Monday, August 31, 2009

Mashantucket's Deal With MGM Grand Questioned

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The one billion dollar expansion that the Mashantuckets embarked on last Spring was the topic in an article in The Day newspaper on Sunday. That article is reprinted below:

Upscale Aims Of MGM Grand Termed Mistake
But Foxwoods adviser says finances would be worse minus new facility
By Brian Hallenbeck , Patricia Daddona
The Day

Mashantucket - From the start, MGM Grand at Foxwoods had people shaking their heads, and not just in awe of its glitz, its style, its unabashed embrace of youthful excess.

There was the timing, too, charging as it did right into the open jaws of a recession. How long, some wondered, before the iconic lion on the Las Vegas brand's logo turned tail?

Now, 15 months after the hotel tower's May 17, 2008, opening, the wondering has grown more acute.

In interviews last week with The Day, a senior adviser to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand, said the marketing of MGM Grand to upscale clientele has been a mistake and that the tribe's relationship with MGM Mirage, the gaming giant whose brand the tribe adopted, is “tenuous.”

According to the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the tribe could default this week on the terms of a $700 million line of credit and is seeking to restructure a total of $2.3 billion in debt.

Still, the adviser said, “If we didn't do the deal with MGM we'd be in worse shape.”

The $1 billion MGM Grand, with its 825 hotel rooms, 4,000-seat theater and 21,000-square-foot spa, enabled Foxwoods to maintain its traffic count and secure a greater share of the market before the market tanked, the adviser said.

”Did we spend too much on it? Yeah, probably,” he said.

What benefit the tribe derives from the licensing agreement that allows it to display the MGM Grand name - at a cost of several million dollars a year - is anybody's guess. “We don't get a benefit from it,” the senior adviser said flatly. “A year from now, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a different name on it (the tower).”

A Las Vegas-based spokesman for MGM Mirage, which also has been battered by the recession, said last week the company's relationship with the tribe “is going well” and that there have been no changes in the agreement. Nor has notice of any alterations been filed with the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue, which oversees state gaming, said Executive Director Paul Young.

”MGM Grand at Foxwoods was a very attractive product from a business standpoint,” Gordon Absher, MGM Mirage's vice president of public affairs, said. “It was an attempt by Foxwoods to develop a new product in an already successful market. For our company, it was an opportunity to establish the MGM Grand brand on the East Coast and associate it with another well-established gaming company.

”We were very happy with the execution of the product and, barring the economic downturn, believe MGM Grand at Foxwoods had the potential not only to meet, but exceed our expectations.”

MGM Mirage's alliance with the tribe and its development arm, the Foxwoods Development Co., also included the formation of Unity Gaming, a partnership that would pursue gaming opportunities in other markets. Economic conditions, including the credit crunch, have stymied Unity, Absher said.

Despite adding about 1,400 slot machines to the more than 6,200 in place at Foxwoods, MGM Grand's presence has not kept the tribe from experiencing sharp declines in slot-machine revenues. In July, the casinos reported “winning” $63.3 million at their slots, the most of any month this calendar year but 13 percent less than July 2008. In June, the total was down 9 percent over the previous June and in May it was down 14 percent.

The Foxwoods casinos' slots held their own in February, March and April, bucking the industry-wide trend. However, its win continues to lag behind that of Mohegan Sun, its neighboring competition. Mohegan Sun's July slots win was $69.1 million. And it was achieved at 6,749 machines, more than 800 fewer than operated by Foxwoods and MGM Grand combined.

Slots, of course, aren't the only revenue producers at “destination” resorts. But they're certainly among the ones most affected by the tourniquet the recession has applied to discretionary spending. The convention and hotel businesses have also taken huge hits, industry analysts say.

“For casinos, it's actually the big destination resorts such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Foxwoods that have been the hardest hit,” Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at

UMass Dartmouth, said. “Hotels, conference centers - those are exactly the type of discretionary expenditures that people cut back on in a recession. In other places, you've seen a lot of slot parlors and racinos do OK, which is consistent with the 'staycation' approach.

