Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Phoenix Beats Indiana In First Game Of WNBA Finals

Feather News

Phoenix beat Indiana last night in the first game of the WNBA finals by a score of 120-116.

The second game of the five-game series will be tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on Channel ESPN2.

Monday, September 28, 2009

IRS Considers Taxing Tribal Members' Health Care Benefits

Feather News

During an oversight hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in September, an Internal Revenue Service official pointed out that certain health care benefits provided to members of Indian tribes are taxable.

The IRS is scrutinizing the health care benefits provided by tribal governments to its members and could result in a tax to tribal members who are receiving those benefits.

"It is well-documented that we, as the federal government, are failing in meeting our obligation to provide health care to Native Americans," said Sen. Tom Udall. As a result, many tribal governments are providing medical benefits to supplement what is offered through the federal Indian Health Service. Should those benefits be taxed, then the government would be profiting "from not living up to its duty" to provide adequate health care to Indians, according to some.

The IRS contends that a law needs to be passed by Congress specifically excluding tribal health benefits from taxes. Others contend that the IRS can make the change as it has done by excluding from taxes aid given by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Note: Subsequent to this article being published we firmly believe that tribal members' health care benefits will not be taxed.

Senate Contemplates "Carcieri Fix"

Feather News

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision last year that prohibits the Interior Department from taking land into trust as reservation land for tribes that were federally recognized after 1934 would be fixed if a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan is acted upon.

The Supreme Court case involved the Narragansett Tribe and the governor of Rhode Islan (Carcieri) but the court's decision affected many tribes, including the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts. The Mashpees were federally recognized in 2007 and applied to have 539 acres in Middleborough taken into trust for a proposed casino as well as 140 acres in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Since the Mashpee Tribe was federally recognized after 1934, the Supreme Court's decision made it impossible for the Interior Department to act on the Mashpee land application.

The bill proposed by Sen. Dorgan seeks to change a 1934 law so that the Secretary of the Interior Department can take land into trust for any federally recognized Indian tribe and not just those tribes recognized prior to 1934.

Senator Dorgan explains the proposed amendment in his own words:

"On February 24, 2009, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Carcieri v. Salazar case. In that decision the Supreme Court held that the Secretary of the Interior exceeded his authority in taking land into trust for a tribe that was not under federal jurisdiction, or recognized, at the time the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted in 1934.

"The legislation I’m introducing today is necessary to reaffirm the Secretary’s authority to take lands into trust for Indian tribes, regardless of when they were recognized by the federal government. The amendment ratifies the prior trust acquisitions of the Secretary, who for the past 75 years has been exercising his authority to take lands into trust, as intended by the Indian Reorganization Act.

"On May 21, 2009, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing to examine the executive branch’s authority to take land into trust for Indian tribes. At that hearing, it became clear that Congress needs to act to resolve the uncertainty created by the Supreme Court’s decision. Therefore, this legislation was developed in consultation with interested parties to clarify the Secretary’s authority.

"Inaction by Congress could significantly impact planned development projects on Indian trust lands, including the building of homes and community centers; result in a loss of jobs in an already challenging economic environment; and create costly and unnecessary litigation.

"Further, if the decision stands, it would have the effect of creating two classes of Indian tribes – those who were recognized as of 1934, for whom land may be taken into trust, and those recognized after 1934 that would be unable to have land taken into trust status. Creating two classes of tribes is unacceptable and is contrary to prior Acts of this Congress. In 1994, Congress passed the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act to ensure that all tribes are treated equally, regardless of their date of recognition.

I want to thank Senators Tester, Inouye, Akaka, Baucus, Udall, Bingaman and Franken for their support on this legislation. My co-sponsors are well aware of the resulting impact this decision could have on our Native American communities. Affected tribes deserve our timely consideration of this bill. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the passage of this legislation."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photo: Woodchuck In Uncasville

A woodchuck making his daily visit to a pear tree.

Editorial: Twin River

Feather News

The following editorial is in today's Valley Breeze newspaper about Twin River, a Rhode Island racetrack-slot parlor, that wants to give its executives bonuses during its bankruptcy reorganization.

Twin River bonuses? Are they kidding?
By Tom Ward
The Valley Breeze
September 23, 2009

Twin River bonuses? Are they kidding?

The fact that attorneys for Twin River casino in Lincoln are asking a federal bankruptcy judge to hand out bonuses totalling $1.3 million to eight top officials there ought to infuriate you.

Can we really just turn out backs in exasperation and say "It's just Rhode Island" again?

According to Saturday's Providence Journal, the judge is being asked to approve "a compensation plan that would give the top eight executives...about $3 million in annual pay and bonuses." Later, reporter Paul Grimaldi explains that the bonuses total $1.3 million. Now do the math. The pay portion averages $212,500 per employee. No doubt, the folks at the very top get more, and some less, but really, bonuses averaging another $162,500 each?

I'd write "Is there no shame?" but of course, I know that answer. No, for the connected in Rhode Island, there's no shame at all.

All this takes place against the backdrop of vendors, many of them small local businesses, who will be stiffed by Twin River during bankruptcy proceedings.

Let me be fair. I've noted in previous columns that Twin River has the worst deal in America, having been shaken down by the General Assembly through the years to the point of giving more than 60 percent of the revenue to the state. It's a bad deal. Amplified by the current recession and joblessness, Twin River has spiraled into it's current predicament. The executive staff are not to blame for the mess, and certainly should not be punished. That said, they shouldn't be getting bonuses, either. If there's an extra $1.3 million sitting around, pay off the little guy.

As for the well-worn threat that top executives might leave Twin River in a competitive marketplace, I say go! Head to Macau for all I care. There are plenty of talented Rhode Islanders who would be happy to take a $200,000 job at Twin River.

I trust the judge will laugh this request out of his court.

* Time will tell if Rhode Island's new political party, the Moderate Party, gains any traction. New party Executive Director Christine Hunsinger tells the Journal, "I was a registered Democrat up until last week. I feel my party at the state level has left me. In Rhode Island, we see such a control of one party. It's actually become the party of self interest and special interest, and not the public interest."

Hells, bells! Rhode Island's Democratic Party has been "the party of self interest and special interest" for two generations now, and has the highest unemployment rate in New England to show for it! But I'll be listening to them in the months ahead, and learning what they're all about. I just wish they didn't have such a warm and fuzzy name.

* Just in case you thought there was no media bias by the big newspapers and TV networks, last week's exposé of the scandalous ACORN by a pair of kids with a hidden video camera should put that thought to rest. Even I was stunned by the blatant bias more than the video.

In case you missed it, a young man and younger girl posed as a hooker and her pimp, going to several ACORN offices to ask for money to buy a home. In all cases, they told staffers they were in the prostitution business, and in Baltimore made it clear they were importing young teenage girls from El Salvador to turn tricks. The pair purposely told as bad a story as they could imagine, and over and over, ACORN, the "community organizers" group which President Obama wanted to give $8 billion of your tax money in stimulus funds, instructed the pair on how to break the law.

ACORN is a filthy, corrupt, and useless organization that doesn't deserve even a penny of tax dollars, and the media, outside of Fox News which broke the story, is silent.

Even our own Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse cast an embarrassingly sycophantic vote on the matter. When all in the Senate, including may clear-thinking Democrats, voted 83-7 to cut off funding for ACORN last week, Whitehouse defended this indefensible group. Yes, Rhode Island's former chief law enforcement officer, ex-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, voted to continue funding a group which instructs hookers and pimps on how to open a sex slave business in Baltimore. Hey, it's only your money.

ACORN is finished thanks to two enterprising young reporters, and no thanks to Sheldon Whitehouse. Lucky for Whitehouse, he's got three more years in his term for all of us to forget this.

I recall the old days, when CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" would have relished the ACORN story, but no more. Not today. Now, it's clear that organizations like CBS, MSNBC, The New York Times, Washington Post and others simply choose to ignore news that harms the people they worked so hard to elect.

And they wonder why big-city newspaper circulation is plunging, and MSNBC ratings are in the toilet. Maybe they should try doing their jobs.

Tom Ward is the publisher of the Valley Breeze newspapers

Reminder: Tribal Offices Closed Today

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Cuts Budget

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Cape Cod Times article on the Mashpee Wampanoag's current financial situation.

Mashpee Wampanoag elders gather outside tribal headquarters yesterday, seeking information about the tribe's finances since Chairman Cedric Cromwell took over.
By George Brennan
Cape Cod Times
By George Brennan
September 24, 2009

MASHPEE — Nine tribe elders staged a sit-in at Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Headquarters yesterday, a second attempt in as many days to get answers about how the tribe's money is spent.

The elders were inside when tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell arrived with his wife, Cheryl Frye Cromwell, just after 9:30 a.m., but never confronted him. Instead, Cromwell was greeted by hugs and well-wishes from a half-dozen tribe members, one of them kissing him on his cheek, saying, "Hang in there."

The elders, referring to themselves as the "Golden Elders" because they are all over 62, say tribe financial records are unclear and incomplete.

The elders released a copy of them yesterday that shows the tribe's general fund at just over $200,000 as of May. It also indicates that some funds from an education grant may have been deposited in the tribe's general fund.

Cromwell said the tribal council is trying to sort through the financial mess it inherited from a previous administration. Those leaders left office amid a financial scandal that landed former Chairman Glenn Marshall in federal prison for embezzling money from the tribe's casino investors.

That's just an excuse, said Patricia Oakley, the tribe's former genealogist, who organized the rally. "We're not here to talk about previous administrations. We're talking about now," she said. "We've come here to get answers and if we don't get them today, we'll be back tomorrow."

