, a threat by Virginian Rep. Frank Wolf to tell the president that then Interior Secretary Gale Norton should be fired if she didn’t reverse the tribe’s recognition, and the introduction of legislation by former Connecticut Congresswoman Nancy Johnson to terminate the tribe, which castigated by name former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Aurene Martin.

“As Judge Dorsey stated (or perhaps understated) in his ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, ‘what followed the Final Determination in the backrooms of Washington is the subject of much concern to STN.’ It should be of much concern to this court too,” Emanuel wrote in his brief.

Emanuel uses Dorsey’s own words frequently to support the tribe’s claim of undue political influence.

He quotes Dorsey at length, for example, to refute “the adversaries” claim that the political influence activities were unimportant and ineffective because they took place during the three-month period between the Final Determination and the filing of requests for reconsideration.

“There is no question that throughout 2004 and 2005 the Connecticut Congressional Delegation, Connecticut state and local officials, and other public and private stakeholders, including a community organization in the Town of Kent which hired the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers to advocate on its behalf, lobbied the secretary of the Interior, the BIA, the White House, and even this court about reversing the acknowledgment decision,” Dorsey wrote in his ruling.

The brief argues that the appeals court can and should consider the tribe’s claim of political influence not only under an “actual influence” standard, but also under a stricter “appearance of bias” or “appearance of impropriety” standard.

Dorsey was involved in an appearance of bias or impropriety issue during the tribe’s appeal in his court. The tribe discovered through a Freedom of Information request a letter he had written to Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell in August 2005, assuring her that he had extended a deadline to the tribe as a precautionary measure to avoid a possible future reversal of his decision – a decision he hadn’t made yet – by another court that might accept as valid the tribe’s claim of undue political influence.

“It reflects a caution intended to avoid a reversal by another court which might buy a due process argument,” Dorsey wrote.

The unnamed court is the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court where the tribe is now appealing Dorsey’s ruling. The tribe questions whether Dorsey’s letter meant he had prejudged the tribe’s due process claims unfavorably and was told he had not.

Emanuel also quotes Dorsey’s assertion that federal decision makers came under a tsunami of political pressure to reverse the STN’s federal recognition.

“There is no question that political actors exerted pressure on the department over the course of 2004 and 2005 in opposition to the Final Determination acknowledgment of STN, both publicly through congressional hearings and media publicity and privately through meetings and correspondence with the secretary and other agency officials,” Dorsey wrote.

But Dorsey denied STN’s appeal in part, he said, because federal decision makers said they were not influenced by the frenzy of political pressure that was brought to bear upon them.

That’s not good enough, Emanuel said in arguing that the district court misapplied the summary judgment standards.

“This court should not endorse the proposition that by the simple expedient of denying bias, a government official can wipe away all evidence of it. A political influence claim implicates mental processes like bias, motive and intent. Such issues are elusive, at best, and are difficult to prove. Bias and motive are generally proved by circumstantial evidence.”

Emanuel also refutes Blumenthal’s lengthy discussions on state recognition and marriage rates as a “stealth” harmless error argument – meaning that Blumenthal is saying even if error occurred in the process, it wasn’t “harmful” because the BIA reached the legally “correct” decision in its reversal.

In his argument against “harmless error,” Emanuel quotes the Supreme Court statement that, “Among those basic fair trial rights that can never be treated as harmless is a defendant’s right to an impartial adjudicator, be it judge or jury.”

Emanuel also cites fairness and justice as an imperative. The tribe respected the process and played by the rules as confirmed by Interior Inspector Earl Devaney in a 2004 report of an investigation he had conducted in response to requests from Connecticut Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joe Lieberman.

“Our investigation found no evidence to support the allegation that lobbyists or representatives for STN directly or indirectly influenced BIA officials to grant federal acknowledgment to STN,” Devaney wrote.

“Those rules now require that this court reverse the District Court’s judgment,” Emanuel wrote.

Tribes In The Media: Seminoles Not Happy With Florida Compact Negotiations

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This installmnet of The Tribes In The Media is a Miami Herald article on Florida's proposed gaming compact with the Seminole Indians.

Seminole gambling deal in Florida on hold
By Mary Ellen Klas
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
July 28, 2009

TALLAHASSEE -- Negotiations over a gambling deal between the governor and Seminole Tribe have been on hold for the last two weeks as they await word on whether the House and Senate will modify their take-it or leave-it offer.

"The ball is kind of in their court," said George LeMieux, the former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist who is on the legal team representing the governor in the talks.

But Rep. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who has been the House's point man on the issue, said Monday he believes the blueprint passed by lawmakers for negotiations was the final word.

"They want a counter offer and that's not what the legislation called for," Galvano told the Herald/Times. "We don't view it as an opportunity to renegotiate what was presented."

The Legislature gave the governor until Aug. 31 to complete a compact with the tribe that would formally give them the right to operate slot machines and blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer at their casinos in South Florida.

The deal also allows the tribe the exclusive right to operate slot machines at its casinos in Tampa, Central and Southwest Florida and in exchange, the tribe would pay the state at least $150 million a year.