”They just got caught flat-footed opening in what we now know is the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Barrow said of the Mashantuckets. “You couldn't have picked a worse time to open any business. … I think it was part of a grand plan that made sense at the time. The tribe thought MGM would insulate them from competition or scare it off, and it didn't succeed.”

Michael Pollock, publisher of the Gaming Industry Observer newsletter, holds out hope that MGM Grand will still be a major asset to the tribe once the economy recovers. “This recession will eventually end, and when it ends and the regional and national economies return to something normal, that project will do what it was originally intended to do, which was broaden the visitor base, bring in conferences and bring in a higher level of business,” he said.

Barrow, too, saw some hope on the horizon. “There's no doubt in my mind you're going to see the destination resort casino market come back because it's dependent on discretionary expenditures, so it's going to follow the overall economy,” he said. “But I don't think you'll see that before the second half of 2010, maybe even 2011.”

What's not clear is how the Mashantuckets will weather the storm in the interim.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Connecticut Governor Doesn't Include Keno In Budget

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Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell did not include any revenues from potential Keno games in her current budget proposal.

Keno is a form of gambling that the governor previously suggested should be allowed in restaurants and bars that could generate tens of millions of dollars for the state.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal previously said that the gaming compacts with the two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut would have to be amended should the game of Keno be approved for non-Tribal entities.

The state is currently operating without an approved budget in place for fiscal year 2010, which began on July 1.

Connecticut Sun Lose To Seattle 86-74

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The Tribe's WNBA basketball team, the Connecticut Sun, lost to Seattle last night by a score of 86-74. Last night's game was the first of a four-game road trip for the Sun before returning to the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 4 to face New York.

The Sun's season record is 14-14 and remains in third place in the Eastern Conference, trailing conference leader Indiana by six and a half games and second place Atlanta by one game.

The Sun's next game is tomorrow night at Phoenix.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mashantucket's Credit Rating Lowered

By Ken Davison
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A major Wall Street credit rating agency lowered the Mashantucket's credit rating yesterday on the news that the Tribe is seeking to restructure part of its $2.3 billion in debt.

Standard & Poor's Rating Services lowered the Tribe's credit rating from B+ to CCC, a rating that denotes high risk junk bond status. Both the Mohegan and Mashantucket Tribes now have debt that is rated as junk bonds, risky to investors purchasing the bonds. Standard & Poor's also put Mashantucket on a credit watch with negative implications. In January, Standard & Poor's reduced the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's (MTGA) senior subordinated notes from B to CCC+.

According to the most recent filing by the MTGA, "Such credit rating downgrades may impact our ability to access the debt capital markets in the future. In the event we are able to access the debt capital markets, our costs of the issuance of new debt may be greater than costs incurred by us in the past. We also could be subject to more restrictive covenants and other terms in connection with any such issuance."

While the Mohegan's business arm, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, is the entity that borrows money for its gaming operations and not the tribal government, the Mashantucket Tribe is the borrower on behalf of its Foxwoods casino.

The Mashantucket Tribe issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying it is "in compliance with all debt agreements and is also current with all its debt payments." But that may not last for long, according to sources. An advisor to the Tribe told The Day newspaper that the Tribe is at risk of defaulting on repaying a $700 million line of credit that is due on Monday.

The Mohegan Tribe recently completed its own refinancing of a large bond issue that came due this summer. The Mohegan gaming authority refinanced $330 million of debt that it could not repay.

Yesterday's article in The Day newspaper generated dozens of reader's comments from the public. To see the readers comments, scroll to the section underneath the The Day article at the following link: Link To Article In The Day
Many of the reader's comments were very negative toward the Tribes and Tribal members.

The financial difficulties aren't expected to affect the Mashantucket's push for a slot parlor in Philadelphia. Foxwoods Development Co. is a separate entity from the Mashantucket Tribe and is a thirty percent partner in a group that has been approved for a slot parlor in that city.