Several of the elders assembled yesterday were either employed by or on the tribal council with the previous administrations. Chief among them are Oakley, who was fired after Cromwell took over, former tribe treasurer Nellie Ramos and former tribal council member Norman Dias.

In recent months, the tribe's investors on a proposed Middleboro Indian casino have stopped making payments and the tribe's relationship with them is in limbo, further depleting the tribe's funds.

"The backers dumped us," elder Ann Peters Brown said. "They don't want to have anything to do with us."

While elders complained that the financial reports only go through May, Cromwell said that's because the tribe is doing an audit to determine if any grant funds were misappropriated. "If any money was spent from grants on things that they shouldn't have been spent on, we're going to self-report on it," he said.

Elders also complained the tribe is no longer funding youth programs or the food pantry.

The tribal council has had to make difficult budget cuts, including temporarily halting those programs, Cromwell said.

Other cuts include suspending his pay and the pay of other tribal council members, he said. "It was the right thing to do until we can get through this tough fiscal and financial time," he said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tribal Casino Financing

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in yesterday's issue of the The Day newspaper on the Mohegans and Mashantuckets their financial reporting requirements. While the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the Tribe's business arm, is required to publicly disclose financial statements, the Mohegan government's finances are not publicly disclosed by the Tribe.

Casinos go separate financing directions
Mashantuckets give information to select few; Mohegans report regularly to SEC
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
September 21, 2009

One is “closely held,” the other's an “open book.”

That's one way to distinguish Connecticut's tribally owned casinos.

When it comes to disclosing their finances, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, tells its lenders and financial analysts what it thinks they need to know. It tells everyone else little or nothing beyond the casinos' monthly slot-machine revenues, which the state makes public.

But the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, having registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, files quarterly, annual and current reports that the SEC posts on its Web site. Most recently, for example, the authority filed a so-called 8-K form on the results of the Mohegan Tribal Council's Aug. 30 elections.

Each approach has its advantages, according to analysts and bondholders, some of whom expressed frustration with the Mashantuckets' lack of transparency in the wake of the tribe's announcement that they're seeking to restructure a debt load of more than $2 billion.

The Mashantuckets, who have not registered with the SEC, communicate via IntraLinks, a secure online service accessible to those who hold their debt. The tribe also allows securities analysts to access the information, analysts say.

”We have many gaming credits that follow this same procedure, said Jane Pedreira, a gaming analyst with Clear Sights Research. “Many tribal entities report this way, so it's not unusual. … It really depends on the comfort zone of the organization. Companies that want their information to remain private use IntraLinks.”

The Mohegan authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, has long embraced the transparency that comes with registering with the SEC, according to Jeffrey Hartmann, its chief operating officer.

”We filed when the (Mohegan) tribe sold its first tranche of debt in 1995,” he said. “I think over the years it's helped us build support with Wall Street …. We're an open book.”

Costs associated with SEC registration have grown in recent years because of additional reporting and auditing requirements imposed following the Enron debacle, Hartmann said. “But we've never regretted (registering). We enjoy a good relationship with our bankers and bondholders and part of that is our filings.”

Tribes that register can be publicly traded, meaning the bonds they issue to raise capital are available to most investors, according to Kent Richey, a securities attorney with Faegre Benson, a Minneapolis firm with a practice in Indian law.

”Theoretically,” he said, “if the Mashantuckets were registered, you could call your broker and say you want to buy some of those Mashantucket bonds. But they didn't register, so you can't.”

Nonregistered bonds can only be traded among so-called QUIBS - institutional investors holding at least $100 million in securities investments, Richey said.

There are three reasons why a tribe might choose not to register, he said.

”First, there may be a feeling that since it's a sovereign government, its business is its own business. It's a matter of privacy. Second, it puts you at a competitive disadvantage - you don't want your competition to know what you're doing. And third, there's the cost of compliance, which can be more than a million dollars a year.”

Pedreira, the gaming analyst, said the Mashantuckets have become more investor-friendly as they've become more accustomed to the needs of the bond market.

”I would say bondholders probably prefer registration, but it's not a huge issue,” she said.

Mohegan Sun Official Talks To Massachusetts Residents

Feather News

This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from the Massachusetts newspaper The Republican on an event in which a Mohegan Sun official, Peter Schultz, discussed the Tribe's proposed casino in Palmer, Massachusetts:

Mohegan Sun: Palmer or bust
By Nancy H. Gonter
The Republican
September 22, 2009

WARE - A representative of Mohegan Sun, the group that wants to build a $1 billion casino off Thorndike Street in Palmer, faced questions from senior citizens Monday, telling them the company is firmly committed to the site.

Peter J. Schultz, project coordinator, also heard concerns about traffic and job preference for Palmer residents. More than 20 people attended the event at the Senior Center, some of them members of the Quaboag Valley Against Casinos, which opposes the project.

Grace A. Sheehan of Palmer, a member of the group, said she is worried about gang activity increasing in town, as well as the effect of the casino on downtown restaurants and traffic.

"I don't think it's going to help our property taxes. Once they are up they are not going to go down. And I don't think our property will be worth as much," Sheehan said.

Linda J. Francis of Palmer, said she supports casinos believes property values will go up if the casino is built.

Schultz made it clear that having a casino is far from a done deal, and even if it is sited here, it could be four years before it opens. The state Legislature is expected to take up the issue of legalizing gambling in the next few weeks.

If it is legalized, there will still be a site selection process to determine where casinos will be allowed, Schultz said.

"Mohegan Sun is committed to Palmer. If Palmer doesn't get it (a casino), we're done," Schultz said.

Schultz tried to allay concerns expressed by those at the meeting, saying that potential traffic problems and water supply issues are being studied and should be resolved at no cost to taxpayers. The casino owners also would pay for construction of an exit directly from the Massachusetts Turnpike, he said.

The Mohegan Sun proposal calls for the casino to be on 152 acres between Thorndike and Breckenridge streets. It would include a 600-room hotel and an entertainment venue and would provide 2,400 jobs once fully operational, Schultz said.

Schultz stressed that he believed many of the casino employees would come from this area because there is a large labor pool and high unemployment. He said the idea of giving Palmer residents preference would be considered.

Maria N. Thomson of Brimfield, a member of the group opposing casinos, said she believes businesses near casinos in Connecticut had lost business after the casinos opened. Thomson said the casino would increase the number of people who are addicted to gambling and who would become impoverished.

"I suggest you go down and talk directly with the mayor of Montville," said Schultz, in reference to the Mohegan Sun facility there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama Administration To Rethink Bush Policy On Off-Reservation Indian Gaming

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Wall Street Journal article discussing the possibility that the Obama administration may change the Bush administration's criteria on off-reservation gaming. A rule was created in January 2008 that resulted in the federal government's denial of proposed Indian casinos if that proposed casino was determined to be on land that is not within a commutable distance of the reservation.

It is also mentioned that the Malaysian family that backed the Mashantuckets have bought in to a proposed St. Regis Mohawk casino that would be built in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The St. Regis Mohawk's proposed casino in the Catskills was one of the ten proposed off-reservation casinos that were denied by the Interior Department in January 2008 under the then-new Bush administration rules. The article says that the Malaysian family will buy nearly 50 percent of Empire Resorts, which also operates the Monticello Raceway (now with VLT slot machines) in the Catskills.

Tribal Casino Rules Revisited
White House Considers Altering Policy to Allow Gambling Far From ReservationsArticle By A.D. Pruitt and Peter Grant
Wall Street Journal
September 21, 2009

The Obama administration may make it easier for Indian tribes to build casinos on land far from their reservations, a move likely to spur a wave of new casino development.

The Interior Department, which runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is reconsidering a Bush administration directive requiring that off-reservation casino sites be within commuting distance of the reservation. Many tribes, struggling with high unemployment and poverty on their reservations, are looking to casinos for jobs and other economic benefits.

See where tribes have filed applicationsn for off-reservation gaming.
"It's an important issue. It's a controversial issue and they're rethinking it," George Skibine, a deputy assistant secretary at the bureau, said in an interview last week. He added he expected a decision on whether to change the policy "fairly soon."

Some governors, including Democrat David Paterson of New York and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, have come out in favor of certain projects in recent months.

A reversal would pose more competition to existing casinos that are getting pummeled by the economic downturn. Owners of some of those casinos and their supporters in Congress are putting pressure on the Interior Department to maintain the restrictions on new developments off tribal lands. But have-not tribes are hoping the Obama administration will view casino development as a cheap way to stimulate the economy without tax dollars.

"Some governors have embraced this as a way to close their budget deficits," said Larry Rosenthal, a partner at Ietan Consulting LLC, a lobbying firm that represents Indian tribes.

About 22 Indian casinos on non-reservation land exist, and about 20 tribes have off-reservation plans in the works.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon wants to develop a casino along the Columbia River Gorge, and the St. Regis Mohawks has plans for a site in the Catskill Mountains, about 350 miles away from the tribe's reservation -- not within the required commuting distance -- but less than a two-hour drive from New York City.

Some tribes note that the off-reservation sites they have identified are actually on their ancestral lands.

"We'd just be going back home," said Lewis Pitt, spokesman for the Warm Springs tribes in Oregon.

Even if the Obama administration reverses the policy, some tribes will face a rough time developing casinos anytime soon. With casinos across the country running into financial problems, many lenders are loath to finance new projects.

Indian casinos can be particularly problematic when they run into financial trouble. One example: Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, which is in talks with lenders to restructure an enormous debt load.

Moody's Investor Service has warned that lenders have limited recourse because, under U.S. law, they can't seize Indian casino assets in the case of a default or bankruptcy.

