Saturday, May 30, 2009

Connecticut Sun Star Basketball Player Breaks Hand

Feather News


Amber Holt, a second-year forward for the Tribe's Connecticut Sun basketball team, broke her hand Wednesday while playing in an exhibition game against Atlanta.

It's unclear how long Holt, who was selected last year for the WNBA's All-Rookie team, will be unable to play. Holt averaged 6.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season.

The Sun lost to Atlanta 76-73. The Sun will play their season opener on June 6 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Connecticut Governor Proposes More Gambling In Latest Budget

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Updated


Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell included expanding the game of Keno outside of Indian casinos and into bars and restaurants in the budget proposal she unveiled today.

The budget shows that Keno would generate $20 million for the state in its first year and $60 million every year thereafter. Once Keno is in place, the state could borrow money in the bond market backed by the future state revenues collected on the game.

The Division of Special Revenues, which oversees gaming in the state, believes that Keno is already authorized under current state law although others believe adding the game requires new legislation. Keno has strong backing from some lawmakers, but others have raised concerns over the extension of new forms of gambling.

Representative Stephen Dargan, D-North Haven, is reported to be seeking a formal opinion from state attorney general Richard Blumenthal as to whether implementing Keno would violate the gaming compacts with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Indian tribes.

Mohegan Tribal Election Finalists

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The following installment of the Tribe In The Media is an article in today's The Day newspaper regarding last night's tribal council election at Mohegan.

Bozsum is among 10 finalists for tribal council
Mohegans to hold balloting for 5 spots
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
May 28, 2009

Mohegan - Five incumbents, including Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, are among the 10 finalists for the five available seats on the Mohegan Tribal Council, the tribe announced Wednesday night.

All five councilors whose four-year terms expire this year will seek re-election in secret balloting over the next several weeks. In addition to Bozsum, the candidates are Lynn Malerba, the council's vice chairwoman; Bill Quidgeon, treasurer; James Gessner, recording secretary; and Mark Hamilton.

The terms of the other four members of the nine-member council extend to 2011.

Also named Wednesday from among a field of more than 40 tribal members who vied in primary balloting in recent weeks were Mike Bozsum, the chairman's younger brother; John Henry Clark, a former chairman of the tribe's Council of Elders; Ken Davison, who maintains Feather News, a blog devoted to tribal matters; and Kathy Regan-Pyne and Mark Sperry, both of whom have worked for the tribe.

In a statement, the tribe listed the 10 finalists in alphabetical order and provided almost no other information, including the number of votes each candidate won.

”It is part of Mohegan custom and tradition to keep the details of the election results solely within the tribe,” said Joe Smith, a tribal member and manager of public affairs for the tribal government.

Davison, who has a background in accounting, often analyzes tribal finances on his blog. He also has waged a battle in Mohegan Tribal Court over the tribe's requirement that tribal members vote for a full slate of candidates in tribal elections. Davison, according to his blog, asserted that members should only have to vote for candidates they prefer and that requiring them to vote for more “is, among other things, a violation of free speech rights.”

The tribal court sided with the tribe and its election committee in a ruling this month, Davison reported on Feather News.

Earlier this year, the tribe approved and then rescinded a controversial freedom-of-information ordinance that would have imposed limits on the information that could be disseminated on blogs like Davison's. A new version of the ordinance is subject to an upcoming referendum vote among tribal members.

The results of balloting in the council race will be announced Aug. 30. The five winning candidates will be sworn in Oct. 5.

The council, in addition to governing the tribe, serves as the managing board of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, the resort casino that employs nearly 10,000 people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Photo: BIA Chief Sworn In On Friday

Guilty Verdict In Connecticut's First Casino Cheating Trial

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from The Day newspaper on a casino cheating trial in which a guilty verdict was announced for the alleged ring leader. The reporter, Karen Florin, used to cover the Mohegan Tribe before being assigned to the police beat at The Day.

Guilty verdict in casino cheating conspiracy trial
By Karen Florin
The Day
May 27, 2009

A Memphis, Tenn., man known as “Mr. Casino” took his best shot in New London Superior Court and lost in the first major cheating trial in the state that hosts two of the largest casinos in the world.

A six-member jury that had started deliberating on Thursday found 43-year-old Richard S. Taylor guilty this morning of cheating, conspiracy to commit cheating, first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny. Taylor, who has been incarcerated since he was arrested eight months ago, faces decades in prison when Judge Stuart M. Schimelman sentences him on July 10.

During the trial, former Foxwoods Resort Casino employees testified that Taylor had recruited them to pay players for late or illegal bets and had met up with them outside of the casino to pay them their share of the winnings. The conspiracy cost Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun about $70,000.

Taylor had claimed that he had a winning system for craps and did not need to cheat.

Prosecutors Stephen M. Carney and David J. Smith had called a craps expert to debunk his claim and had set up a makeshift craps layout in the courtroom to demonstrate the game.

“Mr. Smith and I appreciate the jury's work,” Carney said after the verdict was read. “This was a complicated case and they clearly worked hard.”

Casino and Mashantucket tribal officials who watched the trial shook hands with the prosecutor before making phone calls to gaming control officials in Las Vegas and Atlantic City who had been watching the trial with interest. Taylor has been barred from casinos throughout the country but has never been successfully prosecuted, they said.

“On behalf of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, we are very pleased with the verdict,” said Timothy D. Bohr, director of surveillance at Foxwoods. “We are very pleased with the cooperation between the state's attorney's office and the tribe. We are happy to see the system worked as was the original agreement between the state and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.”

Connecticut state police and prosecutors have criminal jurisdiction over the casinos under compacts that were signed between the tribe and the state before Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun opened.

Taylor's attorney, Ralph U. Bergman, was not immediately available for comment. Taylor, who had expressed confidence throughout the trial and had gleefully demonstrated his “strategy” to the jury, was quiet as the verdicts were read. His family members in Memphis have been following the trial through news accounts but were unable to come to Connecticut to support him during the trial.

Long Awaited Federal Recognition Decision For Shinnecock Indian Nation In Long Island To Be Announced By Year-End

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The Shinnecock Indian Nation in Long Island, N.Y., will recieve its preliminary federal recognition decision by December 15, according to a settlement reached between the Tribe and the U.S. Interior Department.

The settlement was filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., as part of a court case in which the Shinnecocks claimed that their application for federal recognition was not reviewed in a reasonable amount of time.

The Shinnecocks filed their federal recogntion petition in 1978, the same year that the Mohegan Tribe began their petition process. The Mohegans were federally recognized in 1994.

The Shinnecocks have been recognized by the state of New York for over 200 years and are aiming to build the first Indian casino in southern part of the state if they get federal recognition.

The Tribe has over 1,300 members. About 600 of their tribal members live on their Long Island reservation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Tribe In The Media: Indian Law Experts Talk To State Officials

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Experts on Indian law were in Connecticut about a week ago to discuss the meaning of sovereignty with various officials in Connecticut, including attorney general Richard Blumenthal. Indian Country Today recapped that session.

Don’t know much about history
Indian law experts provide educational session for Connecticut legislators
By Gale Courey Toensing
Indian Country Today
May 25, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. – State legislators had the rare opportunity of hearing two of Indian country’s most esteemed law experts and ardent supporters of tribal sovereignty on a panel with the state attorney general, who has participated in crucial lawsuits opposing tribal sovereignty.

John Echohawk, Pawnee, the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, and Frank Ducheneaux, Cheyenne River Sioux, former legal counsel to the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, sat on a panel on tribal sovereignty with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal before the state legislature May 18.