Both Indian casinos have a difficult road ahead of them, especially when more casinos in neighboring states open their doors to the same customer base that visits the Connecticut casinos.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mashantuckets To Seek Debt Restructuring

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Bloomberg News report about the Mashantucket's debt and was reporting shortly after this morning's article on the Mashantucket's dire financial situation appeared in The Day newspaper.

Foxwoods Casino Owner Said to Seek Debt Restructuring (Update1)
By Beth Jinks and Jonathan Keehner
Bloomberg News
August 26, 2009

Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribal Nation, owner of the Foxwoods Resort Casino, is seeking to restructure at least $1.45 billion in debt as winnings dwindle, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

A restructuring plan has been submitted to creditors and the Connecticut casino’s owners have hired Miller Buckfire & Co., a New York investment bank, as an adviser, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks aren’t public.

Foxwoods, one of the largest casinos in the U.S. by gambling space, may become the biggest tribal casino company to default. The operation has lost business to the recession and competition from new casinos and racetracks with slot machine- style video-lottery terminals in nearby states. Slot revenue fell 13 percent in July, the casino said on Aug. 14.

“Their options are very, very limited,” Megan Neuburger, an analyst at Fitch Ratings in New York, said today in an interview. “They can’t do the types of things other debtors can in a restructure. Tribal casinos can’t do a debt for equity swap, they can’t raise cash by selling off assets on tribal land.”

Lori Potter, a Foxwoods spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment.

Mashantucket has a $700 million revolver loan due in July 2010, $500 million in 8.5 percent bonds that mature in 2015 and $250 million of 5.912 percent bonds due in 2021, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It may have other debts as well.

New Competition

Closely held Foxwoods, based in Ledyard, Connecticut, once competed only with Atlantic City for gamblers in the northeastern U.S. Today gamblers can also visit the Mohegan Sun casino, operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, 10 miles away in Uncasville, Connecticut, and slot casinos in Pennsylvania; Yonkers, New York; and Rhode Island.

Competition is expected to intensify when New York City’s Aqueduct Racetrack expands and adds slots, and if states including Massachusetts allow casino gambling. The Day newspaper in Connecticut reported the restructuring efforts earlier.

Located on tribal land in the hills of southeastern Connecticut, Foxwoods has three hotels and six casinos with more than 7,200 slots and 380 table games. The Mashantucket Pequots, described as native Algonquins, receive payments from the earnings.

Malaysian investor Kien Huat initially helped finance Foxwoods, which opened a casino and hotel under the MGM Grand brand in May 2008.

Three smaller tribal gaming companies have missed loan obligations during the recession, Neuburger said. In New Mexico, Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino and Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, and in Michigan, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, have defaulted on bond payments.

Connecticut Sun Lose To Detroit 90-70

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The Connecticut Sun lost to Detroit last night by a score of 90-70 last night at the Mohegan Sun Arena before 6,811 people in attendance.

The Sun (14-13) are now in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Sun will play the next four games on the road before returning to the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 4 to play New York.

Seven games remain in the season for the Sun, two of which will be played at home. The last home game is September 13 against conference leader Indiana.

Mashantuckets Buried By Debt

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Day newspaper concerning the Mashantucket Pequots inability to pay its casino debt. Both the Mashantucket and Mohegan gaming operations have debt loads that have only increased over the years with no apparent ability of being able to pay them down. Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell said, "They're working to try to address it with their lenders and hopefully they can, but obviously it's a concern to us." The governor's budget chief, Robert L. Genuario, said officials aren't concerned that the Indian casinos wouldn't default on their payments of slot machine revenue to the state because that money comes off the top.

Mashantuckets near default on Foxwoods' debt
Mashantuckets hope to restructure $2.3 billion in debt; plan sees 'no impact' on Foxwoods
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
August 26, 2009

On the brink of default, the Mashantucket Pequots are seeking to restructure $2.3 billion worth of debt, a senior adviser to the tribe said in interviews this week.

