Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photo: Mohegan Sun Retail Concourse

Mohegan Gaming Authority's Credit Rating Downgraded

Feather News,


A major credit rating agency, Standard & Poors, downgraded the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's credit rating on Friday.

One day after MTGA announced a $3.8 million loss for the three-month period of October through December, Standard & Poor's cited liquidity concerns and the possibility of further revenue and profit declines.

Standard & Poors lowered MTGA's rating from BB to B and placed MTGA on a credit watch with negative implications.

Standard & Poors also noted its concerns over MTGA's ability to remain in compliance with agreements with creditors.

According to S&P's rating scale, the highest rating is AAA, followed by AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, and R is the worst credit rating. MTGA's 'B' rating means that Standard & Poors considers the debt investment as 'speculative' (also known as a 'junk bond') as opposed to an 'investment grade' instrument.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority owns and operates the Mohegan Sun Casino and the Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania.

MTGA announced on Thursday that Pocono Downs lost $1 million, before taking account interest expenses related to that property, for the three-month period of October through December. If interest expenses were included on the approximately $635 million investment in the Pocono Downs property, then the loss would be nearly $10 million for the three-month period.

The Tribe In The News: Mohegan Government Cuts

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media series is an article in today's The Day newspaper regarding a press release issued yesterday by the Mohegan Tribal government. Two reader's comments on The Day website regarding the article have also been posted below:

50 take Mohegan buyout offer
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day newspaper
January 31, 2009

Mohegan - In a promised downsizing of its tribal government, the Mohegan Tribe announced Friday it has completed a “voluntary staff reduction” affecting about 50 employees.
The workers accepted a severance package offering two weeks' pay for each year of service as well as a continuation of health benefits for 90 days, Phil Cahill, the tribe's chief operating officer, said in a statement. The reductions are effective Feb. 27.

The buyout offer was outlined Jan. 11 during a tribal membership meeting at which tribal officials and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority executives unveiled cost-cutting initiatives.

”A number of employees signed up (for the severance offer), and as we got closer to today's deadline we found there were some other positions we needed to eliminate,” Cahill said in a phone interview. “We talked to those people, and when we got done, it was all voluntary.”

Tribal-government operations are largely funded by revenue from Mohegan Sun, the tribe-owned casino whose business has declined amid the recession. Cost reductions affecting employees at Mohegan Sun and the tribe-owned Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., were announced earlier.

Other moves affecting tribal government employees include a rollback of wages to Sept. 30, 2008, levels, suspension of 401(k) and pension contributions and the elimination of salary bonuses. No new employees will be hired, and spending on all non-essential daily operations has been cut. In addition, the Tribal Council announced an 8 percent rollback in compensation for its nine members.

The downsizing affected about 10 percent of the tribal-government work force, according to Cahill. The tribal government, which comprises such units as the Gaming Commission and police, fire, education and housing departments, now numbers about 400.

R E A D E R'S C O M M E N T S

Posted - 1/31/2009 10:16:20 AM
Make no mistake about it, there was nothing VOLUNTARY about it. Employees were put in a horrible position. I know a lot of cuts have been made but there are still so many places to "cut the fat." How about stopping the catered lunches provided daily at the government building (costing hundreds of dollars a day). Is there something so terrible about taking a shuttle down to the employee cafeteria at the casino for lunch or...imagine this...people actually bringing their lunches from home?!?! Sad times for all the dedicated employees who will now be collecting unemployment while remaining employees continue to binge on their catered lunches.

Soon-to-be former employee
Norwich, CT
1/31/2009 12:30:28 PM


Posted - 1/31/2009 7:42:41 AM
It's a lot of "Crowing". Can you say; caw, caw, caw? - The government swelled out of control under a heavy borrowing plan with no exit plan. Now the lower paid people are being let go. As for "voluntary"; I don't think so, not when you have been told that if you aren't Tribal, then you will be let go. The people who took the voluntary plan did so under duress. As for the 8% councilor cut in pay, they only did that after they told the membership they were going to take about 2.5% cut but employees will take a minimum of 4% and Councilors then recieved tremendous backlash. In their arrogance, they forgot they were elected. It's a sequel to the The Wall Street Men who took their bonuses after getting bailout funds.

Chewed Hummingbird
Crow Hill, Mohegan
1/31/2009 8:19:00 AM

Tribal Court Open To Public

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Upon opening the Tribal Court hearing in yesterday's case brought by Tribal elder Brokenwing, the defense withdrew its previous motion seeking to close the courtroom.

The temporary sealing of the case file of Brokenwing (Christian name omitted) v. Mohegan Council of Elders, et al, and the motion to close the court resulted in The Day newspaper writing about the controversy.

The Judge also decided to unseal much of the file. The rest of the file, which primarily includes details of a good standing complaint filed by the Tribal Council chairman and secretary and correspendence between the Elders Council and Brokenwing will remain temporarily sealed pending a decision.

The papers that are temporarily sealed were referred to as "pages 7 through 22" of a summons served on the defendants. Throughout the hearing, the parties were given instructions not to refer to the temporarily sealed items except to refer to them by page number. Pages 1 through 6 are the summons papers served on the defendants and the complaint filed by Brokenwing in Tribal Court.

A handful of Tribal members attended the hearing, many dressed in regalia. David Collins, the reporter from The Day newspaper who wrote about the controversy last Sunday, was also in attendance.

Brokenwing is representing himself in the case. The defense is represented by two staff attorneys and an outside attorney from the law firm of Rome McGuigan P.C.

A decision has yet to be made on Brokenwing's request for an injunction that would halt the good standing proceeding against him until constitutional issues on the good standing process are decided in Tribal Court.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reminder: Deadline Is Tomorrow To Submit Name For Tribal Council Candidacy

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The following news item notifying Tribal members of the deadline to submit their names if they intend to run for Tribal Council was originally posted on January 5, 2009. According to the notice, the deadline appears to be tomorrow. Interested Tribal members should contact the Election Committee with any and all questions at MTElectionCommittee@gmail.com


The Mohegan Election Committee has issued the following notice in regard to the upcoming Tribal Council election:

Tribal Council Election - 2009

There are five Tribal Council seats up for re-election this year. The election will be held on August 30th 2009.

All interested Tribal members who meet the below criteria and would like to be considered a candidate for this election must inform the Election Committee in writing no later than Saturday, January 31st 2009.

According to the Mohegan Tribe Constitution:

ARTICLE VI. ELECTIONS

Section 1. [Qualifications for Position on Tribal Council.]

In order to qualify for and seek election to a position on The Tribal Council, a person:

(a) must be at least 21 years of age prior to the date of the election;
(b) must be a registered voting member of The Tribe in good standing;
(c) must not have been convicted of any violation of The Tribal Election Ordinance; and
(d) must not have been convicted of either a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral integrity, such as forgery or bribery.
(e) Subsection (d) of Article VI, Section 1 may be waived by a majority vote of The Council of Elders.

At this time we are only asking for a brief notice of intent to run for Tribal Council. The committee will send all respondents who meet the January 31st deadline further instructions and appropriate forms to be returned to us no later than Monday, February 16th 2009. Be aware that we will be asking for fingerprints by the February 16th deadline from all prospective candidates, excluding incumbents and anyone who has submitted fingerprints in the past year.

Letters of intent may be mailed:

Mohegan Tribe Election Committee, Box 389, Uncasville CT 06382-0389
or faxed: 860.862.6838
or emailed: MTelectioncommittee@gmail.com

Please include your email address if you want the committee to acknowledge receipt of your letter.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Photo: Wolf Grooving To 'Dr. K's Motown' Band Last Night At Casino's Wolf Den


Reminder: Tribal Court Hearing Tomorrow At 10 AM

Feather News


A hearing will be held tommorrow in Tribal Court at 10 a.m. to hear arguments on a motion filed by the Tribe requesting the courtroom be closed and file sealed on Tribal member Brokenwing's case. Brokenwing brought suit against the Tribe by challenging the constitutionality of the good standing process.