Joining them was University of Connecticut law professor Bethany Berger, who is the current Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard University Law School. (The chair is endowed by the Oneida Indian Nation, which publishes Indian Country Today.) Berger’s expertise is in the areas of federal Indian tribal law, property and legal history.

Around a half dozen legislators attended the informational forum, which lasted two hours. Around 30 people were in the audience, including Mashantucket and Mohegan tribal members and the tribes’ attorneys, other Indian law attorneys and members of local Indian communities.

Blumenthal intervened in San Manuel v. the National Labor Relations Board, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court disregarded 75 years of tribal sovereignty and ruled that federal labor laws apply on sovereign Indian land.

Blumenthal was also a party to Carcieri v. Salazar, a notorious case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that the Interior secretary does not have the authority to take land into trust for tribes federally recognized after 1934. He and 16 other attorneys general wrote to key Senate and congressional committees recently, urging them to move slowly, or not at all, on “fixing” Carcieri and asking to be included in any discussions on land into trust.

The panel was convened by the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee as an informational forum and took place at the legislative office building. The forum followed the defeat a week earlier of a proposed bill to ban smoking entirely at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, respectively.

Blumenthal proposed and sponsored the bill and the GAE Committee approved it in April by a vote of 8-3. But the bill died May 12 when the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee failed to act on it by a legislative deadline.

Democratic Sen. Gayle Slossberg, the senate chair of the GAE Committee thanked the panel members for their “time to come and help educate us as well as the public on this very important issue” of tribal sovereignty.

“There are all sorts of issues that have arisen with regard to tribal sovereignty. It’s our job to make sure that we make good and informed decision so that we understand what’s actually going on, what is right and what is legal.”

Echohawk obliged. “In my work on behalf of tribes across the country, I find that one of the biggest obstacles that we have in this country is the ignorance, if you will, of the American people on the background and history of our Indian tribes, and I spend much of my time around the country doing what I can to educate people about the status of our tribes under American law.”

In his 15 minutes of forum time, Echohawk reviewed the legal history of tribal-U.S. relations, hitting most of the major legal benchmarks in Indian law from the 1800s to President Nixon’s renunciation of the termination era.

Beginning with the concept of Indian treaties, he walked the legislators to the definition of sovereignty.

“So what’s an Indian tribe? Indian tribes are signatories to treaties. Treaties are signed by sovereign nations. So what’s an Indian tribe? An Indian tribe is a sovereign nation, a government.”

He said indigenous peoples populated the entire hemisphere when Europeans arrived in 1492.

“Contact with Europeans resulted in many events, many of them not very good to talk about because there were conflicts that resulted in wars that were really kind of unspeakable in many events, but the point came across that basically your indigenous nations were sovereign.” He said Europeans came to understand tribal sovereignty and tried to resolve the conflicts using the treaty process they were familiar with in dealing with other European nations.

While most people can grasp the concept of treaties, they need to realize that treaties are not relics of the past, but are still the law of the country, Echohawk said.

Ducheneaux, who was personally involved in developing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, focused his comments on that statute and cases leading up to it.

“The underlying basis for IGRA is the sovereignty of Indian tribes. It’s clear that court decisions on gaming were based on tribal sovereignty and therefore our legislation that became IGRA was based on the sovereign power of Indian tribes.”

Ducheneaux read the clear intention of IGRA: “The purpose of the act is to provide a statutory basis for the operation of gaming by Indian tribes as a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments.

“I have to admit now that IGRA is an intrusion on tribal sovereignty,” Ducheneaux said.

He also explained to the legislators the “canons of construction” – the legal principle that says whenever there is ambiguity in the law, it is to be interpreted in favor of the tribes.

Berger talked about the Mohegan and Mashantuckets’ tribal state compacts and IGRA in relation to state jurisdiction on the reservations.

IGRA authorizes state law on tribal land if both the state and tribe agree, but also keeps out state law if it isn’t authorized in the compact, Berger said.

State law is “relatively limited” in both tribes’ compacts, she said. The compacts say that tribal ordinances and regulations in health standards and other areas have to be at least as rigorous as state laws. That means the compacts do not give the legislature authority to apply state laws to the reservations, Berger said.

Blumenthal disagreed, but before doing so, reiterated his support of the Connecticut tribes and tribal sovereignty.

“Nothing I say is to detract or diminish in any way my belief that sovereignty is not only a matter of established law but it’s also a profoundly important principal of our dealings with each other.”

The attorney general said the issue of state’s rights versus tribal sovereignty is “not easily summarized.”

“The Supreme Court has said there is no rigid rule, there’s a balancing act that takes place in any preemption issues where federal law completely preempts, sometimes partially, sometimes expressly, and the same is true of federal law regarding state law.”

Regarding the proposed smoking ban, Blumenthal believes the tribal state compacts require the tribes to adopt the state’s standards and that the state has enforcement jurisdiction.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mohegan Gaming Authority Updates Outlook On Off-Reservation Casino Status

By Ken Davison
Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, updated the status of the Tribe's two off-reservation gaming projects with the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin and the Cowlitz Tribe of Washinton state.

Menominee:

"In January 2009, the BIA informed the Menominee Tribe of the decision by the United States Secretary of the Interior to decline to take the Menominee Project site in Kenosha into trust for the tribe," the report said. "We believe the rejection of the land-into-trust application for the Kenosha site announced in January decreased the probability that the Menominee Tribe will obtain the necessary regulatory approvals in order to proceed with the Menominee Project, and officials appointed by the new presidential administration."

Cowlitz:

MTGA's report further discussed the Cowlitz casino project, "Since the trust land application for the Cowlitz Project requires action by the Secretary of the Interior under the Indian Reorganization Act, the Carcieri decision may delay action on that application until the BIA and the United States Department of the Interior determine whether the Cowlitz Tribe was under federal jurisdiction at that time, and an adverse decision may lead to a rejection of the trust land application. The Cowlitz Tribe did not receive federal recognition until 2000, so the tribe must establish that it was under federal jurisdiction in 1934 by separate means."

Summary

MTGA has invested approximately $35 million in the two proposed casino projects, the equivalent to just over $30,000 per Tribal adult.

The Menominee Tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior seeking to overturn two of their policies that are seen as making it increasingly difficult to develop a casino on land that is not close to a tribe's reservation.

Indian gaming began in the 1970's when several tribes began to run high-stakes bingo operations. The state of California sought to impose criminal penalties on two tribes in that state - the Cabazon and Morongo Bands of Mission Indians - over their bingo operations. At that time, only charities in California could operate bingo and anyone else would be subject to a misdemeanor charge.

The two California tribes filed suit in federal court and in 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that distinguished between games that were permissible in the state and those that were outright illegal. Since charities could operate bingo, the game was deemed permissible but regulated as opposed to being illegal. The court's decision that California could not regulate Indian gaming in that state was deemed to also mean that no state could regulate Indian gaming.

In response to that court decision several states pressured congress into enacting the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 so that states could exert some control over Indian gaming on reservations. IGRA is complex but the law basically allowed states to regulate certain aspects of Indian gaming while leaving the tribes some autonomy.

The state of Connecticut, under then-Governor Lowell Weicker, first negotiated a hard bargain with the Mashantucket Tribe that required the Tribe to pay the state 25 percent of its slot revenue. The Mohegans, federally recognized after the Mashantucket Pequots' Foxwoods casino opened, agreed to pay the same amount in its compact with the state.

Together, the two Indian casinos provide the state with about $400 million in payments out of their slot revenue, or about 2 percent of the state's budget, which is considered the most lucrative deal any state has ever struck with Indian tribes.