The debt is $1 billion more than the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino - North America's largest casino and once the world's most profitable - can sustain, the adviser said.

”We'll be asking creditors to take a big haircut,” he said.

While restructuring the debt with Malaysian investors, bondholders and banks, the Mashantuckets would continue to operate Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods “as usual,” according to a plan drafted by Miller Buckfire, an independent New York investment bank.

”Restructuring will have no impact on operations,” reads the plan, a copy of which the senior adviser provided to The Day. The adviser discussed the tribe's fiscal crisis on the condition of anonymity, offering a rare look at the Mashantuckets' finances.

The tribe is at risk of defaulting Monday on the terms of a $700 million line of credit with a syndicate of banks, the adviser said.

”Our goal is to reduce debt,” he said. “My feeling is that further reductions (in the casinos' work force) would be counterproductive to the quality of the business.”

The tribe, grappling with the recession's devastating effect on the gaming industry, laid off hundreds of casino employees in 2008, and also trimmed the size of its government and cut benefits for tribal members, including their monthly “incentive” payments.

In a letter distributed by e-mail last week, Michael Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, updated tribal members on the seriousness of the situation.

”Earnings are down considerably and there are no signs of immediate improvement,” he wrote. “... These are dire financial times for our Tribe.”

Thomas, in the letter, said there would be no further reductions in the size of tribal government or in the incentive payments.

”Instead, Tribal Government and the Incentive will now be paid FIRST with any cuts or changes to our operation taking place after our members are paid,” Thomas wrote. “I will not waver from my pledge to protect the Tribal Government and the Incentive.”

Banks that are among the tribe's creditors have pushed for further cuts in tribal government, which already has sustained two rounds of downsizing, the senior adviser said. Over the last 36 months, he said, incentive payments have been cut in half.

While the amounts of individual payments are affected by such factors as age, level of education and employment, they now range, on average, from $90,000 to $120,000 a year, the adviser said.

Likening the tribe's finances to a waterfall, he said Foxwoods casino revenues are currently distributed on four levels, starting with Kien Huat, the Malaysian investment company that originally bankrolled Foxwoods, which opened in 1992. The tribe owes Kien Huat $21.2 million of the $160 million it originally loaned the tribe, the senior adviser said.

”They get first dibs,” he said.

Next in line is the banking syndicate headed by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo/Wachovia, followed by bondholders and finally the tribe.

”Our problem is we have no money for tribal government and the members,” the adviser said.

The tribe this month maxed out its line of credit, moving $91.9 million into cash accounts “to improve its negotiating leverage and better secure the interests of its members during the pendency of restructuring,” the Miller Buckfire plan says.

Thomas, who is up for re-election in November, referred to the money in his letter to tribal members last week. At the same time, he acknowledged differences among tribal leadership.

”Foxwoods is here to support our people not Wall Street,” he wrote. “Those who put the interests of bankers and bond holders ahead of our tribal community will have to answer to me. To make sure, I have introduced a resolution to take our last borrowed dollars and put them in a lock box only to be used for Government and Incentive.”

Thomas declined to answer questions about the tribe's finances.

Much of the tribe's debt is “legacy debt” incurred during Richard “Skip” Hayward's tenure as chairman from 1975 to 1998, a period of rapid expansion at Foxwoods, the senior adviser said. More recently, the effects of the recession and increasing competition have eroded the tribe's revenues.

The $1 billion MGM Grand at Foxwoods, approved during Thomas' tenure as chairman, opened in May 2008.

Although traffic at the casinos has remained constant over the past 18 months, spending per patron has fallen by 50 percent, the adviser said.

For the nine months ending June 30, the casinos' gaming revenues totaled $870 million, down from $926 million for the same period a year earlier. Expenses were reduced by $12 million. The amount spent on promotion remained constant.