Tribal Court is held in the Tribal Meeting room in the government building.

Tribal members are enouraged to attend the hearing. See how your courts work!

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan Tribal Court

Feather News

This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from The Day newspaper of New London concerning the controversy that resulted in a reporter being denied access to the Mohegan Tribal Court.

The controversy outlined in this article and last Sunday's article in The Day began with a good standing complaint initiated by the chairman and secretary of the Mohegan Tribal Council over articles written by Brokenwing on his blog website. Those Tribal Councilors filed a complaint over a handful of articles on Brokenwing Editorials that dealt with 1) the investment performance of funds under the stewardship of the Tribal government 2) the nature of comments made by the Tribal Council chairman during an open session of a Tribal Council meeting, and 3) a 'Thanksgiving' article on being thankful for the benefits that (primarily) Tribal members receive.

These articles, and much of what Brokenwing writes about, focus on governance and performance issues which are helpful for Tribal members to better understanding how their government operates. These issues receive scant, if any, attention in the Wuskuso newsletter produced by the Tribal government and issued to Tribal members.

For these reasons, we feel that the information on the blogs is helpful and has nothing to do with 'dirty laundry.' Transparency in governemnt is important to us and governance issues should not be relegated to such a category. The Feather News regards the Tribe more as a nation than a family. We need national leaders that implement best-government practices for the citizens and not family bosses that choose policy and laws that they find convenient for their lifestyles.

The article below shows the consequences of family bosses trying to implement policy that they find convenient, not policy that is best for our Indian nation. According to the article below, the reputation of our Tribal Court seems to have been affected by the perception of family bosses intervening on issues that should be independent of their control.

The blogs serve an important purpose because the Mohegan Tribe has invested little in housing on the Reservation. Because of this, the independent blogs (not controlled by the Tribal government) can provide many Tribal members who live off the Reservation with relevant and timely news on their government and government's business operations. News that the citizens would never receive otherwise.

Assure open Mohegan courts
The Editor of The Day newspaper
January 29, 2009

It was troubling to learn that David Collins, a columnist for this newspaper, ran into resistance when he tried to obtain documents from the Mohegan Tribal Court. Mr. Collins wanted information on tribal litigation involving a member who allegedly posted personal and proprietary information on his Internet blog. It is understandable why the tribe would not want to air such dirty laundry, but the true test of a transparent system is allowing access to information even when that information causes some discomfort.

We found some reassurance in the comments of Paul M. Guernsey, chief judge of the Mohegan tribal courts, who guaranteed us the court system is open and tribal councilors or council elders exert no pressure on the judges of the Mohegan Gaming Disputes and Mohegan Tribal courts.

Yet in his column last Sunday Mr. Collins detailed his difficult experience with the Mohegan Tribal Court, outlining efforts by tribal brass to block his access to information in the case and to the actual courtroom.

Judge Guernsey, who has worked in the tribal courts since their inception in 1996, emphatically said Wednesday the courts are open to the public except in a few rare cases, such as sometimes when minor children are involved or surveillance film is played. And Judge Guernsey said tribal leaders hold no sway over rulings made by the court.

The judge should relay that information to the tribal council and elders. In this convoluted case of trying to gag a fellow Mohegan, it appears someone in a leadership role at the tribe filed motions not only to seal the file in the case, but to try to close the courtroom during the proceedings. Judge Guernsey declined to comment because he did not preside over the case. And while it appears the effort to close the courtroom went nowhere, and the case file may be unsealed following a hearing this Friday, the knee-jerk reaction by some tribal officials to block access is disconcerting.

The Mohegan Tribe has long prided itself on its open and good government relations. Tribal leaders place that reputation at risk by trying to close courts. As with any court, tribal judges should rarely use their power to close records or proceedings and only for legitimate purposes.

Openness and access guarantee that justice is unfettered.

Rather than restricting access, the Mohegans should improve it, making it easier for interested parties to get to the courtroom in the tribal offices and to view the courts' dockets.

Flash: MTGA Reports Loss For the Period Of October Through December

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority today announced that it incurred a loss of $3.8 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2009.

The announcement of the loss is the first time in MTGA's history, not including the period in the late 1990's when MTGA expensed hundreds of millions of dollars related to the 15-year Trading Cove Associates contract. The losses in the late 1990's, however, were not related to actual operations since the amounts related to Trading Cove Associates were amounts that were expected to be paid for years following the period in which they were expensed.

The loss is for the quarter of October through December. Last year (Oct through Dec of 2007), MTGA reported net income of $23.7 million.

Pocono Downs incurred a quarterly loss of $1 million BEFORE deducting interest expense.

A conference call will be held with financial analysts at 11 a.m. this morning, during which additional details will be made available.

Other highlights from the first quarter earnings report are:

Gaming revenues of $326.7 million, a 6.8% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Gross slot revenues of $244.7 million, a 1.4% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Table games revenues of $79.7 million, a 20.6% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Non-gaming revenues of $68.4 million, a 1.9% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Net revenues of $364.0 million, a 5.9% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Income from operations of $28.0 million, a 45.5% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Net loss of $3.8 million, compared to net income of $23.7 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Adjusted EBITDA, a non-GAAP measure described below, of $55.4 million, a 27.7% decrease from the first quarter of fiscal 2008

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photos: Casino's Wolf Den Last Night




Mohegan Sun Celebrates Chinese New Year Of The Ox



Pawnee Tribal Member Larry EchoHawk Could Be Next Head Of BIA

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President Barack Obama has not yet officially announced his selection for the Bureau of Indian Affairs but many are discussing his pick could be Larry EchoHawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.

EchoHawk served as the attorney general of Idaho from 1991 to 1995. EchoHawk has his share of critics who point to his record on Indian gaming while serving as attorney general. EchoHawk's brother, John, is the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.

Supporters of EchoHawk note his support for legislation aimed at protecting salmon treaty fishing rights and native religious freedom rights. EchoHawk has been criticized for taking part in implementing an Idaho law that forbid tribes in that state from operating class III gaming operations. Others say he was only carrying out his obligations as attorney general.

In other news, on President Bush denied a clemency request for Leonard Peltier on his last day in office. Peltier is serving two life terms for his role in the 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier denies any guilt and claims his trial was unfair.

Tribal Government Office Closed Today

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribal government office will be closed today due to the weather.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Weather Advisory Set For Mohegan Tonight, Tribal Council Meeting Pending Weather

Feather News
Updated


The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for tonight for the region that includes Mohegan. A mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain will begin after midnight with accumulations of up to 5 inches by the time it ends on Wednesday.

The Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, pending weather conditions. As of 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, no agenda for the meeting was posted.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Tribe In The News: Mohegans Clamping Down On The Press

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media series, which is compilation of articles reflecting how the Tribe is portrayed in the media (which some think is a way to just copy and paste articles from other publications), is an article from yesterday's The Day newspaper concerning the alleged abridgement of press freedoms at Mohegan.

While neither the editor of Brokenwing or Feather News spoke to the press about these issues on the Reservation, it is not surprising that local journalists are showing concerns regarding press and information freedoms.

It came as a surprise, however, to read the conversations between The Day reporter and a Tribal Councilor concerning our Tribal Court. As members will notice in the following article, the Tribal Council has jeopardized the integrity of our judicial system with careless statements.