A February U.S. Supreme Court decision that went against the Narragansett Indian Tribe in Rhode Island further restricts the federal government's ability to take land into trust as reservation land for those tribes not under federal jurisdiction in 1934. Although the Mohegans can continue to add to their reservation (up to specified limits) because of a land claim settlement approved by Congress, many other Tribes will have difficulty unless Congress enacts a new law that expressly gives the Department of Interior more authority to take land into trust.

Although the February Supreme Court decision and recent federal policies are causing difficulty with the Menominee and Cowlitz proposed casino projects (both backed by the Mohegans) it is also causing difficulty with tribes that would compete for casino patrons that go to the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. The court decision will likely delay the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from building a megacasino in Massachusetts and will likely affect tribes seeking off-reservation casinos in New York's Catskill Mountains.

The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding a hearing today about possible "fixes" to the February court decision but many states are opposed to a quick solution that could benefit Indian gaming.

The newly-confirmed head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Larry EchoHawk, has been widely criticized for excluding Idaho tribes from gaming when he was attorney general of that state. EchoHawk did not provide in the Senate confirmation hearings any illuminated glimpses as to what his Indian gaming policies might look like in the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tribal Government Could Close Early Friday

Feather News


Tribal members should be prepared for the possibility of the Mohegan Tribal government office closing early on Friday to begin the Memorial Day weekend.

We have no official news of an early Friday closing - announcements are not generally made before that day although the Tribal offices are definitely closed on Monday - but if you have any business to conduct at the office before this week is over, you may want to try to get it done by Friday morning.

Also keep in mind that Memorial Day is Monday and that is a federal holiday without mail service so ballots should be mailed before this weekend if you want them to get in before the election day on Wednesday. You may want to tell your family members of these logistical issues so that their ballots can be counted.

Senate Confirms EchoHawk To Head Up BIA

Feather News


Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Pawnee Indian Larry EchoHawk to run the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, a department of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

EchoHawk was formerly an attorney general for the state of Idaho and more recently a professor at Brigham Young University.

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. EchoHawk served as the attorney general of Idaho from 1991 to 1995.

EchoHawk had a smooth confirmation process. Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, asked EchoHawk for his views on the regulation of Indian gaming at the confirmation hearing. McCain proceeded to tell EchoHawk that he wasn't satisfied with EchoHawk's brief response on Indian gaming.

"We see, for example, Native American tribes going into an area that is off-reservation and purchasing that land in order to use it for Indian gaming. This happens all the time; it happens all over the country. I’m sure you must be aware of that situation," McCain told EchoHawk.

The Tribe In The Media: Fatal Construction Accident At Mohegan

Feather News


The following tragic news was posted to The Day newspaper's website today:

Mohegan – Federal and tribal safety officials are at Mohegan today investigating a fatal construction accident that occurred Tuesday.

An unidentified iron worker fell while working on the Mohegan Government and Community Center building Tuesday morning. Tribal fire crews transported the man to the William W. Backus Hospital, where he died, said Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan Tribe's chief of staff.

The man was working to secure the construction that had already taken place at Mohegan as part of an expansion project. The tribe halted construction last year.

“We're thinking of (his family) and sharing in their grief,” Bunnell said.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tribal Court Rules That Election Code's Voting Procedure Is Constitutional

By Ken Davison
Feather News


The common complaint from many Tribal members about being forced to vote for candidates they do not want to vote for in order for their ballot to be counted was deemed to be constitutional, according to a Tribal Court ruling issued today.

Judge Jane Freeman agreed with the Tribal Election Committee and the Tribe that the requirement of voting for all seats up for election, as opposed to voting for fewer than the number of seats up for election, upholds a governmental objective of ensuring tribal cohesiveness and to prevent voting along family lines.

The plaintiff in the case, Kenneth Davison, asserted that tribal members should be able to vote for only candidates that they prefer even if it is less than the number of positions up for election and that requiring members to vote for more candidates than they prefer is, among other things, a violation of free speech rights.

Davison argued in court that voting for more candidates than a tribal member prefers in order to have a ballot considered valid dilutes the members' vote for the candidates they really preferred and places a severe burden on the right to vote. Had the judge taken Davison's viewpoint, the Tribal government would have had to have shown a compelling government interest in the election procedure and not simply a legitimate interest.

Davison filed the case in Tribal Court last September. Since then, the Tribal Court denied the Tribal government's motion to dismiss the case but, in the latest decision issued today, ruled for the Tribal government's motion for a summary judgment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ballots For Tribal Council Election Must Be Mailed This Week For Many

Feather News


The ballots for the Tribal Council election are due one week from this Wednesday on May 25 however since the Monday of May 23 is a holiday, in which there is no postal service, it is recommended that Tribal members mail their ballots by the end of this week in order for the ballot to arrive on time.

Menominee Tribe Sues Feds Over Denial Of Wisconsin Casino

By Ken Davison
Feather News


The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday against U.S. Department of the Interior and its secretary, Kenneth Salazar, over that federal department's rejection of the proposed off-reservation Kenosha casino that was backed by the Mohegan Tribe.

The lawsuit claims that two policies limiting off-reservation gaming that were developed by the Interior Department were done without notifying tribes, were arbitrary and capricious and undermines policies aimed at promoting tribal economic development.

Perhaps the most controversial policy at issue was developed by the Interior Department in January 2008 and sought to limit Indian gaming where the proposed casin location was outisde of a commutable distance from the tribe's reservation.

Many proposed off-reservation casinos were denied in the month that policy, or guidance memorandum, was issued. The Menominee's proposed off-reservation casino, which the Mohegans have funded to the tune of at least $13 million so far, was officially denied a year later, in January 2009.

In November, the Menominee had previously filed a lawsuit in federal court opposing the 2008 guidance memorandum but withdrew that suit two months ago.

Project officals have expressed hope that better results might be obtained under the Obama administration than those under the Bush administration but with the proposed casino site ten miles from the border of Illinois (the state where President Obama was formerly a senator) it isn't clear how receptive the Obama administration will be toward the casino project.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mohegans To Open Massachusetts Storefront Office On Monday





The exterior and interior of the Tribe's storefront office in Palmer. Photos taken in late April.


Feather News


The Associated Press is reporting that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will open its Massachusetts storefront office on Monday.

According to reports, MTGA chief operating officer Jeff Hartmann and others will join local leaders for the opening.

The Mohegans have announced their interest in bidding on a casino in western Massachusetts should that state ever legalize casino gambling. The Mohegans have already entered into a 99-year lease on property (separate from the storefront) that could potentially be used for a casino and which will cost "millions," according a senior MTGA executive.

Delaware Becomes Fourth State To Permit Sports Bets

Feather News


Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill last week that will make Delaware the fourth state in the nation to offer gambling on sporting events.

"Officials say they expect to have sports betting running in three months and table games such as poker, blackjack, craps and roulette, in play in no more than six months," according to the AP.

Only four states were grandfathered in a 1992 federal law that bans sport gambling. The other states are Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flash: Mohegan Sun April Slot Revenue Down About 8%; Foxwoods Down Less Than 1%

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and Foxwoods reported their April slot machine revenue today: Mohegan Sun's slot revenue declined just over 8 percent when compared to last April and Foxwoods reported a decrease of less than 1 percent.

Mohegan Sun recorded slot machine revenue of $64.3 million in April while Foxwoods recorded $57.5 milion in slot revenue. One continuing trend over the past several months is that Foxwoods' percentage of the Connecticut market continues to increase although it has not yet caught up to Mohegan Sun's market share.

Both casinos pay the state 25 percent of its slot machine revenue.