The anxieties of Foxwoods creditors were further stoked late last month after the New London Day reported that Michael Thomas, the chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, which controls Foxwoods, sent a letter pledging to protect the payments to the tribal government and tribe members and saying that they would be "paid first."

The council subsequently put Mr. Thomas on administrative leave "pending the outcome of an internal review." It says it is pursuing a "mutually beneficial resolution with its banks and bondholders."

Mr. Thomas couldn't be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.

Despite these concerns, some off-reservation casino projects, especially those near major population centers, have been able to line up financing.

Kien Huat Realty III Ltd., an investment company owned by a Malaysian family that has financed start-ups of major Indian casinos in Connecticut and New York, is acquiring a near 50% stake in Empire Resorts Inc., the company that has been working with the St. Regis Mohawks on plans for a casino in Monticello, N.Y.

About 300 casinos have been developed by tribes since a watershed U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1987 that greatly loosened state restrictions on such operations. In 1988, Congress said tribes could develop off-reservation casinos that were in the best interest of the tribe and not detrimental to the local community.

Some of the tribes that developed casinos early on have joined with Las Vegas and Atlantic City gambling interests to try to block off-reservation gaming.

Last week five senators from Nevada, California and Arizona wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to oppose off-reservation gaming, saying it "violates the spirit" of Indian gaming law.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nonner Meryl Heberding Passes On

Feather News

The following is an excerpt from the notice of Meryl's passing that was given in The Day newspaper today. Please note that a funeral procession will gather at 9:30 a.m. on Monday for an 11 a.m. graveside service at Fort Shantok Cemetery in Uncasville. Our sympathies go out to Meryl's family and friends.

Montville - Mohegan Nonner Meryl “Grey Owl” Jean Heberding, 76, of Uncasville, passed away at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich on Sept. 17, 2009.

She was born on July 14, 1933, in San Diego, Calif., to the late Burill and Vivian (Beatrice) Fielding.

She married her loving husband, Milton Heberding, on Sept. 27, 1952, at the Montville Methodist Church in Montville.

Meryl had a love for her family as well as the many children that she baby-sat throughout her life. She was an elder and was recently appointed Nonner of the Mohegan Tribe. She rejuvenated the local Pow-Wow as well as assisted with the one in Tucson, Ariz., where she had many friends. She was also a member of the Federal Recognition Committee for the Mohegan Tribe and a deaconess and trustee for the Mohegan Congregational Church. She enjoyed cooking, baking, and was an avid collector of Native American dolls.

Family and friends may visit from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday at the Church and Allen Funeral Home, 136 Sachem St., Norwich. A funeral procession will gather at 9:30 a.m. on Monday for an 11 a.m. graveside service at Fort Shantok Cemetery in Uncasville.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Meryl's honor to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, 1952 Whitney Ave., #220, Hamden CT 06517.

Massachusetts Officials Push For Casinos

Feather News

The three top politicians in the state of Massachusetts have publicly said they want casino gaming that will create jobs and bring needed revenue to the state treasury. There is not any concensus among the governor and key figures in the state legisture as to what form the gaming will take. This installment of The Tribe In The Media is a Boston Globe article on the status of proposed gaming in Massachusetts.

Casinos get boost as DeLeo signs on
Joins Patrick, Murray in push for gaming
By Matt Viser
The Boston Globe Staff
September 19, 2009

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo expressed strong support yesterday for bringing resort-style casinos to Massachusetts, one of the clearest indications yet that lawmakers are poised to expand gambling as they seek fresh revenues in a down economy.

In a separate speech yesterday morning, Senate President Therese Murray also made the case that Massachusetts should legalize casinos, asserting that they would bring hundreds of new jobs and capture money currently going to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

The comments by DeLeo and Murray put the state’s top three political leaders on similar ground in support of resort-style casinos for the first time as the Legislature plans to begin considering a major bill as early as next month.

DeLeo has been a supporter of expanded gambling, but in the past has put an emphasis on installing slot machines at racetracks instead of building resort-style casinos complete with amenities such as hotels, shops, and golf courses.

“Given the importance of economic development, as well as the vital need for revenue, I have expanded my thinking,’’ DeLeo said in an address in Waltham to a meeting of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “In addition to my backing of slots, I now support resort casinos.’’

At about the same time, Murray, speaking to the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, said: “The reality is that hundreds of millions of dollars are going to Connecticut casinos from Massachusetts residents every year. We need to explore ways how we can capture that revenue.’’

She said building casinos would means hundreds of construction jobs, as well as permanent employment once the casinos open.

In an interview yesterday, DeLeo said House lawmakers are drafting legislation, with hearings likely to begin next month.

A debate before the full House, he said, could begin before lawmakers recess in mid-November, but seems more likely early next year.

Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to license three resort casinos was defeated last year, in large part because of opposition by House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.

With DiMasi now out of office, the debate has shifted dramatically: It is no longer about whether Massachusetts will see expanded gaming, but when and in what form.

“What has interested me all along is the jobs and the revenue,’’ Patrick told reporters yesterday in the Berkshires. “And I think there is a way to do this that maximizes the jobs and revenues and minimizes - not eliminates, minimizes - the adverse impacts.’’

Still, the casino industry has struggled mightily with the economic downturn, forcing many developers to scale back projects and focus on retaining their current properties, rather than on adding new ones.

The Globe reported Sunday that Foxwoods in Connecticut, which has long been a success story in the casino industry, laid off about 6 percent of its workforce last year and saw its revenues from slot machines plunge 13 percent in July, compared with the previous year.

Nonetheless, DeLeo cast the plan yesterday as a ministimulus package for Massachusetts, one he said would bring in new revenues and create jobs as the state seeks to recover economically.

“I’m still trying to formulate my ideas, but I’m hoping this will not just be a gaming bill, but also an economic development one,’’ DeLeo said in the interview.

“I’m just really concerned about the future,’’ he said. “I think the only way we’re going to get out of this economy is jobs, jobs, and more jobs.’’

He also said that lagging state revenues are an incentive to find a new source of money.

That argument may have more urgency after Patrick announced yesterday that he expects to make further spending cuts this year because of falling revenues.

“I don’t see an appetite for new taxes, and we don’t have much left in the rainy day fund,’’ DeLeo said. “We need to bring in new revenue.’’

He also argued that slot machines could be installed quickly at the racetracks, bringing in new revenues, while giving casino companies more time to build resort casinos, which would create new construction jobs.

DeLeo said one option that may be considered involves the licensing of two casinos, one in Eastern Massachusetts, one in Western Massachusetts, and then allowing slots at Plainridge and Raynham Park racetracks.

But when asked about installing slots at racetracks, Murray said she is “not hot on that, but I’m going to listen.’’

“That’s fast money,’’ she said in an interview. “But is it sustainable?’’

She cited Twin River in Rhode Island, which relies on slots and filed for bankruptcy in June.

She said several senators have been working on different proposals over the summer, but added that it will take time to put together the regulatory framework that would allow casino developers to begin building.

“It’s really a three-year process,’’ she said. “If we’re going to do it, we need to start.’’

Many specifics have to be worked out, including how many casinos would be licensed, whether there would be any preference given to a Native American tribe, and how potential developers would secure the rights to build.

Casino developers have been closely monitoring the gambling debate in Massachusetts and have scoured the state for land and partnerships.

Mohegan Sun in Connecticut has been laying the groundwork to build a casino in Palmer, a small community near Springfield. Several developers have looked at land in neighboring Warren.

Suffolk Downs in East Boston has been jockeying for the past two years, securing key political backing and trying to ensure that it has the inside track on a Boston-area casino. Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere has joined with Suffolk Downs to compete for one casino license.

One potential wrinkle is the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, whose attempt to use its federal rights to open a casino in Middleborough has been derailed by a US Supreme Court ruling.

There are several other developers who have hired lobbyists and expressed interest in Massachusetts previously, but have not announced specific plans.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bush's Interior Secretary Investigated For Corruption

Feather News

A corruption case involving President G.W. Bush's first Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, was referred by the Interior Department's Inspector General to the Justice Department.

At issue in the case is whether Norton violated a law that prohibits federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in government dealings that could benefit the company. Royal Dutch Shell, PLC, hired Norton within months after she left the post of Secretary of the Interior. Prior to leaving, the Interior Department awarded to Royal Dutch Shell multiple oil shale leases that could generated hundreds of billions of dollars for the company.

Investigators are also determining whether Norton broke a federal "denial of honest services" law, which states that a government official can be prosecuted for violating the public trust, including steering government business to favored firms or friends.

Mohegan Sun's 11% Decline In August Slot Revenue Is On Top Of Last August's 7% Drop Over August 2007

Feather News

The Mohegan Sun reported earlier this week that its August slot revenue declined by 11 percent when compared to August 2008.

Last August, in August 2008, the Mohegan Sun reported a 7 percent decline in its slot revenues when compared to August 2007 even though the Casino of the Wind opened at the end of last August on the day before Labor Day weekend. The Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend landed in August last year while it was in September this year and also landed in September in the year 2007.

The Mohegan Sun's total slot revenue for the last 12 months, through July 2009 and before August's numbers are calculated, had dropped by 8.8 percent over the previous year.

Tribes' Promotional Slot Play Agreement With State Not To Cost Much To Mohegan

By Ken Davison
Feather News

The state announced in late August that it settled with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes over how much they should pay the state for their recent slot machine free play promotions.

Within a few months after the Mashantucket's began giving its Foxwoods casino customers free play coupons to play on the slot machines in 2006, the state filed a lawsuit and asserted that the state was entitled to 25 percent of the value of the free play coupons given to customers just as the state is entitled to 25 percent of the casino's slot machine revenues. The Mohegan Tribe, though not part of the lawsuit, agreed to accept the terms of any settlement reached between the state and the Mashantuckets.