But lawmakers didn't rule out the option for expanded gambling elsewhere -- such as slot machines operating at Miami International Airport or in other parts of the state. They simply said that if lawmakers expanded gambling, the tribe wouldn't owe the state as much money.

The tribe wants the exclusive right to slot machines outside South Florida and the failure of legislators to guarantee that has been the crucial sticking point in the only day of formal meetings held to negotiate the compact thus far, said several participants.

Galvano was present at the meeting, as was Senate President Jeff Atwater's chief of staff, Budd Kneip. He was more of a "silent observer" than participant, however, said Senate spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof, and Galvano "made it clear, the Legislature had acted."

But LeMieux believes the legislative inflexibility could lead to no deal.

"What's at stake here is whether we are going to have limited gaming in Florida," he said. "If we do not approve a compact, I'm concerned the future of Florida is casinos in every part of our state."

LeMieux, whose first attempt at negotiating the compact was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court because it offered the tribe black jack and other banked card games that were not legal in Florida, said the legislation passed last spring improved on the first agreement.

"I think the Legislature actually did some improving, but everybody has got to be flexible in the negotiations or it won't be successful," he said.

LeMieux said he fears that if the state fails to close the deal with the Seminoles, the federal government will step in and give them everything they have now with no limits, and Florida will recover nothing in new revenue.

That will open the door, he said, to even more expanded games -- from slot machines at the Miami airport, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers "and the 7-11 in Chiefland."

"There's a chance we're going to be back in the wild, wild West," LeMieux said.

Galvano sees it differently. He said that the first compact the governor negotiated allowed the tribe to adjust its revenue sharing if additional games were added in Palm Beach County but negate the deal if they were added elsewhere in the state.

"We've taken it a step further," he said, noting that the legislation allows for revenue to be adjusted if slots are added anywhere in Florida. "Let's have a more fair approach."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Foxwoods Announces New Round Of Layoffs

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Foxwoods' officials announced today that 67 employees, mostly salaried and managerial employees, will be laid off.

These layoffs represent less than one percent of its 8,200 full-time employees.

Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises, said that any employee affected by the new layoffs will have the opportunity to apply for other positions in the organization or they will qualify for severance benefits if not offered a job in the company.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brothertown Indians Awaiting Fed Recognition Decision

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The Brothertown Indians, who began as a group of Christian Indians led into upstate New York and Massachusetts by Mohegan Samsom Occum and others in the 1760's, are expecting to become federally recognized as early as this week.

The Tribe is now located in Wisconsin after they sold their land and moved in the 1830's along with the Oneidas and Stockbridge Indians. The Tribe consists of about 4,100 members.

The Brothertown Indians were the first Indians to be granted U.S. citizenship. That event took place by an act of Congress on March 3, 1839.

The Tribe claims to have built the first church in Wisconsin, a Methodist Episcopal Church. "The tribe is also credited with operating, at that time, the first flour and saw mills in the area, and building the first steamboat that navigated Lake Winnebago."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photos: Last Weekend's Rhode Island Indian Council Powwow

Mohegan Aaron Athey To Be Arena Director And MC For Powwow In New York

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Aaron Athey will be the Master of Ceremonies and Arena Director for the American Indian Powwow/Spirit of the Mountain Music Festival in Stephentown, New York on August 7 - 9.

The powwow is about 30 minutes from Albany. The powwow hours are from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. and the admission fee is $5. The address is: Rt. 22 and Rt. 43 in Stephentown, N.Y. and the contact number is 518-733-9227. The host drum is Rez Dogs and the Honor Drum is Mystic River. Joanne Shenandoah, among others, will sing at the event.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


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This morning's article, and an article on Monday, listed tomorrow as the date for the WNBA all-star game. The actual date for the game is on Saturday. The articles have been revised to reflect the correction.

Connecticut Sun Beats Sacramento 83-75

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The Connecticut Sun beat Sacramento 83-75 last night. It was reported that 5,675 were in attendance at the 10,000-person capacity Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun have won four games in a row putting their season record at 9-6.

The Sun's next game is on Tuesday against Phoenix followed by four games on the road. The game on Tuesday will be televised on ESPN.

The WNBA All-Star game is Saturday at 3:30 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. According to The Day newspaper, "Friday's practices for the East and West All-Stars will be open to the public. The East practices from 3-3:45 p.m. The West goes from 4:15-5 p.m. Arena doors open at 2:30 p.m."

Note: This article was revised to reflect that the date of the WNBA all-star game is Saturday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tribal Gaming Authority Refinances $330 Million Of Debt

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA) reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week that it borrowed $340 million in order to repay a $330 million debt that came due last week.

The $330 million debt represents about one fifth of MTGA's total long term debt of $1.6 billion.

This piece of the debt that was just refinanced has been hanging around for about a decade in one form or another. MTGA first borrowed $300 million in 1999 as part of the $1.2 billion Sunburst expansion and was later refinanced when the Tribe’s business arm, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA) borrowed $330 million about five years ago.