In my brief experiences with the Tribal Court - both as a plaintiff in the ongoing voting rights case and as an observer - I have thus far witnessed fair proceedings. Tribal members are encouraged to attend the hearing next Friday at 10 a.m. in the Tribal meeting room (which doubles as the Tribal Courtroom) to observe Tribal Court proceedings that will focus on whether the courtroom will be closed and whether the temporary sealing of the case file described below will be lifted or whether it will be permanent.

The Mohegan Tribal Court has its own rules, which essentially applies the Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court's rules when in conflict. If neither court has an applicable rule, such as the issue at hand regarding the sealing of case files or closing courtrooms, then Connecticut Superior Court rules apply in the Tribal Court. The Connecticut Superior Court rule regarding the sealing of files mandates that a hearing be held so that the public can have input.

It is my hope that the issues outlined in the below article reflect our Indian nation's growing pains and that the problems do not become institutionalized. Our fellow Mohegan citizens deserve better from our Tribal Council.

Editorial: Mohegans Clamping Down On The Press
By David Collins
The Day newspaper
January 25, 2009

Imagine a place where a government, apparently stung by the criticism of a vibrant and sometimes sassy local press, moves not just to restrict what might be legally published about the government but also prosecutes a journalist who has leveled some of the attacks.

Sounds like something you'd expect in some autocratic Third World country, right? It's certainly nothing you'd find here in the United States, at a time when a fresh Obama administration is promising a new era of transparency in government, right?

Wrong.

In fact, right here in Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribal Council is pursuing a “good standing” complaint against a tribal member for things he has posted on his Web site, brokenwingeditorials.blogspot.com, according to another Web site that publishes news of the tribe, feathernews.blogspot.com.

The tribal council has also just passed a new Freedom of Information law, one the brokenwing blog facetiously calls the “Restriction of Information Ordinance,” which makes it unlawful for tribal members to make tribal records public.

A successful petition to put the new law to a vote by all tribal members has been filed with the government, the blogs report.

All this might be dismissed as just messy tribal politics, except that this week, in what appeared to be an effort to put a lid on any reporting of the issue, the government sealed the records of a lawsuit being brought in Tribal Court by the brokenwing author.

Not only is the government trying to restrict what tribal members can or cannot publish, they are casting doubt on the independence of the tribe's court system, one that is supposed to be the alternative to Connecticut courts when someone wants to bring a complaint against the sovereign nation.

What confidence can the general public have in this court if it is not open and free from influence by the tribal government? If the government can close cases it finds embarrassing, how might it interfere with ones that will cost it money?

The brokenwing lawsuit was sealed Thursday by Tribal Court Judge Paul M. Guernsey, a court clerk told me, three days after I asked to look at it. Before the record was actually sealed, I experienced lots of stalling tactics, including a report from a tribal spokesman Wednesday that a “representative of the Tribal Council” was meeting with someone from the court about my request.

By Thursday afternoon I got a call from Tribal Vice Chairwoman Lynn Malerba, who, I was told, would be the person designated to respond to questions about the lawsuit.

Malerba wouldn't say much of anything beyond “no comment” but did claim that the request to seal the lawsuit came from the tribe's Council of Elders.

”It's not the tribe's tradition to share information with the public at large,” she said.

When I asked if I could attend a hearing in Tribal Court on the lawsuit by the brokenwing author, scheduled for Friday afternoon, she said: “Absolutely not.”

It seems to me the correct answer, from a government official, would be to suggest that I ask the court.

My reporting experience with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court could not be more different. The Pequot court building is easily accessible to the public. Court staff are professional and helpful and they promptly make available court records, no matter how embarrassing they may be for the tribal government.

In a hearing not long ago on a petition by Pequot tribal members to recall the Tribal Council, court officials made sure there was room for the press in the crowded courtroom, even if it meant some tribal members had to wait outside.

I'm not sure what disclosures the Mohegan tribal government might be worried that blogs by tribal members are making. A broad reading of the blogs' archives show they are mostly a discussion of material that is already known to the general public, much of it financial information from federal Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

But there is a lot of pointed criticism of the Tribal Council, from decisions to pursue unsuccessful ventures outside Connecticut to the councilors' decision not to cut their own pay when they initiated their latest cost-saving measures, including pay cuts for casino workers and possible layoffs for government employees.

The “good standing” complaint against the brokenwing writer, a judicial proceeding in which the Council of Elders can consider whether a member is in good standing in the tribe and impose punishments, was brought by Tribal Council Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum and another councilor, according to feathernews.

In his lawsuit, the brokenwing writer claims the good standing process does not offer the procedures of a fair trial or a proper forum for appeal, according to the blog.

The feathernews site traces the start of “harassment” of the blog writers to a link that was posted on feathernews to a video on YouTube, a movie trailer in which Bozsum appears surrounded by bikini-clad women.

”Much to the horror of many tribal members, at the end of the movie trailer the Mohegan Sun hotel was blown up,” the blog reported.

It would be hard to know just what may have triggered the new crackdown on press freedoms by the Tribal Council, but it's an ill-considered one, especially if it's motivated by sensitivity to political attacks.

Maybe the councilors should pay attention to the winds of change that are blowing through Washington these days, a spirit being evoked by the tribal bloggers, before they start blowing too hard on the Mohegan reservation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

ACLU Declines To Take On Voting Rights, Free Speech Cases

Feather News


The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut has responded to the editor of the Feather News, Ken Davison, saying they cannot assist in the voting rights case being heard in the Mohegan Tribal Court.

In Kenneth Davison v. The Mohegan Tribe Election Committee, et.al., the constitutionality of requiring Tribal members to vote for all elective positions in any given Tribal election is at issue.

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

Davison filed the Tribal Court complaint on September 15, 2008.

Davison voted for three candidates in the past two election run-offs in which four elective positions were available. Davison is representing himself pro-se, without an attorney. The Tribe has engaged three outside attorneys in their defense.

The Tribal Court judge denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the case and a trial date has been set for March 2, 2009.

The ACLU also reviewed information from Brokenwing's free press case and cannot assist with that case either. Brokenwing is also representing himself pro-se in Tribal Court. The Tribe has engaged one outside attorney and two staff attorneys for their defense.

"We cannot help you with the assistance you requested because the Mohegan Tribe is a sovereign nation. Additionally, we do not have the resources or expertise in this area to accept your case," according to the letter signed by ACLU staff attorney David McGuire.

Editorial: Tribal Court To Consider Motion Requesting Closing Court And Sealing File In Brokenwing Free Press Case

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Court file on Brokenwing's case has been temporarily sealed pending a hearing next Friday, January 30 in the Tribal meeting room.

Brokenwing, is asserting that a good standing complaint made against him by two Tribal Councilors, based on his writings on Brokenwing Editorials, violates his freedom of speech and is also asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of the good standing process.

The defendants in the case have filed a motion to close courtroom proceedings but before the Judge will consider that motion, the Judge will seek public comment at next Friday's hearing. It is uncommon for courtrooms to be closed and civil case files sealed and is only done under extraordinary circumstances.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Judicial systems recognize the value of the press and the public in ensuring that proceedings are transparent. According to a landmark opinion, in the case of Westmoreland v. Columbia Broadcasting System in which the plaintiff argued that television cameras should not be permitted in the courtroom, a federal court ruled that public access to trials "enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the factfinding process" while permitting "the public to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process - an essential component in our structure of self government."

Two darlings of journalism - information freedoms and press freedoms - have been under siege at Mohegan lately so it should not come as a surprise that the outside press will likely be reporting about the situation on the Reservation.

Until this week, the Feather News has been online for a year-and-a-half without the outside local press referring to website. That is the way we like it to be but if this situation is reported on in the outside press, it will be the fault of the Tribal Council.