The key part of the August agreement states that if the amount of free play coupons (or eBonus coupons as given by Mohegan Sun) exceeds 5.5 percent of slot revenue for the month then the casinos must pay the state 25 percent of the value of the coupons that exceed that 5.5 percent threshold. This portion of the agreement didn't make it into some articles in the local newspapers.

A year after the Mashantuckets began their free play program, the Mohegan Sun began its own free play program by giving out what they called eBonus to customers. According to a Feather News analysis, the Mohegan Sun could continue to run their eBonus program as they have been and not end up paying the state anything on the promotional program.

Both casinos have been giving out free play on a monthly basis for a few years now. The Mohegan Sun has spent an average of almost $1.5 million a month on the program since it began in November 2007. In only two of the 21 months since the program began, the Mohegan Sun has only given out twice an amount of free play that exceeded 5.5 percent of its slot revenue for that month.

The last time the Mohegan Sun gave out more than 5.5 percent of its slot revenue in any given month was in June 2007 when it gave out almost $4 million in eBonus free play, which amounted to 5.8 percent of its roughly $68 million in slot revenue for that month. According to the terms of the new agreement, anything over 5.5 percent of the slot revenues for the month would be taxable so that would mean that .3 percent is subject to the state's 25 percent tariff.

The last monthly numbers that are available are for July 2009. The Mohegan Sun gave away about 4.3 percent of its July slot revenue in eBonus slot play while Foxwoods gave away in Free Play about 7.6 percent of their total July 2009 slot revenue. In that instance, Foxwoods would have to pay the state 25 percent on 2.1 percent (7.6 percent minus 5.5 percent) of their slot revenues.

Foxwoods has given out over $150 million in its Free Play program since inception, incuding the famous giveaway of $23 million during the month of December 2007, which amounted to a whopping 42 percent of its slot revenue of $56 million that month and led to changes in the executive management of the Foxwoods.

President Andrew Jackson's 1829 Letter To Choctaw And Chickasaw Leaders Found

Feather News

In an 1829 letter to the leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations that was found this summer, President Andrew Jackson tells these Tribes to move west to the present day state of Oklahoma. The letter was given to Major David Haley and is a request for the Tribes to leave Alabama and Mississippi. The letter preceded the Indian Removal Act by a matter of months.

Prior to the letter's discovery, a draft version of the letter had been published but there are differences between the two letters.

Jackson's letter says, ". . . Tell them to listen," Jackson wrote. "[The proposed plan] is the only one by which [they can be] perpetuated as a nation . . . the only one by which they can expect to preserve their own laws, & be benefitted by the care and humane attention of the United States. I am very respectfully yr. friend, & the friend of my Choctaw & Chickasaw brethren. Andrew Jackson."

In the draft version, Jackson used the phrase "preserve their nation." Further, Jackson wrote:

"Say to them as friends and brothers to listen[to] the voice of their father, & friend," Jackson wrote. "Where [they] now are, they and my white children are too near each other to live in harmony & peace. Their game is destroyed and many of their people will not work & till the earth. Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a part of their nation has gone, their father has provided a co[untry] large enough for them all, and he ad[vises] them to go to it."

Choctaw Chief David Folsom received the message on Nov. 29, 1829 and rejected it two weeks later. By May 1830, the Indian Removal Act became law and the Choctaw were the first of five southeastern Tribes to be relocated west. After the Choctaws, the Seminoles, Creeks, Chickasaws went west and then the "Trail of Tears" for the Cherokees.

The letter was found in a private collection and sold to a Philadelphia dealer which sold the letter last week to a collector in New Jersey. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime find," said a spokesman for the Philadelphia dealer. "It's one of the most important documents in American history. To discover it after nearly two centuries is nothing short of breathtaking."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Photo: Goldenrod And Lavender In Uncasville

WNBA Playoffs Begin Tonight

Feather News

The first two WNBA playoff games will be televised tonight on ESPN2. The first game is to begin at 8 p.m. between Atlanta and Detroit followed by a 10 p.m. game between Los Angeles and Seattle.

Two other playoff games will be shown tomorrow night (Thursday) on ESPN2. At 7 p.m., Washington will play Indiana and at 9 p.m. Phoenix will play San Antonio.

All of the above games are the first in a series of three games that marks the first round of playoff action. Winners of the three-game series will advance to the next round of the playoffs.

The Connecticut Sun did not qualify for the playoffs this year.

Wynn Seen As Favorite In Bid For New York City's First Slot Parlor

Feather News

New York officials are close to choosing the winning biddder to develop and manage a slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, NY. In conjunction with installing at least 4,500 VLT slot machines, the bidders are offering to add other entertainment features to the 200-acre site. This article from Gaming Insider suggests that Steve Wynn is a favorite to win the bidding for the Aqueduct concession.

Wynn on track for Aqueduct racino
By Phil Hevener
Gaming Insider
September 15, 2009

Steve Wynn is seen as the favorite to get the right to operate 4,500 slots at Aqueduct, the 115-year-old New York City landmark and casino-in-the-making that is a subway ride away from some eight million people.

The Wynn Resorts chairman and New York’s Aqueduct racetrack in the south Queens may not appear to be the most natural of marriages, but who can argue with the chance to set up shop in New York City and then see what may spring from future legislative action.

It’s an opportunity that has Wynn talking about re-inventing the racino concept. Of course, he first has to get the bid and although he is seen as the favorite, according to a well-placed source, this is a decision that will be based on the best thinking of a group of politicians.

Which means everything is subject to change with very little notice, but Wynn’s recent tireless effort to sell his vision and reach into his company’s very deep pockets without having to go through a complicated borrowing process has probably helped his case.

"We’ve got the money," he said during a recent interview. "There is no need to borrow anything from anyone."

But Wynn is not the only well-credentialed gaming industry heavyweight taking a shot at all the potential offered by Aqueduct. The usual cast of big names is present along with partners selected just for this occasion: MGM MIRAGE, Harrah’s, Penn National, Larry Woolf’s Navegante Group and the Seminoles with their Hard Rock brand.

Wynn’s plan, as he recently explained it, is to take the plain vanilla racino concept, add a liberal dose of imagination and shape it into something that goes beyond most current thinking, making (Aqueduct) a fun place to spend time at, even for people who do not play slots.

What he envisions is, "A place that integrates food and beverage and retail and entertainment and makes it fun to go to, even if you are not a video lottery terminal player, a place that is a compliment to its neighborhood, a fun and exciting location for recreational activities."

Tax rates don’t get any more onerous than the 60 to 70 percent sliding scale state levy that will be the price of doing business at Aqueduct, but there are reportedly allowances written into the deal for development and marketing.

Well-connected sources believe the number of slots Aqueduct can operate will he increased to some unknown number in excess of 4,500 as the situation evolves, which it seems certain to do. There’s a lot of room for imagination and power politics to roam at Aqueduct, considering the complex has nearly 200 acres.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New York Times Business Columnist On Government Regulators

Feather News

A business section article in Sunday's NY Times that was written by Gretchen Morgenson reminds us that the shoddy regulatory oversight that resulted in a near banking sector collapse has still yet to be corrected.

But Who Is Watching Regulators?
Gretchen Morgenson
New York Times
September 13, 2009

Even though calamitous lending practices laid waste to the nation’s economy, surprisingly little has changed about how the financial arena operates and is supervised. Sure, a couple of venerable brokerage firms have vanished, but many of the same players remain on the scene, in the same positions of power.

Senior regulators who stood idly by for years as financial firms built their houses of cards have been rewarded with even bigger jobs or are jockeying for increased responsibilities. The Federal Reserve Board, for example, wants to become the financial system’s uber-regulator, even though its officials did nothing as banks made deadly decisions to lend recklessly and leverage themselves to the max.

Awarding increased power to those who failed in their oversight duties flies in the face of all notions of accountability. Imagine hiring Angelo R. Mozilo, the former chief of Countrywide Financial, to run a global financial institution, or installing E. Stanley O’Neal, who presided over a disastrous period at Merrill Lynch, at the helm of a major investment firm.

Yet those in the public sector ask us to believe that regulators who snoozed during the credit bubble will be alert to emerging problems on their beats when the next mania begins.

That’s asking a lot, isn’t it?

Here’s a novel thought. Instead of creating more regulations to try to prevent this kind of mess from recurring, why not figure out how to hold regulators accountable when they perform as poorly as they did in recent years?

Edward J. Kane, a professor of finance at Boston College and an authority on the ethical and operational aspects of regulatory failure, has some ideas about how to do this and right our damaged system in the process. He outlined them in a recent paper titled “Unmet Duties in Managing Financial Safety Nets.”

This ugly financial episode we’ve all had to live through makes clear, Mr. Kane says, that taxpayers must protect themselves against two things: the corrupting influence of bureaucratic self-interest among regulators and the political clout wielded by the large institutions they are supposed to police. Finally, he argues, taxpayers must demand that the government publicize the costs of efforts taken to save the financial system from itself.

“That authorities and financiers could so callously violate common-law duties of loyalty, competence, and care they owe taxpayers and financial-institution customers is evidence of a massive incentive breakdown in industry and government,” Mr. Kane writes. “This breakdown cannot be repaired merely by replacing the governing political party or by changing the jurisdictions and mission statements of regulatory agencies.”

It’s tough, however, to assign responsibility to regulators who routinely fend off or stymie anyone attempting to scrutinize how the cops on the beat functioned in the years preceding the financial meltdown. So everyday Americans need to kick and scream if they want some light shed on this critical epoch in our financial history.