Not only was no money set aside for the last five years to repay the $330 debt, but it grew another $10 million to $340 million.

MTGA reported the following to the SEC last week, "On July 15, 2009, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (the “Authority”) drew $340.0 million under its $850.0 million revolving bank credit facility, which was established pursuant to a Third Amended and Restated Loan Agreement, dated as of December 10, 2008, by and among the Authority, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, the lenders named therein and Bank of America, N.A., as Administrative Agent. The proceeds of this borrowing were used to repay the Authority’s 6 3 /8% $330.0 million Senior Subordinated Notes at maturity on July 15, 2009, plus accrued interest."

Upon reaching last week's due date for the $330 million borrowing, MTGA will have paid over $200 million in just interest expense on that one piece of debt since it was first taken out in 1999.

Despite early announcements after the 2001 Sunburst expansion by MTGA that it would pay down the $1.2 billion Sunburst expansion debt aggressively, only about 18% of that debt has been paid off since the expansion first opened in 2001. The MTGA’s profits, as adjusted, suffered badly in the first three years after the expansion first opened, averaging $57 million in total profits for each of those three years (fiscal years 2002, 20003 and 2004) compared to the $140 million average profit for each of the last two pre-expansion years (fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2001). Since 2004, profits generated by the Mohegan Sun have increased and are roughly equivalent to the profit levels of the pre-expansion years if one does not take into account the losses resulting from the diversification program.

Note: This article focuses on one component of the debt and is not designed to give the reader a complete picture of the Tribe’s financial situation. It is our hope that through more articles covering the Tribe’s finances, the reader will gain a clearer understanding of the financial situation. MTGA's debt does not include tribal government debt or any of the approximately $1 billion the Tribe will pay to the former casino management partners, Trading Cove Associates, over a fifteen-year period. All profit figures have been adjusted to reflect actual payments to Trading Cove and do not take into account the amounts reimburseable by Penn National to the Tribe in fiscal year 2006.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Connecticut's New Swine Flu Epicenter Less Than Ten Miles From Mohegan

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The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, located less than ten miles from the Mohegan Reservation, reported that 37 cases of the H1N1 swine flu emerged over the past 4 days at that facility.

According to officials, those cases are not showing all of the symptoms that are showing up in swine flu cases across the country. "Typical symptoms include a cough and low-grade fever with an average temperature of about 100 to 101 degrees," one official said.

Slot Parlors To Become Full-Fledged Casinos In Delaware

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a GGB News article that dates back to May 15th but illustrates the expansion of gambling on the East Coast and Delaware in particular.

Delaware Gets Sports Betting, Table Games
GGB News
May 15, 2009

A week after the state House narrowly rejected sports betting because of an attached tax increase, a compromise bill, with a lower tax hike and authorization for both sports betting and table games in Delaware’s racinos, was signed into law. Dover Downs’ Ed Sutor (l.), however, says the devil is in the details.

Delaware’s racinos to become full-blown casinos

The three racinos in Delaware are set to become full-blown casinos offering a full range of table games and sports betting, in addition to the slots they have offered since 1995.

After an extraordinary week that included an initial rejection of sports betting by the state House, marathon negotiations between Governor Jack Markell’s team and lawmakers in both the House and Senate, and remarkably quick votes in both chambers, the governor signed a bill into law that gives the state’s three racinos a competitive edge over casinos in both Pennsylvania and Atlantic City—although at a significant price, as the effective tax rate on slots will soar over 60 percent under the new law.

Delaware will be the only state besides Nevada with casinos containing sports books. The state was one of four—joined by Nevada, Montana and Oregon—grandfathered under a 1992 federal law banning sports wagering. Delaware qualified for exemption because of a brief, unsuccessful sports lottery run in the 1970s.

Racino officials said last week that they can have sports books up and running in time for this year’s pro football season, and can have live poker, blackjack, craps and roulette up and running within six months.

The exact form sports betting will take will not be known until the governor and state lawmakers receive an advisory opinion from the state Supreme Court on what forms of wagering will pass both state and federal muster legally. However, the three racinos—Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway—are planning for Vegas-style sports books, which are possible with relatively minor modifications and training of clerks at the tracks’ existing simulcast operations.

The Maryland Factor

Most observers expected sports betting to take hold in Delaware because of the economy and because of competition from Pennsylvania. However, few expected the expansion to include table games so quickly—until Maryland passed a law authorizing five casinos, including a large casino in Baltimore and two within a few miles of the Delaware border in two different areas.

“What pushed us over the edge (for expansion) was Maryland,” said Ed Sutor (above), CEO of the Dover Downs racino, in an interview with GGB News. “Seventy percent of our business comes from out of state, and 50 percent of our business comes from Maryland.”

The original bill in the Delaware Senate pushed by Markell called for two new casinos—one on the Wilmington waterfront; the other at a new racetrack near the beaches—and up to 10 new sports-betting outlets, as well as the table games. In exchange, Markell wanted to raise the state’s share of gaming revenues by 11 percent, from 37 percent to 48 percent. The original House bill included sports betting only, along with the 11 percent tax hike. It failed to reach a supermajority (required for a change to the state Constitution) by only two votes, mainly because of the 11 percent hike.