It seems unfair that freedoms otherwise enoyed by the citizens of the Mohegan Tribe are being targeted by the Tribe's public officials. The Tribe would be better served by having Tribal Councilors focus on business issues and a more open government than spending energy making laws and filing complaints that, among other things, restricts independent news disseminated by individual Tribal members.

The citizens of the Tribe deserve to have their Tribal officials conduct themselves like leaders of a dynamic sovereign nation and not like autocratic family bosses ordering their family members around.

The citizens deserve better.

MTGA To Announce 1st Quarter Earnings Next Thursday, Jan 29

Feather News


On Thursday, January 29, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will announce its earnings for the first quarter of fiscal year 2009.

MTGA's fiscal year 2009 began on October 1, 2008 and ends on September 30, 2009. The first quarter of the fiscal year is the three-month period of October through December.

Although earnings for the first quarter will be announced next week, the balance sheet and statement of cash flows for that period are expected to be released in mid-February.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Tribe In The News: Mohegan Sun Rakes In Most Slot Revenue On East Coast Despite Profit Concerns

Feather News


This installment of the The Tribe In The News series is an article from The Day newspaper on the rankings of East Coast casinos by slot machine revenue.

Region's 2008 slots wins lead East Coast pack
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
January 23, 2009

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino continued to rake in far more slot-machine revenue than any other East Coast location last year, according to a report by a research firm that monitors the gaming industry.

Mohegan Sun's $842.9 million in 2008 slot winnings puts it first among the 41 state-regulated casinos, racinos and slot parlors listed in the Gaming Industry Observer's East Coast Slot Report, which came out this week. The report is published by the Linwood, N.J.-based Spectrum Gaming Group.

Foxwoods, which includes MGM Grand at Foxwoods, ranks second in the listing, with 2008 winnings of $728.1 million.

The totals for Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods reflect year-over-year declines of 6.5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. In fact, virtually all of the established sites on the list experienced year-over-year declines, particularly the 11 Atlantic City casinos, which, collectively, took in 12.3 percent less than they did in 2007.

Still, East Coast slot machines generated $9.65 billion in winnings, up 3.7 percent over 2007, an increase attributable to the introduction of new gaming venues and expansions, the report says.

”Without exception, the only operations that posted revenue growth were either newer, recently improved or expanded, and/or enjoyed some form of legislative or regulatory relief in 2008 that allowed enhanced marketing,” Bill LaPenta, Spectrum's director of financial analysis, said in a press release accompanying the report.

After Connecticut's casinos, the highest-grossing facility was Empire City at Yonkers (N.Y.) Raceway, a racino that features horse racing, live and via simulcasts, as well as slots. Empire City, which introduced slots in October 2006, had $486.5 million in slot winnings last year. Twin River in Lincoln, R.I., a racino featuring greyhound racing in addition to simulcast horse racing and slots, had slot winnings of $407.5 million last year.

Not surprisingly, the report shows a strong link between winnings and the number of slot machines. The Foxwoods casinos operated an average of 7,736 machines per day during 2008, the most of any East Coast location. Mohegan Sun was next, with 6,300 machines and Empire City was third with 5,339.

The 41 locations operated 109,656 slot machines at year's end, the report says. Each machine won, on average, $245 a day, a decline of 4.8 percent over 2007. Philadelphia Park, a racino in Bensalem, Pa., generated the highest daily win per machine at $386, followed by The Meadows, a racino in Washington, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and Mohegan Sun at $366 each. Foxwoods' daily win per machine was $257.

On average, East Coast slot machines paid out 91.13 percent of the money wagered on them, according to the report. Delaware Park, a Wilmington, Del., racino, offered the highest average payout at 92.53 percent, followed by The Borgata in Atlantic City, 92.29 percent, and Monticello (N.Y.) Raceway, 92.25 percent.

The report does not include results from the 14 tribal casinos in Florida, New York and North Carolina, which do not make their gaming revenues public.

Reminder: Intertribal Social This Sunday In Uncas Ballroom

Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama Speaks Out For Information Freedoms On First Day In Office

Feather News

President Barack Obama, during his first full day as President, issued a memorandum ordering government agencies to examine Freedom of Information Act requests with a bias toward release of documents. The intent of the memorandum contrasts with criticisms of secrecy in the Bush administration.

"For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known," President Obama said.

The President's "Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government" was immediately hailed by open government advocates. The memorandum directs government agencies to "harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) said, "The right to know is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without it, citizens are kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives. Without open government, citizens cannot make informed choices at the ballot box. Without access to public documents and a vibrant free press, officials can make decisions in the shadows, often in collusion with special interests, escaping accountability for their actions. And once eroded, these rights are hard to win back.

"As we celebrate the inauguration of our new President and the start of a new administration, we are reminded that a free, open and accountable democracy is what our forefathers envisioned and fought to create. I believe that it is the duty of each new generation to protect this vital heritage and inheritance. In this New Year, at this new and historic time for our Nation, I am pleased that we have once again reaffirmed a commitment to an open and transparent government on behalf of all Americans."

President Barack Obama's Inaugural Speech

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The following is the text of President Barack Obama's inaugural speech on January 21, 2009:

My fellow citizens, I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flash: Petition To Reject Freedom Of Information Ordinance Submitted

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A petition to reject the freedom of information ordinance, with more than the required signatures, was delivered yesterday to the Mohegan Tribe's election committee.

Today's Tribal Council Meeting Canceled

Monday, January 19, 2009

Photo: That's How Much Snow Fell At Mohegan Last Night

Photo: New Species Of Bear Spotted At Mohegan Sun

Photo: Handing Out Flyers To Sell Tickets For Saturday Night's Volleyball Match In Arena

Photo: Casino's Former Food Court Below Earth Entrance

Photo: Casino's Trading Cove Store

Mohegan Tribal Office Closed Today For Martin Luther King Day

February Intertribal Social Canceled? A One-Day Wigwam Event?

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The intertribal social, scheduled for February 21, is rumored to be canceled as one of the cost saving measures to be taken by the Tribal government. The intertribal social on January 25 is still on as scheduled.

It is also rumored that the annual wigwam may be cut back to one day while not holding the dance competition.

Tribal government employees are starting to hear of which positions will be cut. So far, the Wuskuso department, Planning department and Art department have been affected and staff in those departments have been told of changes. Cultural staff have yet to be told their fates but many are already talking of the changes that have been decided.

Will Wuskuso be going out less frequently?

Out of all the salary cuts made at the casino, the Tribal Council took the least? Did the Tribal Council forget to mention exactly how much their pay has been cut in their letter to the membership? Wasn't it only their cost-of-living increase that they are forgoing?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tribal Members Plan Petition To Rid Tribe Of New Law Restricting Information

By Ken Davison
Feather News


Tribal members are speaking of gathering the necessary 35 signatures on a petition that will force the Tribal government to put the newly-passed freedom of information ordinance out for a referendum, which would allow Tribal members to reject it at the polls.

Due to the restrictions contained in the freedom of information ordinance, it isn't clear if we would be violating the ordinance by merely saying what is contained in our new law (ordinance).

At a time when Tribal members should be informed of what is going on with their government, the passage of the new law does the opposite by restricting the gathering and dissemination of information to Tribal members.

Under Article 12 of the Mohegan Constitution, "the members of The Tribe reserve to themselves the power to propose ordinances and resolutions and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Tribal Council upon petition of thirty-five (35) of the registered voters within seven (7) days of such action."

The freedom of information ordinance was passed by the Tribal Council on Wednesday, leaving only a few days to finish the petition.

The sponsors of the petition ask that we keep their names anonymous at this point but thought it would be helpful if we got the word out to tribal members asking for their help on this petition. If you are a Tribal member but are in a situation where you support a change in the law but feel you shouldn't sign it, you can be a major help by finding other tribal members to sign the petition. Ask around.