To bring accountability to regulatory performance, Mr. Kane suggests that financial supervisors take an oath of office in which they agree to perform four duties. First is the duty of vision, under which they would promise to adapt their surveillance practices to respond to the creative ways financial institutions hide their dubious practices. Regulators must also promise to take prompt corrective action, and to perform their work efficiently. Finally, there is what Mr. Kane calls the duty of “conscientious representation,” whereby regulators swear to put the interests of the community ahead of their own.

This last promise gets to the heart of a continued erosion of trust in our system, Mr. Kane argues. “If real world supervisors were perfectly virtuous, they would make themselves politically and financially accountable for the ways in which they exercise their discretion,” he writes. “Perfectly virtuous supervisors would fearlessly bond themselves to disclose enough information about their decision making to allow the community or interested outsiders to determine whether and how badly they neglect, abuse, or mishandle their responsibilities.”

Instead, our regulators refuse to produce complete documentation and accounts of the actions they took during the crisis. And keeping taxpayers in the dark isn’t exemplary ethical behavior. Rather, it is characteristic of what Mr. Kane calls an elitist regulator, one who uses crises to cover up mistakes and expand his or her jurisdiction.

“According to this standard,” Mr. Kane writes, “Fed efforts to use the crisis as a platform for self-congratulation and for securing enlarged systemic-risk authority sidetracks, rather than promotes, effective reform.”

To ensure that regulators live up to the promises they make, Mr. Kane suggests that inspectors general at each agency be charged with regularly auditing the performance of financial overseers. A crucial component of those reviews would be exploring attempts by regulated entities to influence the officials who oversee them. That’s because in financial crises, Mr. Kane explained, crippled institutions pressure the government to rescue them and force other parties (usually the taxpayers) to share their pain.

“We’ve got a very comfortable equilibrium here where Wall Street praises the authorities and the authorities give Wall Street more or less what it wants and they hope that the public really doesn’t understand the depth of the cynicism involved,” Mr. Kane said in an interview. “You keep reading about how wonderful it is that we didn’t have a Great Depression. Well, if they can sell that point of view, then nothing will change.”

Mohegan Sun Reports 11% Decline In August Slot Revenue; Foxwoods Reports 13% Decline

Feather News

The Mohegan Sun reported an 11 percent drop in its slot revenue for August compared to the same month last year while Foxwoods reported a 13.3 percent decline in August slot revenues.

Mohegan Sun reported almost $69 million in slot revenue for August. Foxwoods slot revenue for August was $63.1 million.

Both Tribal casinos pay the state of Connecticut 25 percent of their slot revenue.

State Attorney General Signs With Victim In Mohegan Liability Court Case

Feather News

The Tribe's sovereignty may be further defined in a state appeals court action that will challenge whether the Tribe can continue to claim sovereign immunity from state court action in cases involving casino customers who have been over-served alcohol that resulted in accidents after they left the casino.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed a brief supporting the position of the family of Emily Vanstaen-Holland, who was 16 when she was hit while walking along the side of a Quaker Hill road about two years ago in October 2007. The driver is alleged to be Glenn Lavigne, a former Tribal Councilor who had been drinking at the casino that night with a friend.

The case is against the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Tribal officials and Lavigne and seeks monetary damages.

The attorney representing the Vanstaen-Holland family, Michael Reardon, said, "Since tribes have to obtain and apply for liquor permits, our position is they submit to the jurisdiction of the state courts." Reardon has previously said publicly that he would not go into a tribal court.

Mr. Blumenthal said, "Tribal casinos are not immune from the state's Dram Shop Act and other laws that bar reckless dispensing of alcohol." He is asking the appellate court to overturn a trial court ruling that ... held that tribal casinos are exempt from certain liquor laws intended to protect the public safety, according to his press release.

Will the Tribe fight the appeal? Or will the Tribe decide not to fight for the Tribe's sovereignty because it would result in an embarrassing public trial of a former Tribal official. It is believed that unlimited drinks are available for free to former councilors and their guests in parts of the casino. So far, the Tribe hasn't yielded from its position that those harmed by accidents caused by drunk drivers can take up the matter in tribal court.

Although the Tribe maintains that they can be sued in Tribal Court, Blumenthal said, "Generally there are limits in tribal courts as to how much can be recovered and the rights are different procedurally and rules of evidence and other legal procedures are different. The rights of innocent victims can be vindicated in state court under more effective protections provided by state law. An innocent victim whose life is irreparably and often brutally altered by a drunk driving crash should have rights in state court where a jury can assess the facts and a judge can decide the law."

Later in the day, according to The Day newspaper, Lavigne, 49, accepted a plea and "was sentenced to five years in prison suspended after two years served, followed by three years probation for felony evading responsibilty.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Photo: Autumn Leaves Starting To Be Seen At Mohegan

The leaves start changing color on the Mohegan Reservation's western border fronting Route 32 in Uncasville.

State Gaming Policy Board Minutes

Feather News

The following are the draft June minutes from the state of Connecticut's gaming policy board held in Newington, Connecticut. The gaming policy board is part of the Division of Special Revenue that serves as the state government's gambling oversight panel.

Links to monthly meeting minutes of the gaming policy board are can be found in a section on the right-hand side of this website.

The minutes are somewhat dated so it is important to note that Keno was not included in the state's budget:


Interim Reports

Gambling Regulation: Mr. Tontini briefly reviewed the changes to the hours of operation in the off-track betting system since the Board’s last meeting.
Update: Off-Track Betting – there were seven track approvals completed during the month of May 2009.

The new non-simulcasting site at Milford OTB opened on March 31st. During the second full month of operation it did significantly better than the first month with a total of $282,000 for the month.

Governor Rell signed legislation on June 18th allowing both Milford and Putnam to become simulcast facilities, pending municipal, Gaming Policy Board and Division approval.

Lottery – there were two Instant Games that received preliminary approval and four Instant Games that received final approval during the month of May 2009. Sales started for the new on-line game, Lucky for Life, on March 29, 2009. The eight drawings in May 2009 produced $2.8 million.

Mohegan Sun – there were 80 jackpots of $25,000 or more; six paid $100,000 or more and one jackpot was a wide-area progressive jackpot for the month of May 2009. At the end of May 2009 there were 6,743 slot machines on the floor.

Foxwoods – there were 36 jackpots of $25,000 or more for the month of May 2009. There were three jackpots of $100,000 or more for the same period. There were two wide-area jackpots as well. As of the end of May 2009 Foxwoods had a total of 7,600 slot machines on the floor.

Integrity Assurance: Mr. Virnelli noted that the Board has received the financial statements in their mailed material.

Mr. Virnelli continued saying he performed a brief review of selected state revenue services for the past five fiscal years, and for the ten months of the current fiscal year. He said the review shows that gaming has been one of the four top revenue sources for that time period. It was actually the third highest source until three years ago when the corporation tax surpassed it. Through the first ten months of this year it has drawn back ahead of the corporation tax. The tax figures do not include refunds.

In each year, the personal income tax and the sales and use tax were, by far, the top two highest sources of revenue combined with over 60% of everything that the state received. Personal income tax alone varied between 37% and 45%. By contrast, gaming revenue has been 5-1/4% of all revenue. Even when it was the third highest source, it was still a distant third, about $2.5 billion behind sales and use tax, which was second highest. Gaming revenue, after hitting a peak in fiscal year 2006, dropped in both 2007 and 2008, albeit by less than half a percentage point in 2007 and about 2.14% last year.

Charitable Games: Mr. Bernstein provided the following update on the Charitable Games activity for the months of May and June 2009. On Friday, May 29th, correspondence was sent to bazaar permittees, municipal officials and equipment dealers to inform them that Blower Ball Cash games are now authorized under Public Act No. 09-34. A Blower Ball game is a game of chance where the players wager on a color or number and the winner is determined by the drawing of a colored or numbered ball from a ball blower machine that mixes ping pong balls with blown air. A blower ball machine is the same machine that is used to draw balls at bingo. Blower Ball games were already approved for use with merchandise prize awards; however, this new law now allows for cash prizes up to $50.00 each to be awarded, as well. The new Blower Ball Cash games replace the popular money-wheel games, which were lost in 2003. They are the first cash prize replacement games since the money-wheel’s repeal. The Division has had several calls during June, from organizations interested in conducting Blower Ball games. Thus far, the Division approved six permits for events with such games.

During this period, DAS Procurement Services released the Request for Proposals for a new sealed ticket vendor to potential sealed ticket bidders. A total of twenty-eight questions were received from the interested parties. The Charitable Games staff prepared the requisite responses, which DAS has transmitted to each vendor, along with all questions, for their information. The deadline date for proposals is Tuesday, July 7th.

The last three sealed ticket games ordered for this fiscal year were received on Tuesday, May 19th. They were sent to our independent laboratory for testing. Testing on two of the games has been completed, and they have met all standards, meaning they may be placed on sale when needed.

The proposed Administrative Regulations Governing Amusement And Recreation Bingo For Parent Teacher Associations, approved by the Attorney General in April, were submitted to the Legislative Regulation Review Committee on Monday, June 1st. These proposals will be considered during the Committee’s July meeting, on Tuesday, the 28th.

Preparation is underway for the annual bingo and sealed ticket permit renewals. Fully completed permit applications are transmitted to each permittee, facilitating their completion. Staff spends considerable time reviewing files with our date processing analyst, ensuring that all files are current and correct. The renewal mailings are scheduled to go out on Wednesday, July 22nd.
Legislation: Mr. Bernstein provided a brief update on legislation as follows:
The 2009 regular session of the General Assembly ended on Wednesday, June 3rd. Only two gaming-related proposals affecting the Division were approved.