The compromise bill passed by the House lowered the hike to 6.5 percent, in exchange for the addition of table games. It passed the House easily, on a 30-4 vote. The Senate followed through quickly, stripping its bill of the new gaming venues and approving the House-passed version of sports betting, table games and the increase in the state’s share of gaming revenues.

Sutor says the “victory” of achieving both table games and sports betting is offset to a great degree by what he sees as an onerous tax. He says people should be reminded that the former 37 percent tax was effectively 55 percent when the 11 percent cut for horsemen and 7 percent for vendors are factored in. The new state cut pushes the effective gaming tax over 60 percent, which is one of the highest in the nation.

Until the new games are implemented, Sutor says the new tax is going to hurt. “We’re going to love having sports betting and table games, but we’re going to have big layoffs and cutbacks in the meantime,” he said. “The new tax is going to cut off our ability to do expansions. We had a $50 million, world-class sports book already designed. We had a new, $40 million parking garage already designed. We can’t do either—$90 million of our cap-ex just went out the window.”

Dover now plans to renovate an existing restaurant to create a sports-betting parlor, and to use existing simulcast facilities for wagering in the meantime.

Table Timeline

The timeline for the addition of table games depends largely on how quickly state regulations are set. The law mandates that the state controller general’s office, the Department of Finance and a representative of the racinos form a panel to draft and agree on table game regulations—and revenue split—within 75 days, after which the rules will be voted on by the General Assembly.

The racinos are partnering with Delaware Technical Community College to bring in dealing instructors from other states and create a dealer training program. If all goes as planned, the racinos hope to have table games go live before Christmas.

That is, if they can afford it.

Sutor says operators are hopeful the panel will follow the lead of West Virginia, which implemented a lower tax rate (35 percent) for table games than it uses for slots because of the extra labor costs and surveillance requirements involved. If the panel applies the law’s new revenue tax to table games, Sutor says Dover Downs will not offer them. “If they take 60 percent on tables like they do on slots, and our payroll is over 40 percent, do you think I’m going to put table games in?” he said. “We hope that within 75 days, we’ll have a reasonable revenue-sharing agreement.”

Outside of the Supreme Court opinion, the only possible delay to offering sports betting by football season would be court action. Both the NFL and NCAA have threatened lawsuits to block the new sports betting, but Sutor predicts that any such lawsuits will fail—just as similar lawsuits against the sports lottery failed during the 1970s.

“The NFL sued back in the ’70s and lost,” said Sutor, who derides league officials for what he sees as a double standard. “We would not be surprised if the NFL files another suit, because they are very hypocritical. They testified before our legislature that fantasy sports—which they make a lot of money on—is not gambling. Their lawyers also represent baseball. Twenty-three Major League Baseball teams are on scratch-off lotteries throughout the country. Are lotteries gambling? How many NBA owners are also involved with casinos?

“When you get the facts out there, the NFL looks ridiculous.”

AC Impact

After the gaming expansion bill passed, some in the Atlantic City media sounded alarm bells of new, powerful competition from Delaware at a time the casinos there are struggling.

However, Sutor says Atlantic City is in little danger from direct competition. “We couldn’t compete in promotions with Atlantic City before; we won’t be able to compete now,” Sutor, a former Atlantic City casino executive, said. “People have overblown what impact Delaware will have on Atlantic City. If Atlantic City revenues go down after we introduce sports betting, it will have more to do with Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) and Aqueduct than with us. Sports betting doesn’t generate a lot of revenue. It’s more of a marketing advantage in bringing people to the property.”

Sutor does concede that the addition of table games is likely to pressure Pennsylvania—now with table games in bordering states West Virginia and Delaware—to approve table games more quickly than previously thought, which would indeed impact Atlantic City.

Atlantic City operators, though, can still count on the fact that New Jersey’s low tax rate allows much more reinvestment in destination amenities than is possible with the high tax rates in all of its nearby competition.

New Jersey lawmakers are pressing a federal lawsuit challenging the ban on sports wagering on the basis of states’ rights. After last week’s developments in Delaware, New Jersey state Senator Raymond Lesniak asked Governor Jon Corzine to put his wait behind the campaign for New Jersey sports betting.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dealers Vote For Strike At 2 Atlantic City Casinos

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Business Week reported that "dealers at Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City were joined in the balloting held Saturday by slot technicians at Caesars. All three groups are members of the United Auto Workers."

"In announcing the results Sunday, UAW spokesman Dave Mellet said 97 percent of Caesars dealers and 100 percent of the slot technicians authorized a strike, as did 92 percent of Bally's dealers. That comes just months after dealers and slot technicians at the Tropicana Casino and Resort made similar decisions."

Connecticut Sun Beats Indiana 67-61

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The Tribe's WNBA basketball team, the Connecticut Sun, beat Indiana yesterday by a score of 67-61.

The game's attendance was reported at 6,517 at the 10,000-person capacity Mohegan Sun Arena.