In preparing the restructuring proposal, Miller Buckfire assumed the casinos could generate from $200 million to $225 million a year in EBITDA (earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization), enough to support a debt of no more than $1.3 billion, the senior adviser said. The projections, however, might have to be re-evaluated in light of the economic outlook and future competition in Massachusetts, the plan says.

In fact, the prospect of a “destination” casino resort in the Bay State, where lawmakers could legalize casino gambling as soon as this fall, looms as the single greatest threat to Foxwoods, the senior adviser said.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods' neighboring competition, has proposed building a resort in western Massachusetts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Narragansett Tribe To Use Federal Stimulus Money For Housing

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Providence Journal article describing how the Narragansett Indians will spend federal stimulus money that it received for housing.

CHARLESTOWN — The Narragansett Indians will use federal stimulus money to revive an 18-year-old dream: to provide housing for the tribe’s poor and elderly.

In 1991, the tribe bought 31 acres off Kings Factory Road for a 50-home development near Route 1. Soon after, however, it clashed with state and local officials over zoning laws and permits. The legal wrangling went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Now the tribe plans to spend $2 million to remodel what’s left of the project — a dozen derelict homes, said Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, leader of the 2,400-member tribe.

“It sounds like a lot of money,” but the houses — empty for years — must be gutted, he said. “The council has to bring them up to code and make them green if possible.” Some money will be spent on landscaping, sewers and to hire an architect. “It’s almost like starting from scratch,” said Thomas.

The project dates to 1988, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the tribe $4.1 million to build 50 houses. Three years later, the Narragansetts paid about $525,000 for 31 acres in Charlestown.

But work on the project stopped after state and local officials said the tribe failed to get building permits and zoning approval. Tribal leaders argued they did not need permission because the land is sovereign territory and exempt from state and local law.

The tribe tried to expand control over its land through Congress and the courts. In 1998, the Interior Department, at the request of the tribe, agreed to take the 31 acres into trust, a move that would have removed the lot from local and state jurisdiction.

But state and local officials –– worried the tribe would build a casino or other tax-free enterprise on the site –– fought the action in court.

Also, some Narragansetts charged the tribe’s housing authority with mismanagement. In 1999, a federal auditor criticized the tribe for failing to account for how some of the HUD money was spent, and for failing to build any homes for occupancy.

The tribe prevailed in U.S. District Court and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in its fight with Charlestown and the state.

But in February, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the appeal. The high court said the Department of Interior cannot place the land in trust for the tribe because the Narragansetts were not under federal jurisdiction when Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. The Narragansetts gained federal recognition in 1983.

Narragansett and other Native American leaders say they will appeal the decision in Congress and elsewhere.

The decision ignores the tribe’s history, namely that state leaders illegally disbanded the tribe in 1880 and seized its lands, Thomas said.

Meanwhile, the tribe plans to seek “whatever” permits are needed to renovate the houses, Thomas said.

“We will comply” with zoning and other laws, he said. “We would like nothing better than to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site. Then we can get rid of this rumor that we plan to build a casino there.”

In the last 18 years, some of the seniors on a waiting list for a home have died, Thomas said.

HUD last week said it will award $312 million to 61 Native American and Native Alaskan communities. The money will be used to help tribes revitalize neighborhoods, promote energy efficiency and create jobs, said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The Narragansetts are one of only two New England tribes to receive help through the latest round of stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, created by President Obama to strengthen the nation’s ailing economy.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts will also get $2 million.

The money, awarded though two programs — the Native American Housing Block Grant and the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act — can be used to purchase land, build new homes or rehabilitate existing housing by adding new roofs, plumbing and electrical systems. The money can also be used to build roads and water and sewer facilities.

New England Gaming Summit Set For September 27-28 At Mohegan Sun

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The first New England Gaming Summit has been set for September 27 and 28 at the Mohegan Sun casino. According to a press release by BNP Media Gaming Group, the summit will examine the potential for gaming in the New England region and is expected to be attended by industry leaders, policymakers and analysts.