If you can help in any way, please contact kennethdavison1@hotmail.com or leave a comment on Brokenwing's or my website (we won't post it).

Mohegan Sun's December Slot Revenue Falls 4.3 Percent

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Slot revenues at Mohegan Sun declined in December by 4.3 percent compared to December of the prior year while Foxwoods slot revenue fell 19.3 percent.

Mohegan Sun's slot revenue for December was $63.1 million while Foxwoods recorded $44.9 million in December slot revenue.

Last year at this time, the Mohegan Sun reported December 2007 slot revenue of $65.9 million, a decline of about 19% from its December 2006 slot revenue of $81.2 million.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo: Casino Worker Walks Home Today On New Sidewalk Installed By Tribe

Analysis: Freedom Of Information Ordinance Received

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The Tribe's new freedom of information ordinance that was passed yesterday was hand delivered to Brokenwing today at the tribal office.

We have read through the new law. Unfortunately, we cannot say any more at this time because discussing the ordinance may be considered a violation under that very same ordinance.

All tribal members should be made aware that, as of yesterday, serious sanctions could be imposed should any tribal member communicate information not in accordance with the new law even if they do not know the new law exists.

We are waiting to gather more legal tips from our advisor but since Judge Judy doesn't go on TV until 4:30, we must only hope that today's show is more informative than previous shows this week.

Mohegan Government Office Opening Delayed Two Hours Today

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The Mohegan Tribal government announced that it will delay opening its office for two hours this morning.

An accumulation of 2-4 inches of snow is expected for the area.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Tribe In The News: Mohegan Government Cuts

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This installment of The Tribe In The News is an article published in today's The Day newspaper:

Mohegan Tribe Considers Slimmer Tribal Government
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day newspaper
January 13, 2009

Mohegan - Apart from cost-cutting at its flagship, Mohegan Sun, the Mohegan Tribe will reduce its tribal-government operation through voluntary buyouts and, if necessary, layoffs, as well as rolling back salary increases and halting construction of an $80 million community center that would house administrative offices.

Members of the Tribal Council conducted meetings Monday to discuss the cost-cutting initiatives with tribal-government employees, of which there are nearly 400, according to Chuck Bunnell, the tribe's chief of staff. The sessions came on the heels of Sunday's quarterly membership meeting at Mohegan Sun, where tribal and casino officials presented a sweeping plan to rein in costs in the face of declining casino revenues and dire economic forecasts.

Following the membership meeting, casino officials went public Sunday with a plan to avoid layoffs by rolling back the salaries of all 9,800 casino employees Feb. 1. Senior managers will take a 10 percent pay cut. Middle managers' pay will be reduced by 7.5 percent and salaried nonmanagement and hourly workers will have their pay cut by 4 percent.

Salaries for tribal-government employees, many of whom got raises Oct. 1, the start of the tribe's 2009 fiscal year, will revert to Sept. 30 levels, Bunnell said. As with casino employees, annual and merit-based increases and company 401(k) matches will be suspended. The rollbacks will also apply to the nine Tribal Council members, Bunnell said.

The number of tribal-government positions that will be eliminated is unknown. Tribal government comprises such units as the Gaming Commission and police, fire, education and housing departments.

”It's not necessarily a head count,” Bunnell said. “A couple of years ago, tribal government hired an outside firm to look at efficiencies, so we've been working on this. It predates the economic situation, but based on what's happening with the economy, we've accelerated it.

”Until we see how many want to take it (the voluntary buyout offer), and what department heads come up with as far as their staffing needs, we won't know (how many workers will be let go).”

Decisions about the downsizing will likely be made around the end of February.

”Within tribal government, layoffs are a possibility,” Bunnell said.

Reaction was favorable Monday to Mohegan Sun's plan to avoid layoffs by imposing across-the-board pay cuts. Readers who commented on the plan on The Day's Web site, www.theday.com, overwhelmingly supported the casino's cost-cutting approach.

Bunnell noted that the casino had already reduced its work force through attrition, a point Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun's president and chief executive officer, made Monday during an interview on “The Lee Elci Morning Show” on WXLM-104.7, a New London radio station. Etess said the casino had eliminated hundreds of positions over the last 11 to 13 months, in part taking advantage of the high turnover endemic to the casino business.

”Turnover in tribal government is almost nonexistent,” Bunnell said.

Tribal officials also informed the tribal membership Sunday that they will suspend construction of the community center, which was to have been completed in December 2009. In addition to housing offices, the building is to include a swimming pool and a basketball court where the Connecticut Sun, the tribe-owned entry in the Women's National Basketball Association, would practice. The team's home court is the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Construction will be suspended until “we see an opening of the bond market for financing,” Bunnell said.

Annual distributions of casino profits to adult tribal members also are being reduced, though Bunnell declined to provide details.

”Members are joining in the sacrifices being made,” he said.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority Releases Statement On Cost Cutting Measures

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued the following statement today on some of the cost cutting measures that will be taken at the casino:

"The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (“MTGA” or the “Authority”) announced today a series of cost reduction initiatives to be implemented at its flagship property, Mohegan Sun, in Uncasville, Connecticut, as a result of the continuing economic slowdown.

"In a continued effort to maintain its record of no employee layoffs, something that has been accomplished due to long-standing financial success since opening in 1996, the MTGA Management Board is implementing alternative cost saving initiatives that will better align the Authority’s cost structure with the current economic environment, while ensuring minimal impact on the guest experience.

"Effective February 1, 2009, all Mohegan Sun employees, including senior management, and its Connecticut affiliates, will have salary rollbacks of 10 percent for Vice Presidents and above, 7.5 percent for middle management and 4 percent for all line and hourly employees. Other actions include suspension of all annual and merit-based compensation increases, as well as employer-matched 401K contributions.

"The Authority is also implementing a number of other initiatives to reduce operating expenses, including marketing efficiencies, reducing hours of operations in some outlets, and working with all business partners and service providers to increase cost-effectiveness.

“These are difficult times for the entire Mohegan family,” said Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum. “Sacrifices are being made by the employees of Mohegan Sun, our Tribal Government, and by the members of our Tribe. I am confident we will weather this as we always have, together, and be stronger for it.”

“Due to unprecedented market conditions, the Authority has been forced to make a number of difficult, but necessary, decisions to reduce our operating costs,” said Mitchell Etess, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mohegan Sun. “However, we are determined to remain the leader in our industry without compromising our core values and clear competitive advantages.”

Mr. Etess added, “In addition to respect for our employees, we also have a responsibility to our banking partners, bondholders and stakeholders who continually support our vision. We are confident that we are taking the appropriate measures to improve our financial results and grow our existing market share advantage over competitors.”

Tribal Membership Meeting Not Canceled As Of Sunday Morning

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Updated


The Tribal membership meeting, scheduled for 12:30 today in the casino's Uncas Ballroom, has not been canceled. The last inquiry was made at 11:15 a.m., two hours before the meeting.

The snowfall at Mohegan was much lighter than originally expected with maybe two inches of snow in total before changing into rain before stopping this morning.

Snow just began to fall again shortly after 10:30 a.m.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photo: View Of Thames River From Fort Shantok During Warmer Days

Winter Storm Expected This Weekend, Could Affect Sunday's Membership Meeting

Feather News
Updated


A winter storm is expected to hit Mohegan this weekend, beginning Saturday morning and possibly leaving a half-foot of snow before it ends on Sunday morning.

Should Sunday's Tribal membership meeting be canceled, it would likely be rescheduled for the following week. The Feather News will post a notice on the website on Sunday if it learns of the meeting cancelation.