For the season, the Sun has now won 8 games and lost 6 and is in second place in the Eastern Conference. Indiana leads the conference with a season record of 11-3.

The Sun's next game is against Sacramento at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The league's all-star game is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Slot Revenue Continues To Decline At Mohegan Sun

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Mohegan Sun reported an 8.9 percent decline in slot revenue for the month of June 2009 when compared to June 2008. Last year, in June 2008, Mohegan Sun reported a 9 percent decline in slot revenue when compared to the month of June 2007.

In terms of dollars, June slot revenue was $61,830. This is the amount lost by customers at the slot machines in June. Last year, in June 2008, slot revenue was $67,829. The year before that, in June 2007, slot revenue was $74,532.

Even though June slot revenue declined 8.9 percent compared to last year, it has decreased 17 percent when compared to the month of June 2007 (two years ago).

Local media has noted that the revenue declines are not as steep as those seen at Atlantic City casinos. What is not reported in the local media is that gambling houses have been built in all of the states surrounding New Jersey, where Atlantic City is located.

Pennsylvania now has eight slot parlors. Slot parlors have also been built in New York and Delaware. With the addition of these new slot parlors, it isn't surprising that Atlantic City casinos are reporting steep declines in their gambling revenue.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday's Fireworks At Mohegan Sun's Riverview Garage Rooftop

If anyone ever wondered how the fireworks look to someone who is nearsighted or how fireworks look when a camera cannot focus

Paul Athey with his speed machine

Another view of Paul's car - we're told it can hit a speed of 240 m.p.h.

Analysts Skeptical Of States' Gaming Initiatives

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Reuters article on the future of gaming.

States see $ sign in gaming, analysts skeptical
By Joan Gralla
July 15, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Staring at the video lottery terminal at New York's Yonkers Raceway, Diane sighed as $300 was reduced to $20 in less than a minute.

"I don't want my son to know; that's all the money I had," she said.

Diane and her friend Frances, two middle-aged gamblers, are core customers of the Empire City casino. Its 5,300 slot machines are a source of revenue for the state of New York which also wants to turn Long Island's Aqueduct Racetrack into a "racino" by adding thousands of slots.

A growing number of U.S. states are considering legalizing slots to try to generate revenue to plug budget gaps, even as the recession has hurt the country's gaming industry.

The warning signs for New York and other states considering expansion into gambling to fill their coffers is illustrated by Las Vegas, where the "win" -- the money a casino collects from gamblers minus the winnings it pays out -- has fallen for 17 months through May.

Gambling is just one revenue source for many of the 50 states but the money can add up quickly. Connecticut, for example, has garnered $5 billion from its two Native American casinos since they opened in 1993.

The problem for states is not merely a lack of demand among middle-aged and senior players. Diane comes to play about once a month and would come every day if she could afford it.

The question states are asking is whether younger players will find slots, reincarnated as video lottery terminals, as alluring as older players, and whether the new "Transformers" -- consumers who have morphed into savers during the downturn -- will return to gaming with their previous fervor.

Craig Parmelee, a Standard & Poor's analyst, said it could take three to four years for consumers to resume spending freely enough to rekindle gambling revenues.


The Empire City casino, owned by the Rooney family, owners of the Super Bowl football champion Pittsburgh Steelers, said a new marketing effort had countered the downturn's effects.

All but about 40 cents of every $5 plunked into the video lottery terminals is returned to gamblers, Marketing Director Ryan Murphy said.

New York state collects about 66 percent of that 40 cents in taxes, while the lottery and breeder purses get another 7 to 8 percent, Murphy said. So the casino keeps about 10 cents.

The proliferation of new sites has put states at risk of cannibalizing one another's revenues. After years of failed attempts, Maryland legalized as many as 12,000 lottery terminals, partly to block Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia from siphoning off gamblers.

Other states, including Kentucky and Ohio, are reviewing whether to legalize slots as neighboring Indiana has done.

Analysts, eyeing falling revenues around the country and ill-timed expansions in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and at some Native American casinos in Connecticut and California, said there might be too many venues or that growth may be limited.

"The pie will expand somewhat but the pieces of the pie will become smaller," said Michael French, a PricewaterhouseCoopers analyst based in Philadelphia.

The high cost of travel and Congress's criticism of corporate junkets hit Las Vegas especially hard. California's high jobless rate has also hurt.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Spokesman Frank Streshley saw some signs of relief, however: weekend gamblers were coming back, although they were spending less.

"Where the problem is, it's midweek," he said. Whether conventions, a major source of business, return will not be known until autumn.


Lottery ticket sales typically hold up during recessions as people want a shot at the big time. But it remains unclear how long the recession will choke gambling by the majority of players who are not high rollers.

Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute in New York, said that unlike the truly wealthy, people whose net worth was a million dollars or less may be hard to win back.

"Those people are gone -- and maybe forever," he said.

Ron Kurtz, an American Affluence Research Center principal in Atlanta, disagreed, saying gamblers would return once stock, credit and job markets recovered.

"Americans have a relatively short memory when it comes to adversity," he said.