Spectrum Gaming Group will co-produce the event along with BNP Media. To learn more about sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities, contact Lesley Grashow at

Photos: Hurricane Bill Misses East Coast But Affects Waves

Photos and narrative by Bill Donehey
"I spent 30 years living on the west coast, Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Doheny Beach and Zuma were some of my favorite spots to watch the waves and the surfers. I drove along the Rhode Island Shore this past weekend and spotted a site that I only thought possible on an August day in California...Surfers riding BIG! waves. Many of the riders were content to sit on their boards and let the big ones go by, but among them were a few talented individuals that rode like a Malibu veteran. The crowds of on lookers were two rows deep at the breakers in Newport, everyone I saw had a huge smile knowing they had just seen something rare and spectacular. The day took me back to the beaches of California where the site of huge waves and a pounding surf is an everyday occurance, and soon is taken for granted. New England is and always will be the most beautiful part of the country - wait fifteen minutes and it will have a whole new site to behold." Bill Donehey

Monday, August 24, 2009

Connecticut Sun Beat Minnesota 98-94; Three Home Games Remain In Regular Season

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The Connecticut Sun beat Minnesota on Saturday by a score of 98-94 before a crowd of 7,873 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

So far thousands of seats have gone vacant for every home game played by the Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

A total of eight games remain in the regular season, three of which will be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The next game is on Tuesday night against Detroit at the Mohegan Sun Arena. After Tuesday's game, the Sun will play the next four games on the road before returning to the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 4 to face New York.

The Sun is tied with Atlanta for second place in the Eastern Conference. Both teams trail conference leader Indiana by five games.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Photos: More On Mohegan Wigwam 2009

Connecticut Sun Beats New York 74-69

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat New York last night by a score of 74-69. The Sun's season record is now 13-11 and they are tied with Atlanta for second place in the Eastern Conference, trailing conference leader Indiana by six games.

The Sun plays at New York on Friday followed by two back-to-back home games against Minnesota on Saturday and Detroit on Tuesday.

Ten games remain on the Sun's schedule this regular season, only four of which will be played at the Mohegan Sun arena. The last two home games for the Sun are in September: New York on September 4th and Indiana on September 13th.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

George Will Editorial On Internet Poker

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an editorial by George Will on poker and the federal government's policies on Internet gambling:

Howard Lederer, a.k.a. "the Professor," is a professional poker player, not a gambler. If Congress will acknowledge this distinction, it will rectify one of its recent mistakes.

In 2006, Congress, cloaking cunning with moralizing, effectively outlawed Internet gambling by making it illegal for banks or credit-card companies to process payments to online gambling operations. This was more than moral pork for social conservatives. It also blocked online competitors from poaching gamblers from the nation's most aggressive promoters of gambling -- state governments. They are increasingly addicted to revenue raised by lotteries -- the 42 states that have lotteries spent $520 million in 2007 promoting them -- and from taxation of other legal gambling. The law exempted Internet state lotteries and two powerful and vocal interests -- online betting on horse racing and some fantasy sports betting online.

Having turned gambling, which once was treated as a sin, into a social policy, government looks unusually silly criminalizing online forms of it. Granted, some people gamble excessively (although not nearly as many people as eat excessively). Granted, gambling becomes addictive to a small minority (although it is not nearly as addictive as smoking and drinking). Granted, gambling is morally dubious when it is only the unproductive pursuit of wealth without work (although gambling is productive of pleasure for tens of millions of Americans for whom it is a frequent pastime). But never mind whether government should try to tightly circumscribe a ubiquitous human activity that generally harms nobody.

That is beside the point that Lederer and the Poker Players Alliance are toiling to make, which is that by sweeping online poker into its proscription of online gambling, Congress committed a category mistake. Congress, Lederer thinks, should revisit the work of John von Neumann (1903-57), the Hungarian-born mathematician who, after working for the Manhattan Project on implosion design for the atomic bomb, became a defense intellectual specializing in the relevance of game theory to strategic thinking. Chess involves logic; roulette involves probability theory. Poker involves logic, probability and something pertinent to military and diplomatic strategy -- bluffing.