Public Act No. 09-34, authorizing cash prizes for blower ball games, was passed and signed by the Governor. It took effect from passage.
Also approved was House Bill No. 6358 ‘An Act Concerning Additional Off-Track Betting Branch Facilities’. It was passed by the House on Wednesday, May 6th (116-30), and by the Senate on Friday, May 29th (26-10). It has been assigned Public Act No. 09-132, and was approved by the Governor on Thursday, June 18th. This is the proposal which would increase the number of OTB facilities allowed to have simulcasting, from ten to twelve, by allowing for simulcasting at facilities in

Milford and Putnam, with requisite municipal and state approvals. It was effective from passage.

Many proposals approved by one or more committees died on the calendars of the Senate and House.

Security & Licensing: Mr. Kleber asked Lt. Camarco to present the reports for the Security and Licensing Unit marking his retirement from state service.
Lt. Camarco noted that the Board has received the statistical data prepared by the Division and the Connecticut State Police and offered to answer questions, if any.
Lt. Camarco continued with the following update: one of the biggest issues the Division is looking at is the Connecticut State Police Casino Unit’s retirement program. Most of the Unit is taking advantage of the retirement incentive program. He said Chief Kleber is working with members of the State Police staff to create new liaisons and establish new protocol in communications.

Keno is a proposal for the state. The Division is looking at the best way to license new vendors if it is established. There is a possibility of approximately 500 initial licenses for Keno vendors. Cross training will be necessary in the Security and Licensing Unit.

The Division has seen a slight increase in the hiring of licensees at both casinos due to the summer season. He continued saying that the Division is keeping current with the new licensees, and the Connecticut State Police is current as well. There has been a slight increase in the pending background investigations at the Connecticut State Police that is probably due to the transition as well.
Chairman Farrell asked about the cooperation of the Connecticut State Police regarding the background investigations as they proceed with their transition. Chief Kleber said he has been in contact with Lt. Petrunew and a new lieutenant has been chosen to replace him. Division staff will meet with the new lieutenant and establish the communication process. Chairman Farrell
noted that the Board is deeply concerned with the background checks as it is a serious situation and must be maintained.
Chairman Farrell, on behalf of the Board, wished Mr. Camarco many years of health and happiness in his retirement.

Mr. Camarco thanked the Board for all their support and assistance in the past.
Administrative Hearings: Mrs. Stiber noted that Tiffani Smith, legal typist with the
Hearing Section, had a baby June 13th. Both mom and baby are doing well. Tiffani will return to work in October.

Mrs. Stiber provided the hearing report for the month of May as well as the Freedom of Information reports.

Executive Director’s Report: Executive Director Young provided the following update for the Board: Bruce Kemble, the Division’s CFO, is retiring. He has worked for every Executive Director for the Division. Executive Director Young noted that Bruce is the individual responsible for all behind the scenes work performed to assure that our budgets are intact. He said Bruce has been a great advisor and mentor. Executive Director Young stated that with all the other employees retiring, he will miss Bruce as well.

He continued saying that at the present time there are 23 employees who have filed their papers to retire from the Division. There is no budget as yet for the state, and the Governor has asked all Commissioners to tow the line as long as they can, in hopes that a budget will be in place soon.

Keno is part of the Governor’s budget, however, we will have to wait and see what happens. If Keno is passed, the Division will regulate it.

The Gaming Study is, in essence, complete. It was electronically sent to the Division yesterday. The hard copies should be delivered, hopefully, within the next 24-hours and they will be delivered to the Governor’s office as well as the legislative leadership. Upon receipt of the Study it is up to the Governor’s office and the Public Safety Committee to decide the next step. Executive Director Young said for approximately the next 60 days or so the focus will probably be the budget.

Executive Director Young further stated that there isn’t anything in the study that is a significant surprise. It has documented issues of concern to the Division. The study will memorialize those issues as a state. If modifications to policy are necessary, they will be made.

Chairman Farrell, on behalf of the Board, thanked Bruce for his service to the state and dedication behind the scenes. He wished him many years of health and happiness in his retirement.

New Business: Chairman Farrell asked Executive Director Young and Mr. Osswalt to present the citations to both Paul Bernstein and Bruce Kemble. Both individuals received a citation from the Governor’s office and Paul Bernstein received a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell Says He'll Sign Off On Budget That Includes Table Games

Feather News

Up until Saturday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has said that he didn't want table games added to the slot parlors until all of the 14 approved slot parlors were up and running.

The large projected state budget deficits may have changed his mind. Gov. Rendell said at a news conference on budget Saturday that "economic exigencies facing the state make a bill to expand to table games seemingly unavoidable."

"I'm not a huge fan of table games but I would sign it," Rendell said.

Nine of the 14 approved slot parlors are operating. Two of the larger proposed slot parlors that will be located in the city of Philadelphia have not yet been built.

The state legislature in their attempts to put a budget proposal together are projecting revenue from table games in the current fiscal year, figures that Rendell say are too optimistic.

The tax rate on table games is a matter of controversy. Currently, a 12 percent and 21 percent figure have been floating around. Slot machine revenues are now taxed at about 55 percent. It takes more staff to operate table games and it will take more state regulators to monitor the games than it does for slot machines. Other gaming issues are also a matter of contention in the legislature, such as the investigatory authority now held by the state's gaming commission. The state gaming commission, known as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, acknowledged that it would take time to train new staff should table games be permitted.

One of the table games bills in discussion forecasts $200 - $300 million a year in state revenue generated from table games, with a tax rate of 21 percent along with a $10 million initial license fee.

The manager of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Bobby Soper, told the Standard Speaker media outlet that "Mohegan would initially rearrange its existing facility to add tables, potentially cutting down the number of slot machines on site."

Editorial: Connecticut Sun Win Last Game Of Year Against Indiana 95-85

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun beat Indiana yesterday by a score of 95-85. That was the last regular season game and since the Sun did not make the playoffs, we won't see them until next year.

Yesterday's game attracted more fans than any other home game this year. Attendance was reported at just over 9,047, about 2,000 more people than the other home games.

In every game I watched this year and last year, the Sun seem to limit themselves to taking the riskier outside shots instead of driving to the basket for high-percentage layups. The Feather News noted this in an article last year too.

The Sun lost more games than it won this year. Their season record was 16-18. Fans of any team want their team to be a winner. Tribal members are fans and owners. The Tribe now has a new Tribal Councilor that was a star basketball player in college and perhaps she could act as a coach too. How cool would that be? I guarantee she would have that team driving to the basket and dominating the key around the basket.

Lost games also mean lost revenue. Adding up all of the empty seats for the home games you arrive at thousands and thousands of empty seats for the season. It is still our position that if there are seats available, why not offer them to Tribal members for free. Give the Tribal members something to wave at the game and call them volunteers so there would be no doubt that the free ticket isn't taxable to the Tribal member. The alternative is to let thousands of seats to remain vacant to keep the television audiences wondering why attendance is so low at the games. And to those Tribal members who bought season tickets, they should be refunded the cost as long as there were empty seats at the games in which they attended.

What should the team do about the Sun's head coach Mike Thibault? Is it time for new leadership? Will a Mohegan Tribal Councilor become a mentor or coach to the women's basketball team?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pro Basketball Hall Of Famers Visit Mohegan Sun

Feather News

The day after Michael Jordan and others were inducted into the basketball hall of fame they gathered at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse at the Mohegan Sun for a private party Saturday night. Other hall of famers at Saturday's party were Karl Malone, David Robinson and John Stockton.

Boston Globe Article On Mashantucket

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Boston Globe article that appeared in Sunday's newspaper about the events taking place at Mashantucket.

The wonder, and the fall
A source of pride, plenty for Pequots in boom times, struggling Foxwoods now a looming threat to tribe
By Jenn Abelson
The Boston Globe
September 13, 2009

Dozens of Pequots traveled from as far away as California and Hawaii to their native lands in southeastern Connecticut. Many came for the promise of a steady job, and to reconnect with a tribe that had come close to extinction. But Foxwoods did not just help revive the Pequot nation; it made it fabulously wealthy. Within a few years, Foxwoods was the world’s largest and most successful casino resort, an entertainment mecca that racked up more than $1 billion annually.

The fortune yielded nice homes, fancy cars, college degrees, community centers for tribal members, and a massive museum of native history. With the money came fame, as Foxwoods’ significance stretched beyond the tribe’s well-being. The Pequots had paved the way for more than 230 tribes across the country to launch their own gaming enterprises and finally become self-sufficient communities - and thus preserve their native unity.

But now Foxwoods faces financial problems that threaten to tear the tribe apart. Crushed by more than $2 billion in debt from exorbitant expansion, the resort is fighting an uphill battle against sliding revenues because of the economy and increased competition from newer venues. More than 700 layoffs in the last year, or about 6 percent of the workforce, failed to stem the bleeding as slot revenues at the casino continued to drop, plunging 13 percent in July to $63.2 million compared with a year ago.

Foxwoods - once the symbol of the Pequots’ greatest achievement - has become the subject of nationwide speculation that the largest Native American casino could fail.

“The casino helped bring this tribe together. People were so proud,’’ said Debbie Frankovitch, 55, a Pequot who has lived on the reservation her entire life and used to work as a tribal clerk. “Now, the casino is a big embarrassment. It’s just a lot of greed. People wanted more and more. It’s like a nightmare. It’s a shame it’s come to this.’’