Photos: Fidelias Restaurant Final Days




On May 26th the Mohegan Sun's Fidelias restaurant (photos above) is set to close and Birches restaurant (photo below) will begin its new schedule of staying open 24 hours a day. A newly-renovated food court, which is currently walled-in as seen in the photo below, is slated to open on July 1 when the Winter Entrance re-opens, according to the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's latest discussion with analysts.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tribal Council Candidates Offered Free Space On Feather News

By Ken Davison
Feather News


One of our readers asked about our lack of election coverage on Feather News. He made a good point about the cost of mailings, so:

Tribal Council candidates wishing to post campaign literature/flyers on Feather News are welcome to email me at kennethdavison1@hotmail.com. No charge, of course.

I'm not sure how it will be displayed yet but send it over, we'll figure it out. If it has any graphics, take a digital picture and email it over. Please note in your email that I have permission to post it.

Reminder: Tribal Offices Closed Tomorrow; Probably Only Open For A Half-Day Today

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Tribes In The Media: Internet Gambling Could Further Cut Into Indian Casino Revenues

Feather News


This installment of the Tribes In The Media is a Los Angeles Times article on the chances of Internet gambling being approved by Congress. Internet gambling, which is currently illegal in the United States, except for betting on horses, could further cut into casino revenues.

A push to legalize Internet gambling
By Ben Meyerson
Los Angeles Times
May 13, 2009

Reporting from Washington — The online gambling industry is waging a campaign in Congress to legalize Internet betting, arguing that it is here to stay and can be regulated and taxed. But opponents are raising moral objections.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), head of the House Financial Services Committee, is leading the fight for gamblers. A previous effort by Frank failed to get out of committee, but the combination of grass-roots and corporate support -- as well as the weakening of the Republican Party -- might improve the odds, advocates said.

"The poker players and other online gamblers have gotten organized," Frank said, adding that he supported the legislation as a matter of personal freedom.

I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa and coauthor of the book "Internet Gaming Law," thinks Frank will have the power to push legislation through the House this time around. "It will pass, although there will be changes," Rose said. "Very few people in Congress really care at all about Internet gambling."

The legislation's prospects in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has opposed it in the past, are not clear. Many Las Vegas casinos object to Internet gambling. Reid spokesman Jim Manley said that although gambling was "a very important industry to the state," the senator had concerns about whether online gaming could be regulated.

The Poker Players Alliance, which claims more than 1 million members, has enlisted former Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) in its campaign.

In the past, the biggest opponents have been socially conservative organizations and professional sports leagues.

Chad Hills, an analyst for gambling research and policy at Focus on the Family, said the group was gearing up for a fight. "There's something to be said for people having to get in their car and actually go to a casino," Hills said. "If you have this available in your living room and it's accessible 24/7 . . . this is like the perfect storm for addiction."

John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, acknowledged the social ills linked to gambling, but said the best way to help addicts was to legitimize online poker.

"As with anything, people abuse it -- online shopping, eating, drinking, smoking," Pappas said. "Playing poker is not immune to vice, but we truly believe that the best way of addressing problem gaming is to license and regulate the industry, not drive it underground."

Experts said sites such as Party Poker and Poker Stars that advertised in the U.S. operated questionably with regard to the law. Each has two sites -- one with an Internet address that ends in ".net," where players play with fake money and cannot bet, and one that ends in ".com," which instructs players in the U.S. how they can transfer money to and from their accounts.

The Justice Department has long maintained that such transactions are illegal under a 1961 law aimed at bookies, but at least one federal judge has ruled the law does not apply to online transactions.

Congress in 2006 passed a law banning U.S. banks, credit card and financial companies from processing online gambling transactions. Regulations governing enforcement of the law were adopted by the Bush administration in January and will take effect Dec. 1 if Frank's legislation does not succeed.

A 2007 study for the gambling industry claimed another benefit for legalization: tax revenue. The study predicted that Frank's 2007 bill, which was similar to the current version, would have brought in between $8.7 billion and $17.6 billion from 2008 to 2017.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

State Legislature Doesn't Act On Bill To Ban Smoking

Feather News


The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's recent agreement with Governor Jodi Rell coupled with increasing awareness that a smoking ban would further reduce revenues at the two tribal casinos was enough for the legislature's Finance Committee to decide not to take up the bill to ban smoking at the casinos.

The Mashantucket's agreed, along with the Mohegans earlier this year, to reduce and eventually phase out smoking at the casino.

"I really think that put an end to it," said Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, the co-chairwoman of the committee, referring to the new agreement with the Mashantucket Tribe.

Foxwoods In A Two-Way Contest For A Kansas Casino

Feather News


A county commission voted yesterday to allow two gaming companies, including a group that includes Foxwoods Development, to compete against each other for a Kansas casino. The second group is a Minnesota company, Lakes Entertainment.

Foxwoods is proposing a facility with 2,000 slot machines and 40 table games. Their initial investment, if chosen, would be $225 million. Lakes Entertainment is proposing a 2,000-slot machine facility with 60 table games and a $240 million initial investment. Neither applicant is proposing a hotel.

Harrah's was originally selected to build a casino in Sumner County but they later withdrew, which resulted in a new round of bidding.

The local endorsement of the two groups is necessary for the proposals to be forwarded to the state's Lottery commission who will choose the winning group that is also subject to approval by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

A 2007 gambling law permits one state-owned casino in each of four Kansas counties. The Mohegans were part of a group that bid on a casino project in Wyandotte-Kansas City county last year but did not re-enter the race after their application was denied and the bidding reopened due to the withdrawal of the winning bidder.

Voting Rights Court Case Hearing Today At 3:30 In Tribal Meeting Room

Feather News
Updated with footnote

A hearing will be held at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon in the voting rights case of Kenneth Davison v. The Mohegan Tribe Election Committee and the Mohegan Tribe. At issue in the case is whether requiring Tribal members to vote for all elective positions available in a tribal election violates, among other things, Tribal members' freedom of speech. Davison asserts that Tribal members should be allowed to vote for fewer candidates than there are positions available and forcing Tribal members to vote for more candidates than they actually prefer is a violation of Tribal members' civil rights.

The judge's decision on a summary judgment motion on the case, which has already been argued in court, is still pending but that aspect of the case will not be the subject of today's hearing.

The subject of today's hearing will be, according to the hearing notice: "The disclosure by Associate Judge Jane W. Freeman to all parties of record in this case that she, in her capacity as Tribal Court Judge of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, has been named a Respondent in a "Petition For Order of Superintending Control, For Stay Of and To Vacate Tribal Court Order and Request For Immediate Hearing" filed with the Council of Elders of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, by the Tribe, as Petitioner, and designated as number COE-1-2009. The Tribe is a Defendant in this case (Kenneth Davison v. the Mohegan Tribe Election Committee and the Mohegan Tribe) and there is currently pending before Judge Freeman a Motion For Summary Judgment filed by the Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe Election Committee."

Today's hearing at 3:30 p.m. is open to the public.

Since the editor of Feather News, Davison, is the Plaintiff in this Voting Rights court case, readers comments cannot be accepted to this article.

Note: The defendants and plaintiff both later agreed at the hearing to agree to let Judge Freeman rule on the pending motion for summary judgment.

Tribal Court Case Halted

By Ken Davison
Feather News
Updated


Within days after Judge Jane Freeman issued an injunction against two defendants - the Mohegan Tribe and the Council of Elders, the game of musical chairs began and it is now the Judge who is the respondent (kind of like a defendant), the Mohegan Tribe is the petitioner (kind of like a plaintiff) and the Council of Elders are the judges (judges). And the original Plaintiff in the case, Tribal Member Brokenwing, is on the sidelines as an interested party.

The tribal court case that triggered the act of musical chairs, in part, is over whether the Council of Elders, acting in their role as a Good Standing Panel, violated Brokenwing's due process during his good standing hearings. Last Wednesday, Judge Freeman said that Brokenwing is likely to win his court case and issued an injunction to halt the good standing punishment and its publication until the court case is resolved. The judge focused on only one of the many alleged due process violations - denying Brokenwing the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses at his good standing hearing.