If the meeting goes on as planned, remember that the location has been changed from the Tribal government building to Salon D in the Uncas Ballroom at the casino. The location change has been noted in a separate letter mailed by tribal officials and in this week's Wuskuso, according to sources. Those members living out of town who typically receive their Wuskuso newsletter after the weekend - as opposed to locals who get the newsletter on Friday or Saturday - may not know of the location change. No reason has been given for the location change.

Unfortunately, Tribal members are not given specifics on what will be discussed in the membership meetings in advance as is customary in professional settings so, if the meeting is canceled, we may have to just continue to wait to find out how we will be affected by decisions made by our election officials. The separate letter mailed to members about the meeting also does not say what decisions the Tribal Council has made.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Attorney General Aims Smoking Gun At Tribes

By Ken Davison
Feather News


Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is not satisfied with a possible agreement reached by the Mohegans and the governor over smoking at the Mohegan Sun and says he will urge state legislators to ban smoking at both Indian casinos in Connecticut.

Mohegan Sun officials had reportedly agreed to reduce second-hand smoke at the casino with the use of ventilation systems and by increasing the amount of non-smoking gaming space but Blumenthal says that a total ban on smoking is the best way to protect people's health.

Blumenthal today repeated once again that the state has the authority to ban smoking at both Indian casinos in Connecticut. Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan Tribe's deputy chief of staff for external affairs, who has been spearheading negotiations said, "We hold to our strong belief and legal opinion that the Connecticut General Assembly has no jurisdiction on tribal lands. Sovereignty is something the Mohegan Tribal Council will never waiver on."

Blumenthal's weapon is the text of the gaming compact (contract) negotiated between the tribes and the state.

Last March, Blumenthal issued a formal legal opinion concluding that under the state's compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes "the legislature has the authority to extend the state's smoking ban to Connecticut's tribal casinos."

The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires these compacts to be negotiated between the state and tribes in order for the tribes to open casinos.

Blumenthal has said that negotiating an agreement regarding smoking with the state would be preferable to court action.

"At the core of each compact is a key health and safety provision -- a critical mandate that health and safety conditions in every gambling facility be no less rigorous than state public health and safety standards. The statutory smoking ban is clearly and quintessentially a public health protection, applying broadly to all public buildings and facilities across the State. The compacts extend this standard to the gaming facilities, unless the legislature creates an exception. The legislature has authority to make an exception for the casinos, but also to eliminate the exception, and apply the smoking ban as a broader public health standard," according to Blumenthal.

"Principles of sovereignty in no way bar this measure, because the tribes have already agreed - as a condition in the compacts - to adopt public health standards at least as rigorous as the state's public health laws."

"The compacts provide for enforcement generally of their provisions through action in federal court, but my strong hope is that discussions with the tribes will lead to agreements extending the smoking ban to gaming facilities without a court dispute. For now, the General Assembly may move forward with confidence that its legality and constitutionality will be upheld if challenged. In the end, on so profoundly significant a public health issue as smoking, we should seek common ground and avoid conflict in the courts."

In 2003 when the state legislature banned smoking in many public places, casinos were exempted. The 2003 ban included state buildings, health care institutions, retail food stores, elevators, college dormitories, restaurants, and most public establishments with alcoholic liquor permits.

Feds Reject Menominee's Proposed Casino In Wisconsin

Feather News
Updated


The U.S. Interior Department rejected the Menominee Indian Tribe's application for a casino at Kenosha's Dairyland Greyhound Park in Wisconsin.

A spokesman for the project calls the outright rejection a "speed bump" so it is believed that the Tribe will continue to pursue seeking approvals for the project.

The Tribe was notified of the rejection yesterday. The rejection stems from guidelines implemented by the Interior Department that restricts off-reservation casinos from being built far from a tribe's reservation. The proposed Kenosha casino was to be about 200 miles from the Menominee reservation.

The Menominee Tribe has filed a suit in federal court to overturn the Interior Department's guidelines, which were implemented last January.

The Mohegan Tribe would have developed and managed the proposed casino. Thus far, the Mohegan Tribe has written off $3.5 million and set aside reserves for another $9.5 million related to the project, amounting to $13 million or close to $12,000 per adult tribal member.

It is unclear how much more money the Tribe has spent on the project other than the above amounts that could be identified in financial statement notes submitted by the Tribe to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Major Credit Rating Agency Reports Negative Casino Outlook For 2009

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Moody's Investors Service said this week that its outlook for the gaming industry in 2009 is negative due to "ongoing weakness in demand (that) will hurt profitability, liquidity and cash flow. Demand is down across domestic gaming markets and there is no sign of a rebound."

According to the Moody's report, casino operators have been pressured as consumers continue to tighten discretionary spending due to the ongoing housing slowdown, diminishing credit, escalating food costs and unemployment concerns.

Moody's said that its outlook on the industry will be affected by the length of the recession and how well companies handle short-term liquidity concerns and manage operating expenses.

Pennsylvania Gaming/Racing Conference Set For February 23-24

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The 5th annual Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum is scheduled for February 23-24 at the Whitaker Center and Harrisburg Hilton in Pennsylania.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Congress's Wall Street panel are:
Larry Klatzkin, Managing Director - Gaming Equity/High-Yield Research, Jefferies & Co., Alex Picou, Managing Director of Gaming, Travel and Leisure, KeyBanc Capital Markets, Joel Simkins, SVP - Gaming & Leisure Analyst, Macquarie Bank and
Adam Steinberg, Gaming Industry Equity Research Analyst, Morgan Joseph.

According to a press release, "The Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum is a two-day public conference where industry leaders, elected officials, regulators, vendors and other industry professionals analyze the critical issues impacting the gaming and racing industries. In addition, the conference provides outstanding networking opportunities.

"The event begins with the opening day racing program, sponsored by Widener University, followed by an evening cocktail reception. The next day, more than 300 gaming and racing professionals from across the country will gather for the intensive, daylong gaming conference, featuring dozens of expert speakers including Keynote Addresses by Mary DiGiacomo Colins, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and Timothy Wilmott, President and Chief Operating Officer of Penn National Gaming."

Registration for the forum is available at early-bird rates at www.pagamingcongress.com. The Harrisburg Hilton is offering a special "Pennsylvania Gaming Congress" room rate by calling 800-HILTONS.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum is produced by Spectrum Gaming Group and presented by the law firm Fox Rothschild.

Mohegan Brand Beer Reviewed By Beer Publication

Feather News


We came across the following news item describing the varieties of beer that are brewed and sold on the Mohegan Reservation. No mention is made of 'Matagha Lager,' a Tribal beer that was named after deceased Mohegan Chief Matagha and previously sold at the casino. We're not sure if it is still being sold at the casino. The editor of the Feather News has previously registered complaints with the Tribe about naming beers after our chiefs and we have to admit our sorrow over the brand names listed in the following article:

Beer News

Seasonal Ale, Cold Moon Now Available at Mohegan Sun
Posted by: Todd on Sunday - December 28, 2008 - 23:41 UTC
Topic Origin: Beer Releases

This December, Mohegan Sun launched its winter ale, Cold Moon. This flavorful winter warmer attributes its complex malt sweetness to bitter hops and its full body character. Cold Moon is the second flavor of six located throughout Mohegan Sun.

"December marks Cold Moon's tenth year of service at Mohegan Sun," said Joel Johnson, Brew Pub Manager at Mohegan Sun. "This dark strong English roasted malt melt has a refreshingly smooth and heavy finish that our guests look forward to every holiday season."

Additionally, Sachem Ale and Mohegan Lager are on-tap 365 days a year and the remaining two flavors, Peeping Frog Ale and Thunder Moon Lager, are seasonal brews.