Analysts agreed casinos would have to offer increasingly sophisticated video games to lure younger clients; other strategies include games based on television shows, such as "Deal or No Deal," and nightclub entertainers.

Joseph Tindale, a gerontology professor at Canada's University of Guelph, said casinos may have to "keep mutating" to woo younger clients. His research showed they preferred card games with friends or over the Internet, even if just for play money.

States may license slots only to find themselves weighing whether to next add table games, from dice to Baccarat.

Pennsylvania already has felt the pressure.

Just weeks after the May opening of a casino on the site of the headquarters of the former Bethlehem Steel, Innovation Group consultants from Denver told legislators that table games could create more than 16,000 jobs and raise nearly $1 billion of revenue by 2012.

That may be tricky to manage. Just getting approval from legislatures and voters for slot machines can take years; so can going from slot licensing to construction, Parmelee said.

Securing financing is tougher.

"The lending industry is certainly not getting in line to make loans to casinos these days," Parmelee said.

Some states have other potential gaming strategies. Hawaii's legislature proposed taxing Hawaiians who play other states' lotteries or "contests of chance." Delaware is hoping to add betting on football to its lottery by autumn.

(Additional reporting by Franz Strasser and Ciara Linnane; Editing by Howard Goller and James Dalgleish)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods Both Report That June Slot Revenue Declined About 9%

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Slot revenues are continuing their decline at Mohegan Sun.

Mohegan Sun reported today that its slot revenue for the month of June declined 8.9 percent compared to last June while Foxwoods reported a 9.1 percent decline in its June slot revenue.

Mohegan Sun's slot recorded $61.8 million in June slot revenue and Foxwoods reported $57.8 million. Both casinos are required to pay 25 percent of these slot revenue totals to the state of Connecticut.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the Tribe's business arm, announced today that they will host a conference call with financial analysts on August 5, an event that generally coincides with MTGA's release of its quarterly income statement.

Connecticut Sun Beats Los Angeles 82-71

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The Connecticut Sun beat Los Angeles by a score of 82-71 last night.

Attendance was reported to be 6,612 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun's season record is now 6-6 and will play next at San Antonio on Friday. The Sun's next home game is Sunday against Indiana.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photos: Wreath Laying Ceremony For Samuel Huntington

Photos by Charlene Harris

The United States - then a confederation of thirteen states - was first governed by a document called the Articles of Confederation. It was under the Articles of Confederation that this nation was called the United States of America. This document was drafted in 1776 and ratified by the states in 1781. Although this document was replaced by the Constitution in 1778, the Articles of Confederation might be considered the nation's first Constitution.

Under the Articles of Confederation, there were ten presidents of Congress. The first president of Congress was Norwich citizen Samuel Huntington. It is for this reason that many consider Huntington the first president of the United States.

Today, Congress authorizes wreath laying ceremonies on the birthdays of every dead president of the United States but does not lay wreaths for those presidents of Congress that were recognized under the Articles of Confederation.

Norwich resident and historian Bill Stanley has spearheaded efforts to have Huntington recognized as the nation's first president and initiated wreathlaying ceremonies to commemorate Huntington's birthday. The Unity Drum (pictured above) has attended these events. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (also pictured above) gave an emotional speech on democracy at last Sunday's event as well as speaker Denny Gibbs.

Senator Al Franken Named To Senate Indian Affairs Committee

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Minnesota Senator Al Franken was named to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

The Committee Chairman, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), issued a press release saying, "We welcome Senator Franken as a member of the committee, and look forward to having his help as the committee works to improve the lives of Native Americans, meet the federal government's treaty obligations, and strengthen health care, law enforcement and economic development efforts in their communities."

Sen. Franken, a Democrat, was sworn in to the Senate on July 7, 2009 after a contentious ballot recount from last November's election. Minnesota is home to about 40,000 Indians.

Franken became famous as a writer and comedian for the Saturday Night Live television show. Franken later became an author and nationally syndicated radio show on Air America Radio.

The Indian Affairs Committee is currently comprised of 15 Senators but is authorized to have up to 18 members. None of the current members are Senators from the East Coast.

The Committee is responsible for "all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating to Indian affairs shall be referred to the select committee." It is also the duty of the Committee to "study of any and all matters pertaining to problems and opportunities of Indians, including but not limited to, Indian land management and trust responsibilities, Indian education, health, special services, and loan programs, and Indian claims against the United States." The Committee may also conduct investigations into any matter within its jurisdiction.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Court Allows New York Tribe To Sell Tax-Free Cigarettes

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A New York state appeals court decided that the Cayuga Indian Tribe of New York can sell tax-free cigarettes on their ancestral homeland even though the stores are not located on what is technically considered reservation land held in trust by the federal government.

County officials confiscated cigarettes from two of the Cayuga Tribe's stores last Fall and sought to prosecute tribal officials for not collecting state sales taxes from customers on its cigarette sales. The stores stopped selling cigarettes after last year's raid. Authorities confiscated about a half-million dollars worth of cigarettes in that raid.