"The right to cross-examine witnesses in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding has been recognized as an essential component of due process in both the Tribal and non-Tribal context. While courts have held that due process is a flexible standard and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands, this Court is not aware of any decision which has held that the right to cross-examine witnesses is not an essential component of due process in all quasi-judicial and judicial proceedings, nor have the Defendants provided the Court with any such cases," Judge Freeman wrote in her injunction decision last Wednesday, citing a Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court case (Pinero v. Office of the Director of Regulation) and a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court case (Grossi v. MPGE).

Although Judge Freeman opened both Mashantucket and Mohegan court systems when they were first established, she was not the judge of either of the two above cases she cited in her injunction decision.

The Council of Elders, in addition to their legislative functions, is also the judiciary's supreme review body for the tribal court system. It is as the supreme review body that they will be sitting when Judge Freeman is to explain her courtroom decision of last Wednesday.

Until that hearing takes place, the Council of Elders, acting as the supreme review body, issued their first order ever, which was to stop the proceedings of Brokenwing's court case in which they are one of the defendants.

The motion that set off the musical chairs was a petition signed by the Tribe's attorney general Helga Woods last Friday that seeks to overturn Judge Freeman's injunction order of last Wednesday and to halt any other decision by the Judge Freeman in Brokenwing's court case that is contrary to the Council of Elder's good standing determination.

Neither of the defendants - the Mohegan Tribe or the Council of Elders - objected to the Tribal Court's jurisdiction or decisions until the latest injunction decision went against them.

The Tribe's petition of last Friday to the Council of Elders which seeks to overturn Judge Freeman's decision is called a "petition for order of superintending control, for stay of and to vacate tribal court order and request for immediate hearing."

Under the Mohegan Court System Ordinance, the "Council of Elders shall not sit as the highest level of judicial review over claims against its own (legislative/regulatory) body. Therefore, any claim against the Council of Elders shall proceed in the regular fashion until it reaches the Court of Appeals. From this point, if an aggrieved party still wishes to proceed to the final level of appeal, a Special Panel (of three judges) is established to hear such claims."

Although the hearing date has not yet been set it is expected that arguments regarding the Council of Elders' ability to hear the case will be the first order of business conducted at that hearing.

Brokenwing's Tribal Court Filing

Feather News


The following is the text of the revised complaint filed by Brokenwing in Tribal Court on May 4, two days before the injunction hearing. Keep in mind that these are the allegations of the Plaintiff. The defendants, the Mohegan Tribe and the Council of Elders have yet to respond to the allegations in this complaint:

FACTS:

1. Plaintiff is a Mohegan Tribal Member and is editor of the website Brokenwing Editorials.
2. Brokenwing Editorials is an independent and informational website in which substantially all content is written by Plaintiff.
3. The Council of Elders, on February 12, 2009, approved revisions to sections of the Enrollment and Membership Office Rules and Procedures that govern the good standing process to “enhance and clarify the due process protections provided for Tribal members.” Revisions include, but are not limited to,: 1) The designation of a three-member panel comprised of members of the Council of Elders to hear good standing requests; 2) The Council of Elders shall grant a review of a good standing recommendation provided that a written appeal by the affected tribal member is filed within 30 days; 3) The affected tribal member may be accompanied by a representative or family member at good standing hearings; 4) A table of possible punishments for nine types of violations has been added.
4. Plaintiff was notified in a letter dated December 9, 2008 that the Council of Elders accepted a “Good Standing” complaint made against Plaintiff by two (2) Tribal Councilors alleging that articles written by Plaintiff violated Chapter 31, Section 31.24, part (a)(6) of the Mohegan Code, which states, “willful misconduct of an egregious or repetitious nature, which results in significant harm to any person, property or financial interest of the Tribe, or which is seriously detrimental to the Tribe” and Chapter 31, Section 31.24 (a)(8), which states, “violation of any policies or ordinances of the Mohegan Tribal Council or Council of Elders.”
5. A final good standing determination was approved by the Council of Elders on April 30, 2009, in which Plaintiff was deemed not to be in good standing.
6. Plaintiff was not present when witnesses were questioned by the three-member panel of the Council of Elders, therefore Plaintiff could not examine, cross-examine or provide any rebuttal testimony regarding the various witnesses’ testimony. Plaintiff was not made aware of these various witnesses or the testimony given by these witnesses until after he was issued his preliminary good standing ruling.
7. The three-member panel could not compel the presence of witnesses or require the Tribal Council to deliver relevant documents and audio recordings requested by the Plaintiff.
8. The seven-member appeal body for good standing rulings includes the members of the three-member panel that issued the preliminary good standing ruling.
9. The Council of Elders determined that Plaintiff violated Chapter 31, Section 31.24, part (a)(8) of the Mohegan Code but failed to present any written policies or ordinances that were actually violated by the Plaintiff.
10. Article XI, Section 1, of the Mohegan Constitution states that “The Mohegan Tribe, in exercising its powers of self-government, shall make no law inconsistent with The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (25 U.S.C. §§1301-1303; 82 Stat. 77), which requires that the Tribe not: (a) Make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances.”
11. Article XI, Section 1(h) of the Mohegan Constitution states that the Tribe not “Deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws or deprive any person of liberty or property without the process of law.”
12. The “Good Standing” forum/court is not listed as part of the court system in the Mohegan Court System Ordinance, enacted on October 12, 2008.
13. The Court System Ordinance provides for a Peace Keeper that could potentially resolve disputes in a fashion that would be less costly and burdensome on the Court System and the parties involved.
14. On May 2, 2009, the Council of Elders denied Plaintiff’s request to discuss details of the good standing process in order for Plaintiff to petition against the good standing resolution in accordance with Article XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution.


CLAIMS, INJURIES OR DAMAGES:

1. Chapter 31, Section 31.24, part (a)(6) of the Mohegan Tribal Code, is too broad, violating Plaintiff’s due process.
2. Chapter 31, Section 31.24, part (a)(8) of the Mohegan Tribal Code, as applied, violates Plaintiff’s due process.
3. The Council of Elders application of unwritten (oral) laws violates Plaintiff’s petitioning rights guaranteed under Chapter XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution.
4. The Good Standing process and procedures violate Plaintiff’s due process.
5. The Council of Elders, by sitting as a good standing board, have removed themselves as the supreme review body for all cases involving the punishment of Tribal members, including Plaintiff, thereby denying Plaintiff his due process rights.
6. Plaintiff’s petitioning rights guaranteed under the Mohegan Constitution were violated.
7. A Peace Keeper has not been made available to Plaintiff.


RELIEF:

Wherefore, the Plaintiff prays that this Court:

1. Rule on the constitutionality of Chapter 31, Section 31.24, parts (a)(6) on its face and (a)(8), as applied to Plaintiff, of the Mohegan Tribal Code.
2. Rule on the constitutionality of the process and procedures of the “Good Standing” forum/court.
3. Rule on whether the Council of Elders by sitting as a “Good Standing” forum/court violates the Mohegan Constitution and the Court System Ordinance by removing the Council of Elders of their duties as the supreme review body that would otherwise be available to Plaintiff and other Tribal members in exercising their rights under the Court System Ordinance.
4. Reverse the Council of Elders good standing determination made against Plaintiff.
5. Order the Council of Elders to make available information pertaining to future good standing resolutions in a timely fashion such that Tribal members are afforded the ability to petition against good standing resolutions.
6. Order the Council of Elders to appoint a Peace Keeper as required under the Court System Ordinance.