The Pequots council chairman, an elected leader who serves at the head of tribal government and the casino, was placed on leave on Aug. 31 after he warned of Foxwoods’ “dire financial straits’’ and reportedly promised to preserve payouts for tribal members before paying off lenders. That set off jitters among creditors, and the fallout has already spread to other tribes. Their bonds are trading at lower prices following the Foxwoods debacle, sparking worries that native casinos such as Mohegan Sun will find it more expensive to borrow money. The tumult threatens to unravel years of unfettered success and tribal security, and dampen efforts to expand native gaming to other states, including Massachusetts.

Pequot leaders declined interviews about the crisis they face. In a statement, the council said: “We remain in compliance with our covenants and are current with regard to our debt obligations. As we continue through this process, the Tribe will be pursuing a mutually beneficial resolution with its banks and bondholders.’’

Like so many other industries, casinos rode the wave of easy credit to success in the years leading up to the recession, and Foxwoods was no exception. The Pequots, who had to go to Malaysia to fund the initial $60 million casino because no one else would lend to them, soon had banks lining up with loan offers as Foxwoods raked in customers - and their cash. The tribe quickly expanded the resort, adding hotels, restaurants, and shops to the complex, which now stands at 4.7 million square feet, nearly 20 times its original size. The Pequots also spent big to acquire nearby businesses and invest in other industries, such as shipbuilding -an expensive effort that later flopped. The casino operation was also a major boon to Connecticut under an arrangement that provides 25 percent of gross slot revenues to the state or a minimum of $100 million annually.

“My job was to build as much as we could as quickly as we could, and make as much money for the tribe as we could,’’ said Mickey Brown, president of Foxwoods from 1993 to 1997.

Brown, a veteran gaming executive, said the debt the resort took on in the early years was sustainable given the huge revenues coming in from the casino. But many Pequots wanted an increasing share of the profits, and individual payments to tribal members, known as incentives or distributions, became part of the operation. At one time, the payments exceeded $120,000 annually for members. Brown said these kinds of distributions didn’t begin until near the end of his employment, but he declined to comment further.

“Over time, the tribe developed some different thoughts and philosophies on how to do things, and it was not a facility I could continue to work for, and they didn’t want me to continue to work,’’ Brown said.

As competition intensified from nearby casinos, such as Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and Twin River in Rhode Island, Foxwoods embarked on a $700 million project to create MGM Grand at Foxwoods, a partnership with one of the premier Las Vegas operators that was intended to redefine Foxwoods’ reputation as a destination for high-end rollers and star talent. As part of a deal announced in 2006, MGM Mirage promised to provide up to $200 million in loans to fund joint casino expansions in new cities, and had scoured for locations in Kansas and Massachusetts.

But by the time the MGM Grand at Foxwoods debuted in May 2008, the recession was well underway, and gambling receipts were dipping sharply nationwide. Plans to export the Pequots’ success to other states were scrapped, and the millions of dollars that Foxwoods expected from new ventures with MGM never materialized as the Las Vegas giant also began to teeter under the recession. Now, the shimmering tower stands as a symbol of excess, with unbooked rooms, empty stores, and a sparsely populated gaming floor. One measure of the slide: Even with the new slot machines at MGM Grand, Foxwoods’ annual contributions to the state have dropped 14 percent since the high of $205 million in 2005.

“Yes, we spent too much money. Of course we made mistakes. We made the same mistakes that everyone else has made across the country,’’ said Roland Fahnbulleh Jr., 33, a tribal member who moved from Boston to the Pequot reservation more than a decade ago. “Why would people expect to hold us to a higher standard? We know we have to buckle down. More than anything, we have to come back together as a tribe.’’

The future of Foxwoods and the Pequots, which have swelled to 832 tribal members from 250 in 1992, has Fahnbulleh worried. The casino employs his wife as a special events coordinator and has helped him start his own multimedia business. Foxwoods is where they held a baby shower, meet up for family dinners, and watch shows. But it’s not just personal income and amusement. Revenues from Foxwoods support the entire community, funding a child-development center Fahnbulleh’s 7-month-old attends, a police force, a post office, and other services for tribal members. Already, the Pequots have seen their distributions slashed by about 30 percent, and many have lost jobs at the casino and are in danger of losing homes.

“The casino is not just equity. They don’t just own it,’’ said an adviser to the tribal council who is not authorized to speak publicly. “They are it.’’

So, dealing with the financial troubles at Foxwoods isn’t just about solving a business problem at a casino. It’s about finding a way to salvage the economic engine that sustains the Pequot nation. And if the Pequots - as one tribal leader suggested - decide to pay members before paying their bills, it could create serious problems for lenders. Because the casino is on reservation land that is considered, under federal law, part of a sovereign nation, lenders cannot turn to the typical remedies in the event of a default, such as foreclosing on Foxwoods and taking ownership. The Pequots have hired a financial firm to try to restructure their debt by cutting interest rates, extending due dates, and exploring whether a bankruptcy is even possible, according to the adviser.

Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said Foxwoods has been beset by various problems, and said he believes the casino’s lenders were not fully aware of the magnitude of debt that Foxwoods was accumulating. Other casinos, such as Mohegan Sun, have fared better because they suspended expansion plans when the economy crumbled.

Gaming analysts and casino operators say the ongoing struggles at Foxwoods and the threat of default could have a chilling effect on the entire industry.

“Everyone is reeling a bit from the Foxwoods issues. It has not made things easy,’’ said Leo Chupaska, chief financial officer for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. “What occurred at Foxwoods is a negative for the entire Native American gaming sector.’’

Across Foxwoods and the surrounding reservation, the anxiety and frustration are palpable. Nervous employees try to untangle rumors and express worries about job security. And some tribal members have talked of clashes within their own families over the right course of action. On almost every street corner, Tony Beltrane, who is running for tribal council in November, has stuck white signs emblazoned with the question: “Haven’t we had enough yet?’’

Charles Rogers, a Pequot who now lives in Groton, said the tribe looked at Foxwoods as a bottomless pit of money and it poisoned a community of people who suddenly achieved a lifestyle they had never imagined.

“The casino allowed people to come forward and admit who they are, and it offered a sense of pride and stability. But then it evolved into a sense of entitlement,’’ Rogers said. “This entitlement and one-upmanship and ego is really what’s ruining this tribe and ruining the casino. How much money is enough? At what point do you ask yourself that question? For some people, there’s never enough.’’

Hammonassett Festival To Be Held October 3 - 4

Feather News

The Friends of Hammonassett will be holding their third bi-annual event at Hammonassett Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut on October 3rd and 4th.

The festival celebrates nature and acquaints visitors with slices of Indian culture, including a workshop that will show you how to use an atlatl, a groomed rock that is held at the end of a spear to give it more speed when throwing it and was used prior to the bow and arrow. Artifacts from the area, some up to several thousand years old according to the sponsors of the festival, will be on display.

Others will demonstrate the art of making arrowheads (flint knapping) and other ancient technologies.

The U.S. Coast Guard will participate with the Native American Color Guard to begin the festival on Oct 3. The festival's Facebook profile describes the activities as "Two days of native American culture, art, music, dance, crafts, plus numerous exhibits relating to the environment and the world around us."

Connecticut DEP will hold a coyote exhibit and talk about living with coyotes. Taino Indians, from the Carribean, will display feathered headdresses, clay statues, gourds, weapons, musical instruments and other items from their culture.

The festival begins at 10 a.m. and its free.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another View Of The Brothertown Indians Federal Recognition Hurdles

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an Indian Country Today article on the Bureau of Indian Affairs denial of the Brothertown Indians federal recognition bid. The Brothertown Indians' origin sprung, in part, from the Mohegan community.

The Feather News previously reported on the Brothertowns and noted 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 send 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."

The Brothertown Indians later left the lands acquired from the Oneidas in New York and moved to Wisconsin. Their departure westward was not at the behest of the federal government despite the federal Indian Removal Act being implemented near that time. According to the Brothertown Indian Tribe, "Five groups of Brothertown arrived in Wisconsin on ships at the port of Green Bay between 1831 and 1836."

BIA denies Brothertown federal acknowledgment
Bureau reverses 1993 Interior finding that tribe was not terminated in 1839
By Gale Courey Toensing
Indian Country Today
September 11, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Brothertown Indian Nation is determined to continue its quest for federal acknowledgment despite a BIA preliminary ruling to deny them federal status.

The BIA issued a Proposed Finding to deny the nation federal acknowledgment Aug. 17, stating that “evidence in the record demonstrates that the petitioner does not meet five of the seven mandatory criteria for federal acknowledgment” set forth in the statute.

“Therefore, the department proposes to decline to acknowledge the Brothertown petitioner,” the BIA said in a press release issued by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary George Skibine, who oversaw the finding.

The Proposed Finding acknowledges that Brothertown was previously recognized by the federal government.

“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,” the press release said.

But the BIA said the tribe lost its federal status in 1839.

“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,” read the press release.

The BIA’s finding that the tribe was terminated by the 1839 act of Congress is potentially the most fatal – and most controversial – roadblock to the Brothertown Indian Nation’s petition, because one of the seven mandatory criterion for federal acknowledgment is the tribe must not have been terminated by Congress.

In order to reach that conclusion, the BIA had to reinterpret a 1993 memorandum from the Interior Department’s Office of the Solicitor which concurred with an earlier finding by the Office of the Field Solicitor in Twin Cities that the act of 1839 “did not constitute termination of the Brothertown tribe. We find no reason to disagree with the Field Solicitor on this matter.”

The memorandum went on to say that the solicitor’s office had no information about whether the contemporary tribe would meet the criteria for federal acknowledgment, but it was eligible to try.

“Since we believe the Brothertown tribe was not terminated by the act of March 3, 1839, Stat. 349, the group calling themselves the Brothertown Indians is eligible to petition the department for federal acknowledgment as an Indian tribe pursuant to (the statutes),” the memo says.