Guests looking for Mohegan Sun's Hunting Moon can find it at the following locations: The Brew Pub at Mohegan Sun, Hall of the Lost Tribes, The Cove Bar, The Longhouse, Pompeii & Caesar, Bamboo Forest, Seasons Buffet, The Lodge Bar, Wolf Den Bar & Showroom, Leffingwells Martini Bar, Birches Bar & Grill, Taughannick Falls Bar and the East Wind Bar located in Casino of the Wind. Hunting Moon will be available until December.

Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribe, is one of the largest, most distinctive and spectacular entertainment, gaming, shopping and meeting destinations in the United States. Situated on 240 acres along the Thames River in scenic southeastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is within easy access of New York, Boston, Hartford and Providence and located 15 minutes from the museums, antique shops and waterfront of Mystic Country.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Photo: Icy Conditions At Mohegan


Proposed Freedom Of Information Ordinance Tabled By Tribal Council

Feather News
Updated


A proposed freedom of information ordinance was tabled at today's Tribal Council meeting. The reason given for tabling the ordinance was that suggestions were made yesterday which may require the Tribal Council to revise the proposed ordinance.

About twenty Tribal members, including the Council of Elders, attended today's meeting.

A draft version of the proposed freedom of information ordinance has not been provided to Tribal members or to the Feather News although an information request has been made for the document.

In other business, Phil Cahill, the Tribal government's chief operating officer, introduced Ray Kanterman as the Tribe's new fire chief. Mr. Kanterman began in that position on January 3.

Chuck Bunnell, the Tribal government's deputy chief of staff for external affairs, noted that today is the first day of the new session for the Connecticut General Assembly and that the United Auto Workers had scheduled a press conference for today.

Employees of the Public Works department were thanked for their responsiveness in these weather conditions and a thank you letter from a school was read aloud thanking the Tribe for their generous donation of $500.

Freedom Of Information Draft Document From Disbanded Constitution Revision Commission

Feather News


The Tribal Council has yet to release to Tribal members the proposed freedom of information ordinance that is currently under consideration. At today's Tribal Council meeting, a proposed freedom of information ordinance was tabled until next week's meeting.

Thus far, Tribal members have not been given an opportunity to review the proposed ordinance.

In 2005 the now-disbanded Constitution Revision Commission had worked on a draft freedom of information amendment to the Mohegan Constitution. Although the Commission has since been disbanded and the proposed amendment was not acted upon, the Feather News obtained the text of their proposed amendment dated May 2006:

Government Accountability

Freedom of Information. The Members of the Tribe reserve to themselves the power to obtain information concerning the operation of the Mohegan government and all tribally owned enterprises. No peson, entity, government branch or department shall create procedures or legislation that unreasonably inhibit the power of tribal members to obtain available information. Within one hundred twenty (120) days of approval of this Article, the Mohegan Tribal Council shall enact legislation to provide for the disclosure of information to Tribal Members, consistent with this Article. The legislation shall provide for the disclosure of the following information, subject to the exceptions set forth in Section 2 below. Available information shall include but not be limited to:
a. financial records and contracts for the Mohegan Tribe and all tribally owned entities;
b. the Tribal Roll indicating only the names of all enrolled members of the Mohegan Tribe and an annual summary of changes to the Tribal Roll (name changes, additions, and deletions);
c. governmental budget information and ledgers;
d. compensation, salary, bonuses and benefits for all positions within the Tribe and tribally owned entities;
e. all government and departmental policies, ordinances and resolutions of the Tribe;
f. all meeting minutes of the Tribal Council and the Council of Elders excluding minutes of Executive Session meetings;
g. all findings, minutes, determinations, recommendations and imposition of any sanctions and or penalties, and written transcripts of the Mohegan Tribal Ethics Commission within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of any Mohegan Tribal Ethics Commission case.

Exceptions to Disclosure. Exceptions to disclosure may be made: for information concerning personnel matters, applications for tribal membership or health information, for information for which disclosure would jeopardize the functioning of the tribal government or a tribally owned entity or would violate any applicable federal law or contractual obligation of the Tribe.

Limited Waiver of Sovereign Immunity. The sovereign immunity of the Mohegan Tribe is expressly waived to authorize Tribal Members to bring actions for declaratory, injunctive and mandamus relief in the Mohegan Tribal Court for enforcement of the provisions of this Article and the provisions of any legislation enacted pursuant to (the first paragraph) of this Article.

Tribal Office Opening, Council Meeting Delayed This Morning

Feather News
Updated


The Mohegan Tribal government office will delay its opening two hours this morning due to weather conditions. An announcement was reported seen on Channel 3 just before 6 a.m.

The Mohegan Tribal Council meeting will also begin later than normal. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. today. On the agenda for the meeting is a freedom of information ordinance.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal government office (and their museum) also reported a two-hour delay in opening today.

Tribal Artist's Copyright Guidelines

Feather News


In a poster contest for children that is being administered by the Mohegan Tribe family services department, one of the rules states that the original artwork submission and copyrights of the work will belong to the Tribe.

Do the children really understand what rights they are ceding to the Tribe? Is it legal or even ethical for the Tribe to extract these rights from children?

The contest began on November 1, 2008 and submissions will be accepted until January 16, 2009. The theme of the contest is, "Ask me, See me, Be me ... Drug and Alcohol Free ... Honoring Our Ancestors."

The rule in question states, "Posters (originals and copies) entered into the contest become the property of the Mohegan Tribe and may be reproduced and displayed by the Mohegan Tribe at locations as determined by the Mohegan Tribe. Posters may be used in publications, exhibits, displays and on websites as determined by the Mohegan Tribe. Any applicable copyrights will be held by the Mohegan Tribe."

The prizes for winning sumbissions are not stated except to note that there will be "great prizes in each age group." Three age groups are eligible: children between the ages of 6-8, 9-11 and 12-15.

An artist's copyrights for a work of art are totally separate from the physical work of art. "An artist can often sell a physical piece of art verbally, but the copyright or exclusive license must always be transferred in writing and the artist or the artist's authorized agent must sign that transfer," according to Tad Crawford who wrote The Legal Guide for the Visual Artist.

The issue of copyrights on artwork hit home for the Tribe in the earlier part of this decade whent the Tribe spent over one million dollars for 102 paintings on the Pequot War and of Indian chiefs but failed to secure the copyrights for those paintings. The paintings were created by David Wagner, a Connecticut artist. As a result, the Tribe cannot make copies of the artwork.

Crawford has the following suggestions for those considering submitting their artwork into a contest: "Many contests pose no problem ... Does entering the contest require that the artist transfer the copyright to the sponsor? If so, the contest should not be entered.

"If the contest requires that exclusive rights be transferred to the sponsor in the event the artist wins, then the artist must evaluate whether this transfer of rights is reasonable. The sponsor should only seek limited rights, such as the right to publish the art in a book of contest winners or to make a poster for a certain specified distribution. If the sponsor seeks more than this, the artist should demand fair compensation for the additional rights that appear unnecessary to fulfill the purpose of the contest.

"In addition, if the sponsor seeks free art to use for commercial purposes, such as promoting or advertising its products, then the artist should be especially wary of entering. Not only does this situation appear very similar to working on speculation, which should be an anathema to all artists, but it would require a prize that would be a fair fee to the winner.

"Just as the artist safeguards his or her copyright, so ownership should be maintained over the physical artwork embodying copyright. Contest applications must be read carefully and contests entered only after thoroughly weighing whether the impact of the contest on ownership of the copyright and physical art is fair and ethical."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Freedom Of Information Ordinance On Wed Tribal Council Agenda

Feather News


The consideration of a Freedom of Information ordinance (law) is listed on the agenda for tomorrow's Tribal Council meeting.