Coffee Hour With Councilors Meeting Tomorrow 9 AM

Monday, May 11, 2009

Photos: Dartmouth Powwow 2009


Mohegan Tribal Members Aaron Athey and Bill Donehey retire the colors










Dartmouth Powwow 2009

Dartmouth Powwow 2009
By Bill Donehey


A beautiful weekend at Dartmouth. The two day pow wow kicked off on the Dartmouth green in front of a large crowd on Saturday May 9th. The day was sunny and cool, the vendors were diverse in their offerings and of course some of the best frybread can be found at Dartmouth. Mohegan Aaron Athey was the arena director insuring that all the dancers were in place when their competition time arrived. Dartmouth is considerd one of the largest of the university pow wows in New England, and judging from the steady stream of people it was easy to see why. Native Americans from as far away as Ottowa, Canada and North Dakota drove hours to be here, renewing friendships distanced by a long harsh winter. Seven drum groups from around the region provided the dance songs as dancers stomped, jingled and fancied throughout the weekend. A great reason to visit New Hampshire in the spring.

Part 5 On Wounded Knee Of 'We Shall Remain' Documentary Airs Tonight On PBS

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"I was ready to do whatever it takes for change. I didn’t care. I had children, and for them I figured I could make a stand here." — Madonna Thunder Hawk (Two Kettle Lakota)

Tonight at 9 p.m. the last installment of the five-part 'We Shall Remain' documentary is set to air on PBS stations.

According to Public Broadcasting's description of tonight's segment:

"On the night of February 27, 1973, fifty-four cars rolled, horns blaring, into a small hamlet on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Within hours, some 200 Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement (AIM) activists had seized the few major buildings in town and police had cordoned off the area. The occupation of Wounded Knee had begun. Demanding redress for grievances—some going back more than 100 years—the protesters captured the world's attention for 71 gripping days.

With heavily armed federal troops tightening a cordon around meagerly supplied, cold, hungry Indians, the event invited media comparisons with the massacre of Indian men, women, and children at Wounded Knee almost a century earlier. In telling the story of this iconic moment, the final episode of We Shall Remain will examine the broad political and economic forces that led to the emergence of AIM in the late 1960s as well as the immediate events — a murder and an apparent miscarriage of justice — that triggered the takeover. Though the federal government failed to make good on many of the promises that ended the siege, the event succeeded in bringing the desperate conditions of Indian reservation life to the nation's attention. Perhaps even more important, it proved that despite centuries of encroachment, warfare, and neglect, Indians remained a vital force in the life of America."

This Wednesday's Tribal Council Meeting Canceled

The Tribes In The Media: Florida Legislators Approve Gambling Bill/Seminole Tribe Restrictions

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media is a Miami Herald article on an agreement reached by Florida legislators on gambling in that state. The Seminole Tribe's successful gaming operations are a keystone to that agreement.

State lawmakers OK new deal on gambling
By Mary Ellen Klas
Miami Herald

TALLAHASSEE -- After resisting gambling expansion for decades, Florida lawmakers approved a bill Friday that offers a new gambling deal to the Seminole Tribe, a lower tax rate for parimutuels and a revival of the Hialeah Park race track.

The Senate voted, 31-9, for the bill (SB 788) In the more anti-gambling House, the vote was 82-35.

The bill would allow the historic Hialeah track to operate quarter horse racing -- though half the races could be run by thoroughbreds -- and after two years of live racing, the track can offer the most lucrative games of all: slot machines.

''This is our home-grown stimulus package,'' said Rep. Joe Gibbons, a former Hallandale city councilman whose district is home to two parimutuels, a horse track and a dog track. ``We need this good piece of legislation.''

Economic realities carried the measure through the conservative House where nearly every attempt at expanding gambling in Florida has gone to die in recent years.

And it was political persistance by the Miami-Dade delegation that helped move Senate leaders to overcome years of opposition to reviving Hialeah, which opened in 1925 and closed its doors in 2001 when it lost coveted racing dates.

''I got a text message at 5:20 a.m. that the bill was in trouble,'' said Sen. Rudy Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, referring to a Wednesday morning message from Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami. Garcia drove back to Tallahassee and the two joined with other delegation members to preserve the Hialeah provision in the gambling bill.

In the end, the provision remained -- with a warning from Sen. Jim King, a Jacksonville Republican who has long resisted Hialeah's attempts to win new games. He complained that he ''still has scars'' from involvement with Hialeah's legislative disputes in the past.

`HAT GOES OFF'

''My hat goes off to the Miami-Dade delegation . . . but that doesn't make it right,'' King said. ``You have an entity here that has paid no money whatsoever and now they're not only going to be whole but better than whole.''

Under the bill, which Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to approve, the governor would have until Aug. 31 to re-negotiate a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that follows the legislative guidelines. The Legislature would have to ratify the agreement. The previous compact was invalidated last year by the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled Crist had overstepped his authority when he negotiated the deal.

If the agreement is approved, the tribe would pay at least $150 million a year -- $2.2 billion over 15 years -- to the state for the exclusive right to operate slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties and to run blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer at its casinos near Hollywood and Tampa.

The tribe would share 3 percent of revenue with local governments to offset the impact of casinos and must find a way to impose a state sales tax on goods sold to non-tribal members.

EXPANDED HOURS

The legislation also offers parimutuel horse and dog track and jai alai frontons across Florida expanded hours at their card rooms, and betting limits will be lifted on all poker games. Card room hours will be extended from 12 to 18 hours Monday through Friday and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

The tax rate on slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward will drop from 50 percent to 35 percent -- though casino operators will guarantee that tax revenue to the state will not fall below the estimated $117 million collected in 2008-09.

RE-OPENED FACILITIES?

Closed jai alai facilities, such as those in Mangonia Park, Daytona Beach and Palm Beach, could re-open to operate greyhound racing, followed by card games and intertrack wagering.

Crist thanked lawmakers for their vigilance in finding common ground. ''It was difficult but you did it well,'' he said.

The Seminole Tribe, which has been seeking state approval for Las Vegas-style slot machines for years, said in a statement that the legislation ``has been 19 years in the making and we commend the Florida Legislature for taking this critical step.''

The tribe did not say whether it will accept the deal but said it will review the bill.


SUMMARY:

The Florida Senate has voted 31-9 for the compact. The House is up next.

What’s in the Florida gambling pact before state legislators Friday? Locally, the compact could extend poker hours at the Fort Pierce Fronton.

• The legislative gambling accord expands card games at some Seminole casinos and would generate for Florida $150 million a year, for 15 years.

• The deal, which the Seminoles must approve, would ratify blackjack, baccarat and other games at the tribe’s two flagship Hard Rock casinos, in Hollywood and Tampa.

• The governor has until Aug. 31 to negotiate the compact.

• The gambling age will increase from 18 to 21. Card room hours will be extended from 12 to 18 hours Monday through Friday and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

• Fort Pierce Jai Alai and Poker. No-limit poker allowed. The fronton was on the verge of being allowed to seek a countywide voter referendum to offer historic horse race wagering, but in a last minute victory for House conservatives the expansion of slots or electronic gambling at pari-mutuels was prohibited outside South Florida.

• Seminole casinos in Hollywood and Coconut Creek would be eligible to expand its offering of card games.

• Seminole Brighton Casino, west of Okeechobee. No-limit poker and Vegas-style slot machines remain, but no new card games,.

• The tribe must maintain a central computerized reporting and auditing system and comply with the same state regulations that other pari-mutuels follow.

• Meals, clothes, etc., purchased by non-tribal members on Seminole resorts could be subject to sales taxes paid to the state.