The tribe is expected to file a lawsuit to recover the value of the confiscated cigarettes as well as the loss of revenue that resulted from the Tribe's halting of cigarette sales since the raid.

Florida Tribes To Charge State Tax On Cigarette Sales

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Miami Herald article on a decision made by the Indian tribes in Florida to begin charging their non-Indian customers state sales taxes on cigarette sales.

No more tax-free smokes; Seminoles, Miccosukees start charging state levy
By Josh Hafenbrack
Miami Herald Sun Sentinel
July 12, 2009

TALLAHASSEE - Smokers, beware: If you have relied on the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes' smoke shops as a tax-free haven for cigarettes, think again.

The tribes have begun charging the state tax on cigarettes for the first time since Florida imposed it 66 years ago, coinciding with the $1-a-pack state tax hike that took effect July 1. The new tax is $1.34 a pack.

Tribal members still can get untaxed cigarettes for their personal use, but non-Indian visitors to the reservations must now pay the levy.

Florida began taxing cigarettes in 1943, but no Indian tribe collected it until now.

Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminoles, said the tribe hoped to reach an agreement with the state on how to divvy up the tax revenues, a concept similar to the gambling compact now being negotiated with Gov. Charlie Crist. ''While that process is coming together, I think the tribe just in good faith has moved ahead to charge the tax,'' Bitner said.

Cigarette sales at Indian smoke shops are a big business. About 25 million packs of cigarettes a year are sold on tribal reservations in Florida, the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation says.

State economists estimate tribal cigarette sales could produce an extra $20 million in revenue, based on 15 million packs being sold with the $1.34 tax.

For South Florida smokers, though, the tribes' decision is more unwelcome news. It shuts down a convenient source of discounted smokes at a time their habit is becoming more and more expensive. The federal tax also went up 62 cents, to $1.01 a pack, in April.

'When I went the other day [to the Seminole smoke shop] and saw the sign, I went, `What? Another $13 -- $56 for a carton?' '' said Cathy Hoffman of Hollywood. ``I was shocked. I think I'm going to have to switch to a cheaper brand.''

The Seminoles have reservations outside Hollywood and Coconut Creek, and four others elsewhere in Florida. The smaller Miccosukee tribe is based in Miami-Dade County.

''If we left it [untaxed], you would have more people going to the tribe to go buy their cigarettes and you wouldn't accomplish the goal'' of giving smokers a financial incentive to quit, said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, a backer of the cigarette tax whose district includes a Seminole reservation. 'That was one of the big criticisms: `All you're going to do is encourage black-market cigarettes.' This closed that loophole.''

State lawmakers created a system so native Indians won't have to pay the tax. On June 30, the state began issuing 1.9 million coupons for tax-free cigarette packs to the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes. The figure is based on a formula that provides 1,825 coupons per tribal member each year -- or five packs a day, every day of the year for each tribe member. The tribes use the coupons when they buy cigarettes at the wholesale level and then sell untaxed packs to their members.

''We wanted to come up with a formula that no one could argue was unfair to the Indians,'' said Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, the primary author of the cigarette bill.

Legal precedent seems to back up the state's system. A 1985 U.S. Supreme Court decision, based on a California dispute, held that states could collect cigarette taxes from sales on tribal lands, but only from non-Indian customers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Connecticut Sun Loses To Detroit 79-77

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost in overtime to Detroit last night by a score of 79-77.

Attendance at the 10,000-seat capacity Mohegan Sun Arena to watch the game was 6,342, meaning that over 3,000 seats were vacant.

The Sun's season record is now 5-6 and will play next at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday night against Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New London Fireworks And Sailfest Festival This Saturday

Worker Injured During Construction Of Mohegan Government Building

Feather News

A worker was injured yesterday after a fall on the construction site of the Tribe's government building. The incident marks the second fall of a worker in less than two months. In May a worker died after falling and both incidents are currently being investigated by the federal occupational safety board.

The Tribe announced several months ago that construction would be halted on the building due to financial costraints.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photos: Tantaquidgeon Museum

Jason gives students a lesson at the museum

Mohegan Archaeology Field School Enters Third Week

By Ken Davison
Feather News

About 40 tribal members have taken the Mohegan archaeology field school over the past 15 years but this year may mark the end of the course.

The Tribe's archaeologist, Dr. Jeff Bendremer, is expected to leave the area shortly after the completion of the course at the beginning of August. It was primarily for this reason that I joined the class as well as my love of history. The full-time course is also why the content on the Feather News has been so light in the past weeks.

Dr. Bendremer worked on the Mohegan Reservation as a volunteer for five years, beginning in 1994, and was later hired by the tribe in 1999. Before that, Dr. Bendremer had worked with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and has participated in numerous excavations of Indian sites in Connecticut.

The course, done in partnership with Eastern Connecticut State University, has been a unique opportunity for tribal members to study archaeology with non-tribal students on the Mohegan homeland.

The first week of the course was devoted primarily to classroom instruction mostly taking place around a picnic table at Fort Shantok. Tribal archaeologist Elaine Thomas joined Jeff in instructing the students on a various topics ...