Von Neumann's "Theory of Parlor Games" (1928) and, with Oskar Morgenstern, "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" (1944) established the field of game theory. Another of today's leading professional poker players, Chris Ferguson, is the son of a mother who is a mathematician and a father who teaches game theory at UCLA.

When you play chess, Lederer says, there is symmetry of information: Both players have all the information provided by the location of the pieces on the board, and both are equally ignorant of the opponent's intentions. A computer can be programmed to "play" a powerful game of chess, but not of poker, wherein your opponents' cards are concealed.

Lederer is confident that a brain scan of someone playing poker would reveal a lit-up frontal lobe but the lobe of someone watching television would show up cool blue. A poker player -- unlike someone playing roulette, a lottery or "video poker" (which Lederer says is a misnomer; it is a game of chance governed by a machine) -- is trying to apply skill, acquired by experience, to increase the probability of winning each hand.

The son of an English teacher at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, Lederer decided to spend a year studying chess before matriculating at Columbia University. Instead, he discovered poker. He started at Columbia but left, reasoning that he had found his vocation. He has won about $5 million.

But what is his stake in decriminalizing online poker? After all, he plays much more on green felt-covered tables than online. His interest is threefold. First, his libertarian temperament -- he lives in Las Vegas, where almost anything goes -- is offended by mother-hen government. Second, he wants as many people as possible to have access to poker's delights. Third, the more poker players there are, the larger will be the ranks of competitors, and the television audiences, for professional poker competitions. Hence the larger will be the potential winnings. This year, Lederer says, there were 6,494 competitors in the World Series of Poker Main Event, down about 1,000 from 2006, largely because more players used to win their $10,000 entry fee in online tournaments.

It is a poker skill to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Congress probably should fold its interference with Internet gambling and certainly should get its 10 thumbs off Americans' freedom to exercise their poker skills online.

Federal Government Denies Recognition For Brothertown Indians

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a proposed finding that denies federal recognition to the Brothertown Indian Nation, a group that settled mostly in New York and later relocated to Wisconsin.

The proposed finding concluded that the Brothertown Indians did not meet five of the seven criteria required for federal recognition. The two criteria that the Tribe did meet are those that required the Tribe to provide a copy of its governing document and its membership criteria and a requirement that the membership be composed principally of persons who are not members of another federally recognized Indian tribe.

The conclusion reached by the feds was that the Brothertown Indians' federal recognition was revoked by an act of Congress in 1839. It may take an act of Congress to give them back their federal recognition.

Every Indian tribe is unique and that is true of the Brothertown Indians. The Tribe began when a group of Indians from other tribes - including Mohegans and Pequots - settled in upstate New York and western Massachusetts in the late 18th century. The federal government acknowledged the Brothertown Indians up until 1839, the proposed finding states.

Mohegan's Samson Occum figures prominently in the story of the Brothertown Indians.

According a timeline prepared by Mohegan Archivist Faith Davison, "In 1773, at a general meeting of Christian New England Indians held at Mohegan, a decision was reached to sen Joseph Johnson and Elijah Wampy along with representatives from the seven tribes to the Oneida Indians (in New York) to see if they would donate land for a settlement. It would offer these members an opportunity to maintain a semblance of traditional village life along with an autonomous Indian-supported Christian church."

Further, in 1774, "the Oneida promised a ten-miles tract initially to these brethren or Brothertown Indians, later increasin that to a larger section. They also officially adopted them into the Iroquois Convenant Chain. Occum paid for the land with money raised through donations, and had the forethought to register the agreement/deed in New York and Connecticut."

In 1789, "Occum moved permanently to Brothertown. In the interim he had traveled hundreds of miles back and forth between New York and Connecticut, preaching wherever he could find a congregation."