• The tribe would donate up to $1.75 million a year ($250,000 per facility) to the state’s compulsive-gambling hotline

• The tribe would have 90 days to shut down blackjack tables at its Immokalee casino, near Naples.

• Palm Beach Kennel Club. Horse and dog tracks around the state would be able to offer no-limit poker. They will not get video lottery terminals, or VLTs, which are bingo-style slot machines, unless they get legislative approval and pass a voter referendum.

• The Rooneys, the family that owns Palm Beach Kennel Club, could convert its long-dormant jai alai fronton in Mangonia Park into a dog track and poker room. The Rooneys could move the facility within 30 miles of the current facility, as long as it remains in Palm Beach County.

• Historic Hialeah Park racetrack would reopen with card rooms and quarter horse racing.

• Slot machine operators in Miami-Dade and Broward will have their tax rates decline from 50 percent to 35 percent with a guarantee that their tax revenue to the state will not drop below the estimated $117 million that was collected in 2008-09.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mohegan Submits Bid To Operate But Not Develop Aqueduct Racetrack

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The New York Governor's office released the list of the seven bidders on the Aqueduct VLT slot parlor late this afternoon and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is on that list.

The bidders are: Seminole Tribe Hard Rock/SL Green Realty Corporation, Mohegan Sun, Penn National Gaming, Delaware North Companies, Aqueduct Entertainment Group, Peebles Development, LLC and Development Associates, a subsidiary of Wynn Resorts Limited.

The Mohegan's proposal is to run the facility and not to develop or own the slot parlor, according to sources.

Mashpee Wampanoag Leader Sentenced To 3 1/2 Years

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Former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Councilor Glenn Marshall was sentenced yesterday to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $383,000 from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, filing false tax returns, making illegal campaign contributions and fraudulently receiving $85,000 in Social Security benefits.

Federal Judge Rya Zobel said at the hearing, "I think that the defendant, Mr. Marshall, was motivated to do good things for the tribe, but he too was ultimately corrupted. While it may have started with the corruption of and by others, Mr. Marshall accepted the corrupt practices."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Mitchell told the judge, "The public should know that people in Mr. Marshall's position ... shouldn't be able to get away with these types of things."

Marshall was forced to resign from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal council in 2007 after lies about his military service and a prior rape conviction became public.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is located in Massachusetts.

U.S. Confirms Over 1,600 Swine Flu Cases

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In less than two weeks, the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States has increased from 20 to 1,629, including 2 deaths. More than 2,300 swine flu cases have been reported over 24 countries.

The CDC confirmed ten new cases of the swine flu in Connecticut today, bringing the total number of cases to 14 in Connecticut.

Swine flu, a strain of the H1N1 virus, is a respiratory disease of pigs and can be contracted by humans who are around pigs. The virus can also be spread from person to person. Symptoms include: high fever, body aches, coughing, sore throat and breathing difficulties. The swine flu can be spread by a handshake or sneeze. Washing hands frequently is recommended as a preventive measure.

Bill To Legalize Online Gambling To Be Introduced In Congress

Feather News


A bill authored by the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank (D-Mass), seeks to legalize online gambling in the United States.

The legislation would make the Treasury Department responsible for creating regulations and a licensing system for Internet gambling operators. According to Frank, the bill would "enable Americans to bet online and put an end to an inappropriate interference with their personal freedom."

Frank plans to introduce a separate bill that would stop federal authorities from enforcing a 2006 law that banned online gambling in the United States. That law bans credit card companies, banks and other institutions from knowingly handling Internet gambling payments for bets.

Online bets on horse racing is currently the only legal form of Internet gambling in the Unites States. Illegal online gambling is now a multi-billion industry.

Bids For N.Y. Aqueduct Slot Parlor Due Today

By Ken Davison
Feather News


Bids are due today from those groups seeking to run a proposed slot parlor at New York's Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Various rounds of bidding have gone on for close to two years and New York officials thought the deal was done when the Delaware North group was finally chosen last October. But in March, Delaware North backed out of the deal saying that it could not come up with the $370 million up-front payment that it promised in its bid. Others say that discussions of the possibility of a second Queens racetrack slot parlor at Belmont racetrack, that would be in direct competition with the Aqueduct slot parlor, was a big factor in Delaware North's choice to abandon the deal.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, along with partners that included an Australian group of racing professionals and others, was one of the unsuccesful bidders. Now that the bidding has been re-opened, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority may once again seek to compete with others for the 30-year franchise to operate the slot machines.

The prospect of what would be New York City's first slot parlor is expected to cut into the revenues of the Mohegan Sun as did New York's Yonkers racetrack slot parlor, located just outside of New York City. New York officials want an up-and-running Aqueduct slot parlor to have 4,500 VLT slot machines.

Hartmann said the authority has not decided whether to partner with another entity on a new bid.

Two weeks ago chief operating officer of MTGA, Jeff Hartmann said, "We're running models of the competitive landscape and haven't decided whether to provide a bid." Attempts to contact Mr. Hartmann today were unsuccesful but it is likely the Tribe will once again bid on the franchise.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation was also involved in the first round of bidding but officials there do not contemplate bidding on the project again. Gary Armentrout, president of the Mashantucket Tribe's Foxwoods Development Company, told The Day newspaper two weeks ago that it was not likely that they would bid once again for the franchise.

Other groups that were involved in the earlier bidding included, MTGA/Capital Play, Delaware North and the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock/SL Green group.

The winning bidder would need approval from the governor, the state senate majority leader and the leader of the state's legislative assembly.

An added incentive has been added to the new selection process: a quasi-state agency will provide $250 million in funding toward the construction of a facility.

In the initial round of bidding two years ago, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's group first lost the bid to operate the racetrack and, later, lost a bid to develop and operate the slot parlor. Upon losing the bid to operate the racetrack, the group then ran television commercials criticizing the governor on its selection of New York Racing Association to operate the state-owned racetracks.

The subsequent resignation of that governor, Eliot Spitzer, due to other matters was seen as helpful in the previous Mohegan bid because the governor is one of the parties that is required to approve the winning bidder.

Note: Later this afternoon it was reported that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority "elected to pass on a bid to construct a a casino at Aqueduct Racetrack." Hartmann said, "We determined that an investment of capital and resources at this time, does not align with our stated goals to continue to strengthen our balance sheet."

Article Removed By Request

Feather News


Yesterday the Feather News printed the text of Brokenwing's tribal court complaint and some testimony that was given at yesterday's tribal court hearing. Brokenwing requested that I remove the article for the time being due to its timing. The article will re-appear soon, probably next week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Judge Rules For Brokenwing's Injunction

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Judge Jane Freeman ruled for Brokenwing today in a Tribal Court hearing on Brokenwing's injunction request and to accept Brokenwing's amended court complaint waged against the good standing process.

Judge Freeman ruled that the good standing determination against Brokenwing be removed from the Tribal website until further notice and provide the court the date in which the good standing resolution will be removed from the Tribal website, that the Tribe halt the publication of the good standing determination in Wuskuso and that the Tribe be restrained from implementing its good standing punishment against Brokenwing Bill.

The judge said that the Plaintiff (Brokenwing) was deprived the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, an essential component of due process and agreed with Brokenwing that the good standing hearings were not meaningful under the Indian Civil Rights Act and the Mohegan Constitution. Brokenwing established the requisite standards for the injunction, including establishing that he would be significantly and irreparably harmed which far outweighs any harm to the Tribe in halting the good standing punishment and its publication.

Brokenwing represented himself while the Tribe and the Council of Elders were represented by three attorneys. The decision was read aloud at about 4:15 this afternoon.