Currently there is no tribal law regarding information freedoms on the reservation although the all-volunteer Mohegan Constitution Commission had discussed variations of a proposed amendment prior to the Commission's disbandment by the Council of Elders early last year.

The Feather News has put in an information request to Tribal officials requesting a draft version of the freedom of information ordinance under consideration as resolution 2009-24.

Tribal Council meetings are held at 10 a.m. each Wednesday. No change in the regular meeting time has been posted.

Sleet, Snow Expected Tonight and Tomorrow

Feather News


A winter weather advisory will be in effect for later today.

Snow is likely to begin falling tonight (possibly an inch of snow) then changing to freezing rain and sleet after midnight and lasting through tomorrow morning (possibly a half-inch of ice) then changing to rain, which is expected to change to snow tomorrow night. And before it is all over this forecast will likely change, precipitating further changes.

Perhaps whoever is in charge at the Tribal government office could wake up early tomorrow morning to send an office closing announcement in to Channel 3 before employees prepare for or leave for work in the morning.

The past two storms were predictable yet in one case an announcement on channel 3 was made close to 7 a.m. in the morning and in regards to the second storm, on New Year's Eve day, an announcement was never made on Channel 3. On New Year's Eve day, tribal government employees were instead told they could leave work only after arriving at the office in the morning.

Editorial: Quarterly Membership Meeting Location Change

Feather News
Updated 2


The location for the quarterly membership meeting on Sunday has been changed from the tribal government building to 'Salon D of the Uncas Ballroom,' according to sources. The meeting will begin at 12:30.

The main topic of the meeting will likely be of a financial nature due to a substantial decline in profits at the Mohegan Sun casino and continued losses at the Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania.

Since elected officials have failed to have the Tribal government save money since the casino opened in 1996 and appear to be intent on building a goverment building-community center that some estimate will cost upward of $100 million - not including interest expenses - some difficult financial decisions may have to be made now. The Tribal government will largely need to borrow the money for the building costruction. Under some models, it is calculated that just the interest expense that will have to be paid each year on that new building is expected to cost more than the entire amount the Tribal government spends each year on the education budget.

Cutbacks are becoming more apparent at the casino. Last night, a disc jockey was playing music in the Wolf Den. The hostess at the Wolf Den said it was the first time a disc jockey was used there for entertainment and they expect the disc jockey to provide entertainmnet regularly at the Wolf Den on Monday nights. Between now and the beginning of March, only six performers are scheduled for the Mohegan Sun Arena (including a volleyball match).

Cutbacks in the Tribal government wouldn't come as a surprise. It will be interesting to see who is affected in possible Tribal government cutbacks. Perhaps the children of the Tribe are the most vulnerable. We need to remember that the children of Tribal members have no voice and for that they are the most defenseless of the Tribal population.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Photo: Dan Akroyd At Mohegan Sun Earlier This Year

Election Committee Sets Jan 31 Notification Deadline For Upcoming Tribal Council Candidates

Feather News

The Mohegan Election Committee has issued the following notice in regard to the upcoming Tribal Council election:

Tribal Council Election - 2009

There are five Tribal Council seats up for re-election this year. The election will be held on August 30th 2009.

All interested Tribal members who meet the below criteria and would like to be considered a candidate for this election must inform the Election Committee in writing no later than Saturday, January 31st 2009.

According to the Mohegan Tribe Constitution:

ARTICLE VI. ELECTIONS

Section 1. [Qualifications for Position on Tribal Council.]

In order to qualify for and seek election to a position on The Tribal Council, a person:

(a) must be at least 21 years of age prior to the date of the election;
(b) must be a registered voting member of The Tribe in good standing;
(c) must not have been convicted of any violation of The Tribal Election Ordinance; and
(d) must not have been convicted of either a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral integrity, such as forgery or bribery.
(e) Subsection (d) of Article VI, Section 1 may be waived by a majority vote of The Council of Elders.

At this time we are only asking for a brief notice of intent to run for Tribal Council. The committee will send all respondents who meet the January 31st deadline further instructions and appropriate forms to be returned to us no later than Monday, February 16th 2009. Be aware that we will be asking for fingerprints by the February 16th deadline from all prospective candidates, excluding incumbents and anyone who has submitted fingerprints in the past year.

Letters of intent may be mailed:

Mohegan Tribe Election Committee, Box 389, Uncasville CT 06382-0389
or faxed: 860.862.6838
or emailed: MTelectioncommittee@gmail.com

Please include your email address if you want the committee to acknowledge receipt of your letter.

Seneca Indian Nation's Gaming Operations More Profitable Than Mohegan

By Ken Davison
Feather News


In the closing days of 2008, both the Mohegan Tribe and Seneca Indian Nation of New York submitted their casino financial statements to the Securities Exchange Commission.

The most profitable of the two tribes' gaming operations is that of the Seneca's operations despite the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority taking in over twice the dollar amount in gross revenues.

In fiscal year 2008, the Senecas reported a profit of close to $103 million on gross revenues (before expenses) of about $750 million. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA) had an adjusted profit of $80 million on gross revenues (before expenses) of $1.7 billion.

The Senecas operate three casinos in New York. The Mohegan's figures include the casino on the reservation in Connecticut and the Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania. The Mohegan's profit of $80 million has been adjusted by reducing the reported profit (net income) of $149 million by $69 million that related to lower estimated payments to its former casino management company, Trading Cove Associates.

Despite higher profits (net income), as adjusted, the Seneca Gaming Corporation, distributed slightly less to its tribal government than the Mohegans. The Senecas received $66 million from its gaming operations while the Mohegans received $80 million (not including reimburseable costs).

These distributions to the tribal governments are not deducted from the reported profits. Technically, these distributions reduce the owner's equity (capital) - a balance sheet account - and do not affect the income statement. In other words, the $80 million paid to the Mohegan tribal government has not been deducted from the $80 million adjusted profit figure noted above.

Seneca Gaming Corporation's long term debt as of September 30, 2008 - the last day of its fiscal year - was close to $500 million while MTGA's debt was three times that amount at $1.55 billion. MTGA also owed about $100 million in construction related payables.

Seneca Gaming Corporation's interest expense for the twelve months of fiscal year 2008 was $37 million while MTGA's interest expense for fiscal year 2008 was $93.8 million.

If MTGA's adjusted profits were calculated by deducting the full amount paid to its former management company, Trading Cove Associates, then MTGA's profits would be significantly lower than those reported above. Due to the accounting method used, much of what is paid to Trading Cove Associates every year is not included in the year in which it is paid.

MTGA paid Trading Cove Associates $76.1 million in fiscal year 2008, down from $77.5 million in fiscal year 2007. MTGA pays Trading Cove Associates five percent of its gross revenues at Mohegan Sun, except from revenues generated at the Casino of the Wind. The Feather News will report more fully on MTGA's costs related to Trading Cove soon. Look for an update to this article.

The Senecas pay the state of New York 22 percent on its slot machine revenues. MTGA pays the state of Connecticut 25 percent and the state of Pennsylvania (and other related regulatory payments) about 60 percent on slot machine revenue.

Seneca Gaming Corporation's President and Chief Operating Officer, E. Brian Hansberry, earned total compensation of $908,141 (comprised of $360,000 base salary, $532,500 bonus and $15,641 in other compensation). MTGA's Chief Operating Officer, Mitchell Etess, earned a total of $1.6 million in fiscal year 2008, comprised of a base salary of $1.2 million, bonus of about $372,000 and other compensation of about $61,000.

The Seneca Nation has partnered with the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe in their efforts to open a casino in Massachusetts.

The Seneca Gaming Corporation's financial statements can be found at the following link: www.secinfo.com/d11MXs.t2Cqb.htm#1stPage