The class was joined every morning by a curious squirrel who always arrived late but stayed close to the picnic table. And there was the bluejay who who refused to leave the branch above Sister Bette Jean Coderre's head while she told us stories.

Charlie Strickland, Storyteller Sister Bette Jean Coderre, Medicine Woman Melissa Zobel, Tantaquidgeon Museum specialist Jason Lavigne and Mashantucket Pequot Archaeologist Kevin McBride also shared with the class some of their perspectives on history in the first few weeks of the course. The students so far have vistited the Tantaquideon Museum, the Mohegan Congregational Church, the Ashbow Burial Ground, Cochegan Rock, the Mohegan Sweatlodge, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and other sites.

Mashantucket Pequot archaeologist Kevin McBride explained to the class that the Western Pequot's (now known as the Mashantuckets) 1666 reservation is the earliest reservation in the United States and that the Great Cedar Swamp area at Mashantucket was inhabited as early as about 12,000 years ago.

While at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum students got to see a display that described the wild sunflower seeds found by Jeff Bendremer on a dig at Windsor, Connecticut. The seeds were kept preserved due to a grass lining and is the only evidence that Indians in Connecticut used the sunflower plant.

Students got to watch the Mark of Uncas movie. In that movie, Vine Deloria spoke of how unique the Mohegans are in that we know the founder of our Tribe: Uncas. Our split with the Pequots in the 1600's coincided with the first European explorers and colonists that arrived in our region and who documented some of the local Indian history.

Jeff compares archaeological sites to endangered species and notes that development is the most destructive human activity affecting sites.

Beginning with the second week, the class began to learn excavation skills in the field.

The field school, in conjunction with the Tribe's archaeology staff, participate in the Tribe's efforts to better understand how Mohegans and earlier inhabitants lived. The course is one of the oldest field school collaborations with an Indian tribe.

Students were shown artifacts recovered from past excavations, including pottery, pipes, wampum beads, projectile points (arrowheads) and bottles. Part of this collection has come from archaeologists who have dug on Mohegan homelands a half-century ago and earlier.

Besides learning excavation techniques, artifact processing and Mohegan Indian history, the program concentrates on exploring the relationships between archaeologists and Native Americans.

Other guest speakers lined up for the course include the Tribe's archivist Faith Damon Davison, a.k.a. Mom, Connecticut Indian Affairs coordinator Ed Sarabia, Connecticut State Archaeologist Nick Bellantoni and Narragansett Indian John Brown.

Connecticut Sun Lose To Atlanta 72-67

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Atlanta last night by a score of 72-67.

Asjha Jones and Tan White led the Sun in scoring, both with 14 points. The Sun is now in third place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference with a season record of 5-5.

The next two games will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena, first against Detroit on Saturday and then against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fireworks At Norwich Harbor

Saturday's fireworks in Norwich Harbor. Photos by Bill Donehey.

Powwow At Mashantucket Pequot Museum On Wednesday And Thursday

Feather News

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is hosting a powwow on Wednesday and Thursday (July 8 and 9) at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. The hours of the powwow are from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and grand entry will take place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum is at 110 Pequot Trail in Mashantucket. Visitors who are not members of the musuem must pay admission to the museum in order to attend the powwow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Matriarch Maria Gilman Passes On

Feather News

The following obituary was in The Day newspaper this morning. Maria was the spouse of the Tribe's late Pipe Carrier, Ernie Gilman, and a family matriarch to the Gilman clan. Burial will take place Wednesday at Fort Shantok. Our sympathies go out to the family.

The Day
July 6, 2009

Montville - Maria (Giorgio) Gilman, 73, wife of the late Ernest W. Gilman, Jr., of Uncasville died Saturday at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

Born in Lauria, Italy on June 28, 1936, she was the daughter of the late Antonio and Maria (Mandarino) Giorgio. Prior to her retirement, she was an inspector at the former John Meyers of Norwich. On March 7, 1959, in Naples, Italy, she was united in marriage to Ernest who died Oct. 9, 2006.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Labenski Funeral Home, 107 Boswell Ave., Norwich, where the funeral will assemble at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and proceed to a Mass Christian Burial at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Patrick, Broadway, Norwich. Interment to follow in Fort Shantok Cemetery, Uncasville.

Connecticut Sun Beats Detroit 95-92 In Overtime

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The Connecticut Sun extended their season record to 5-4 after beating Detroit in overtime yesterday by a score of 95-92.

What makes that game remarkable is that the Sun hasn't been able to beat Detroit on Detroit's home court, The Palace, since 2005. Erin Phillips scored 19 points and Asjha Jones scored 18 points.

The Sun's next game is tomorrow at Atlanta. The next home game at the Mohegan Sun Arena is Saturday at 7 p.m. when the Sun will play Detroit.

Photos: Mohegan Sun's New North Entrance To Food Court Escalator

Entering the Mohegan Sun from the newly-opened Winter Garage, long corridors eventually lead to the escalators that lead down into the new food court.

Photos: Mohegan Sun's Earth Casino Food Court