“That’s our biggest concern,” said Brothertown tribal council Chairman Richard Schadewald. “In 1993 we were assured that we weren’t terminated or else why would we have spent the last 16 years doing all this work? And now all of a sudden they are throwing this back at us? So that’s a major disappointment because we were assured that we had the right to ask for acknowledgment through the Office of Federal Acknowledgement.”

Lee Fleming, OFA director, declined to explain the finding.

“I’d rather have the finding speak for itself. There’s quite a bit of discussion regarding this criterion that needs to be read by the petitioner, interested parties, and the general public because we’re in what is known as the 180-day public comment period in which we invite the parties to comment on our finding, and when we receive the comments then the petitioner has 60 days to read other people’s comments and respond to those, and then we move forward in reviewing all the comments and responses as we work on the final determination.”

The Brothertown Indian Nation is a unique tribe that was formed in 1785 by members of various eastern coastal nations battered almost to extinction by more than 100 years of European invasion, colonization, wars and disease. The members came from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Long Island tribes – Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk, Niantic and Tunxis – who moved to Oneida territory in upstate New York where the Oneida Indian Nation had set aside land for them. The Brothertown was formalized in 1785, and later moved to Wisconsin where a majority of members still live.

In addition to the termination finding, the Proposed Finding says Brothertown didn’t meet the criteria that require recognition as an American Indian “entity” on a “substantially continuous” basis; proof of continuous political authority; proof of continuous community; and proof that all the members descend from the historical tribe.

Kathleen A. Brown-Pérez, chair of the tribe’s federal acknowledgment committee, said the finding was “a huge disappointment.” Brown-Perez is an attorney and assistant professor of Native American Indian Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She rewrote the tribe’s petition that was submitted in 2005 along with “10 banker’s boxes of evidence.

“You know, honestly, we thought we had it in the bag, we really did, so this ruling was a shock.”

The most frustrating thing, Brown-Perez said, was the finding of termination.

“If there’s any doubt at all whether a tribe was terminated – which there was with the Brothertown Indians – then Interior has to issue a ruling that the tribe was never terminated. We got that ruling and we spent countless years putting together our petition and waiting and waiting and waiting. Had we been told right off in 1993 that we’d been terminated, we would have appealed to Congress to un-terminate us. They didn’t do that. We wasted 16 years for the BIA to put us through the process and now they tell us, ‘You know what? We weren’t really serious when we told you you’d never been terminated.’ It’s horrible.

“I’m just wondering, once they decided that we were terminated, did they even really look at our petition and our supporting evidence?”

The tribe did all its own research and petition writing, Schadewald said.

“It was all a volunteer effort by our members. We’re not backed by any gaming promoters or any external group or anything. So that heightens our disappointment. We’re disappointed, but we’re determined. We’re going to take a good hard look at it and keep on going.”

Pennsylvania's Dance To Add Table Games To Its Slot Parlors Gains Momentum As Item In State Budget Projection

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the possibility of adding table games to the slot parlors in Pennsylvania. Should the state allow table games, a key question is: At what rate will revenues derived from table games be taxed? Two proposals, one asking for a 12 percent tax on table games and the other proposal almost double that rate at 21 percent, are currently floating around Harrisburgh. Table games are more expensive than slot machines to operate because of the added staff needed.

Odds improving for Pa. table games
By Suzette Parmley
The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 12, 2009

For those who are not fans of slot machines, Pennsylvania's casinos might soon beckon your business with the addition of blackjack, poker, or craps.
After months of opposition to adding table games at the state's slots-only casinos, leading lawmakers in Harrisburg have gotten on board and are proposing to legalize them.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), a onetime foe, said the state's protracted budget impasse was partly the reason for the change.

A $28 billion budget accord unveiled yesterday in Harrisburg includes $200 million in the next fiscal year that would come from the addition of table games, such as those found in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Legislation would need to be passed in the next few weeks to provide budget help, but already, proponents say just having tables in the plan was recognition that they were moving closer to reality.

"The bold reality of the moment is a dire need for additional state revenue," said Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene). He sponsored a plan to allow table games that stalled in committee in July.

He said he expected the final table-games legislation to be a hybrid between that bill and one backed by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R., Bucks).

Both bills require casino operators to each pay a $10 million licensing fee, but differ in tax rates on gross gambling revenue - the amount to go to the state. DeWeese's bill would tax table games 21 percent; Tomlinson's taxes them 12 percent.

A spokesman for Gov. Rendell, Gary Tuma, said last night: "Conceptually the governor is not opposed to legalizing table games."

He added: "The problem he saw in today's plan was ... lawmakers overestimated the revenues derived from table games in the current fiscal year."

If legislation allowing table games is signed into law, the state Gaming Control Board said it would take six to nine months to implement them. So far, nine of the 14 licensed venues have opened. Five more need to be built, including two on Philadelphia's waterfront.

At least one Pennsylvania casino operator says it would be ready. "If the tax rate is reasonable, table games will be a great addition for the Rivers Casino" in Pittsburgh, said its president and chief operating officer, Ed Fasulo.

But gambling opponent Paul Clymer (R., Bucks), a member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, said table games would mean more social problems for the state.

"Tables games will just create more gambling addiction," he said. "Table games create a whole new venue for people who would not consider slot machines but like the competitiveness of table games."

Senate Majority Leader Pileggi said any effort to add table games should include certain gaming reforms.

He wants a lifetime ban on applicants with a felony conviction who seek a principal or key casino employee license.

"We said all along that table games could happen as long as it was done in an open and accessible process, and that reforms to the existing [gambling] law were enacted first," he said.

For Atlantic City's 11 casinos, which have lost a substantial amount of slots business to Pennsylvania, table games spell more trouble. About 30 percent of their gambling revenue comes from table games.

"Quantitatively, it means Atlantic City will face a continued decline in their gambling revenues, and now more so from tables than slots," said analyst Andrew Zarnett of Deutsche Bank. "By Pennsylvania offering table games, it takes away one of Atlantic City's competitive advantages."

Connecticut Sun Loses To Atlanta; Won't Go On To Playoffs

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun's loss to Atlanta last night by a score of 88-64 means the Sun will not make it to the playoffs for the first time since their relocation from Orlando in 2003.

The Sun (15-18) will play their last regular season game of the year against Indiana on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mashantucket Tribal Council Doesn't Act On Expelling Chairman

Feather News

The Day is reporting today that the Mashantucket Tribal Council has not acted on expelling their chairman, Michael Thomas, from the Tribal Council.

Councilors put Thomas on administrative leave after Thomas sent a letter to Tribal members in August on the Tribe's difficult financial situation and suggested that they could vote to oust him from the Tribal Council at a meeting to be held yesterday.

It is reported that Thomas will not resign and will not seek re-election this Fall.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Local Wii Bowling Tournament Held In Cabaret

Feather News

This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Norwich Bulletin article about a Wii bowling tournament held in the casino's Cabaret Theatre.

The Cabaret Theater at Mohegan Sun has basically been eliminated as one of the casino's busy music venues but other activities take place in the theatre, which was built as part of the 2001 expansion that added the Sky casino and hotel and the retail/restaurant corridor that links the Sky casino with the original Earth casino.

A Nintendo Wii bowling tournament was held in the Cabaret for seniors. The MTGA's Connecticut Sun basketball team furnished the prizes, including a first-place prize of a private booth at this weekend's Tony Orlando concert in the Wolf Den bar.

Seniors hit the virtual lanes at Mohegan Sun
Tournament brings together Wii bowlers from across the state
By Ryan Blessing
Norwich Bulletin
September 9, 2009

Mohegan, Conn. — There was excitement, good-spirited rivalry and even minor controversy at the Connecticut Sun’s Senior Wii Bowling Tournament Wednesday at Mohegan Sun.

The Sun’s first Wii tournament builds on the new trend of seniors getting together to challenge their peers in neighboring communities to bowling games on the Nintendo Wii video game console. Several senior citizen centers in Eastern Connecticut towns have acquired the Wii in the past year.

“They’re all bowling on the Wii now,” said Gwen Pointer, the Sun’s director of marketing. “It’s a great way to keep people active.”

Four women from Colchester who entered the tournament — Peg Coulombe, Ruth Tallman, Bethann Duff and Pat Nardella — bowled a score of 701 in their first round of play. Not terrible, but not great. They were convinced the sensor that reads their handheld controller’s movements was off-center, making it harder to toss a ball down the center of the lane on the video game screen.

“We do much better at home,” Duff said. “That’s a crooked TV.”

But the women said they had fun.

“Peg and I are getting ready for another tournament on the 22nd in Montville,” Duff said.

Twenty-one teams started the first round of play, held in the casino’s Cabaret in front of the stage. Four teams advanced to the semifinals, followed by two teams in the finals. The team with the highest total in the finals, the Lightning Strikes of Torrington, won the championship over the East Hartford Wizards.

The team’s prize, furnished by the Connecticut Sun, was a Tony Orlando prize pack — a private booth for Orlando’s Saturday show at Mohegan Sun and a chance to meet the singer. Second- and third-place teams received Connecticut Sun tickets and prize packs, while the team with the lowest score in round one got Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards.

Colchester and Griswold made it to the second round of play before being eliminated.

Griswold’s team, the Hooligans, was decked out in blue team shirts. Members waved inflatable Rally Rods to cheer their teammates. The team bowled a 666 and 689 in the first round.

Team member Lois Sprague, 76, was proud of her score of 202.

“I’m just good,” she said.

The players in the tournament will be recognized at Sunday’s Sun game, which is also a fan appreciation day.