The proposed finding further states, "The evidence in the record indicates that a Senate proviso to a Treaty of 1831, a Treaty of 1832 and an Act of 1839 constitute 'unambiguous previous federal acknowledgment' of the Brothertown Indian tribe of Wisconsin. Therefore, in accordance with provisions of the regulations relating to previously acknowledged Indian tribes, the proposed finding evaluated the
Brothertown petitioner on the basis of whether or not it meets the seven mandatory criteria ... from last federal acknowledgment in 1839 until the present."

The five criteria the Brothertown Indians did not meet, according to the feds, are:

1) Criterion requiring that external observers have identified the petitioner as an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous basis since 1900. The petitioner must be identified since last federal acknowledgment, which for the Brothertown petitioner is 1839. The evidence in the record demonstrates that external observers identified a historical Brothertown group from 1839 until 1855. Between 1855 and 1981, outside observers periodically identified a Brothertown Indian entity, but because these periodic identifications are separated by long periods of time in which the petitioner or its members’ ancestors were not
identified as an Indian entity, the petitioner does not satisfy the standard of 'substantially continuous' identification as required by the regulations. The petitioning group has been identified as an American Indian entity since 1981.

2) Criterion requiring that a predominant portion of the petitioning group has comprised a distinct community since historical times. The petitioner must
demonstrate only that a predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community 'at present,' which for this case is considered to be the period since the petitioner formally organized in 1980. For the period from 1980 to 2009, there is insufficient evidence that a predominant portion of the petitioning group’s members regularly associate with each other or that the petitioner’s members comprise a distinct community.

3) Criterion requiring that the petitioning group has maintained political influence over its members as an autonomous entity since historical times. The petitioner does not meet the requirements of this criterion because the evidence in the record does not demonstrate that authoritative, knowledgeable external observers identified
leaders or a governing body of the petitioning group on a substantially continuous basis since the date of last federal acknowledgment in 1839. The evidence in the record is insufficient to demonstrate that the petitioner or any group antecedent to it maintained political influence or authority over its members at any time
since 1839.

4) Criterion requiring that the petitioner’s members descend from a historical Indian tribe. The evidence in the record shows that only 51 percent of the petitioner’s 3,137 members have demonstrated descent from an individual known to be a member of the historical Brothertown Indian tribe of Wisconsin. The claims of descent from the historical Indian tribe for additional members of the petitioning group may be demonstrated for the final determination.

5) Criterion requiring that the petitioner not be subject to congressional legislation that has terminated or forbidden the federal relationship. Congress, in the Act of 1839, brought federal recognition of the relationship with the Brothertown Indian tribe of Wisconsin to an end. By expressly denying the Brothertown of Wisconsin any federal recognition of a right to act as a
tribal political entity, Congress has forbidden the Federal Government from acknowledging the Brothertown as a government and from having a government-to-government relationship with the Brothertown as an Indian tribe. Congress has both expressly ended and forbidden the federal relationship for this petitioner.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Photos: Saturday's Mohegan Wigwam Festival

The Mohegan Wigwam Festival
By Bill Donehey

Saturday, August 15, 2009. The one day Mohegan Green Corn Festival (pow wow) was HOT! The crowds were as anticipated, manageable. Most event goers sought the shade of the large tent happy to watch native dancers perform. The number of vendors was small, most stating that a one day event does not provide the income they need to operate. The food vendors were not lacking support, many of the event goers spent nearly half the pow wow waiting in line to get their annual fry bread taco or buffalo burger, The cranberry lemonade was a huge hit, lemonade topped with tart cranberries, cool stuff on a hot, hot day. Some Tribal members participated in the grand entry, donning their annual regalia, some dressed in animal hides and smiled behind a stream of persperation. On Sunday the huge tent remained erect, void of any drumming or dancing while a few volunteers began the process of tearing down. Many still question why only one day? The Narragansetts who do not own a casino seem to have few problems holding a two and a half day event, Maybe this is an indicator that sometimes too much is too much. What would the ancestors say?

Photos: Mohegan Wigwam Festival