Tribal Court Hearing Today At 1 PM On Brokenwing's Good Standing Case

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A hearing will be held today at 1 p.m. in the Mohegan Tribal Court regarding Brokenwing's request for an injunction against his good standing determination and on his amended court complaint which alleges numerous civil rights violations resulting from the good standing process and determination.

The Mohegan Tribe and the Council of Elders are defendants and are represented by three attorneys. Brokenwing is representing himself.

The room used for the Tribal court is the same room used for Tribal meetings. The hearing is open to the public.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rhode Island Breaks Off Talks With Racetrack-Slot Parlor, Racing To Be Suspended Early At Track

By Ken Davison
Feather News


The Twin River racetrack-slot parlor announced that it is suspending its greyhound racing, one week after the state broke off negotiations to purchase the facility.

Twin River, despite it being the fifth largest slot machine location with 4,750 slot machines, has been in financial troubles since last year. One reason, according to officials, is that the facility pays about 60 percent of its slot machine revenue to the state of Rhode Island.

Twin River announced that its greyhound racing will end its season on May 31.

There has been speculation that Twin River may seek bankruptcy protection. Discussions had taken place with the state on a possible purchase of the facility but those talks ended last week. The state may feel that it could obtain a better price if it was put up for sale in a bankruptcy proceeding.

The principles of Twin River are also the partners in Trading Cove Associates, which is the company that formerly managed the Mohegan Sun casino. With less than four years remaining on their seven-year Mohegan Sun casino management contract, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority struck a deal to end that contract by agreeing to pay Trading Cove five percent of Mohegan Sun's revenues for fifteen years. That agreeemnt is expected to yield about a billion dollars for the former management company.

MTGA paid Trading Cove Associates $76.1 million for the 12 months of fiscal year 2008.

Not only have these payments to Trading Cove Associates affected MTGA's liquidity but the Twin River slot parlor opened by the former Mohegan Sun partners have affected Mohegan Sun's slot machine revenues.

The Tribe In The Media: Another Viewpoint On The Mohegan Gaming Authority's Credit Rating Downgrade

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is a New London Day article on the downgrading of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's credit rating. This article offers some different commentary, and more details, than that of the Wall Street Journal's article posted on Saturday and we feel it gives readers a better feel for the impact of the downgrade.

Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Bonds Get Downgraded
Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
May 5, 2009

A reduction in its bond credit ratings will have no immediate impact on the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, the authority's chief financial officer said Monday.

”If anything, we're not seeking any financing right now,” Leo Chupaska said.

The authority amended its line of credit with a syndicate of banks last year, a move that will enable it to pay off $330 million in debt due this summer, Chupaska said. “If we didn't have that authorization, we'd be facing some real difficulty in a high-yield market.”

Moody's Investors Service announced Friday that it was lowering the authority's corporate family and probability-of-default ratings from B2 to B3, which the service classifies as a “lower” noninvestment grade. It also lowered its ratings on $250 million of senior notes from Ba3 to B1, and on $957 million of senior subordinated notes from Caa1 to Caa 3, which it considers a “poor” grade.

”The downgrade is based on the expectation that weak visitation and spending trends in the Connecticut gaming market will make it difficult for MTGA to meaningfully reduce leverage over the near to medium term to levels acceptable to the prior rating,” Moody's said in a statement. The service also cited the authority's “larger interest burden, significant dividend obligation to the Mohegan Tribe, and increased competition.”

Keith Foley, a Moody's senior vice president, said Mohegan Sun's decline in monthly gaming revenues has accelerated this year and that it “remains vulnerable to competition from gaming and hotel capacity added by Foxwoods Resort Casino, its primary competitor, as well as from neighboring jurisdictions.”

Although Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the racino the authority owns and operates in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has increased revenues, “its contribution at this time is not enough to mitigate the cash flow decline at Mohegan Sun” Foley said.

Moody's announcement came the day after the authority announced its January-through-March results in a conference call with investors and analysts. During that call, authority executives noted that a sweeping cost-containment initiative had significantly reduced operating expenses.

”We did a lot during the quarter to improve our expense side, but we continue to see 'weakness' in the market, as (Moody's) called it, and that's what they're concerned about,” Chupaska said. “We made no bones about that during our conference call. … We just have to hope that things turn around some by the time they look at us again.”

On Friday, Moody's also downgraded its ratings for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns Foxwoods, cutting its corporate family and probability-of-default ratings from Ba3 to B1, two notches above its comparable ratings for the Mohegan authority. It also lowered its rating for the tribe's subordinated special revenue obligations from B1 to B2 and its 2007 Series A notes from B2 to B3. It confirmed its rating for the tribe's special revenue obligations at Ba2.

Although Foxwoods has reported slight year-over-year increases in its slot-machine winnings the last two months, “it remains exposed to weak gaming-demand trends as well as increased competition from video lottery terminal facilities in New York and Rhode Island,” Moody's said.

The tribe had no comment on the Moody's ratings.

Note: Although this article is being picked up today in the "Googled" article section on the right-hand side of the blog, those Tribal members who read the Feather News in the government building cannot access that "Googled" article section.

Editorial: Gasoline Sales To Tribal Members And Spouses

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Updated


The gas station on the Mohegan Reservation should allow gas to be sold at wholesale prices to both Tribal members and their spouses. After all, if gasoline is sold at a wholesale price it wouldn't cost the Tribe anything to provide it to Tribal families. If the Tribal member is traveling or otherwise outside of the area, the spouse should be allowed to buy the gasoline at wholesale prices.

For that matter, other products, including food, could also be distributed to Tribal members at the wholesale prices obtained through the casino's bulk purchasing leverage. If it won't cost anything minimally more to do this, then why not?

After all, the Tribal member is the most important population of our Tribal Nation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Part 4 Of PBS 'We Shall Remain' Documentary On Geronimo Airs Tonight

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The fourth segment of Public Broadcasting's "We Shall Remain" documentary airs tonight at 9 p.m. and will focus on the life of Geronimo.

Born around 1820 in the region of what is now southern New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, Geronimo led the last Indian fighting force to formally capitulate to the U.S. government.

Even on his deathbed, he declared to his nephew that he should never have surrendered.

As already mentioned, the Geronimo documentary airs tonight but tomorrow night is another interesting documentary. The PBS documentary on the cracking of the Mayan Indian code will air tomorrow night at 8 p.m. (originally aired in April).

According to PBS, "The ancient Maya civilization of Central America left behind an intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script, carved on monuments, painted on pottery, and drawn in handmade bark-paper books. For centuries, scholars considered it too complex ever to understand—until recently, when an ingenious series of breakthroughs finally cracked the code and unleashed a torrent of new insights into the Mayas' turbulent past. For the first time, NOVA presents the epic inside story of how the decoding was done—traveling to the remote jungles of southern Mexico and Central America to investigate how the code was broken and what Maya writings now reveal."

"The Maya script is the New World's most highly developed ancient writing system, and it is "our one and only opportunity to peer into the Americas before the arrival of Europeans and hear these people speaking to us," says Simon Martin, a specialist in Maya inscriptions at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Yet records of this written language were all but destroyed by European conquerors, who burned an untold number of Maya books. Today, only four known, partial examples survive."

Column: Trial Begins Monday On Casino Cheating Scam

By Ken Davison
Feather News


A scam ran at both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods crap tables would begin when the cheaters approached the tables using the code words "strawberry daiquirie" or "hot chocolate." After hearing these or other code words, the dealers would take bets from the cheating players after the dice were rolled.

Jury selection will begin Monday in the trial for the alleged mastermind of the scam. Richard S. Taylor of Memphis, Tennessee. Taylor, 43, pleaded not guilty to charges of cheating, conspiracy to commit cheating at gambling, first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny.

More than a dozen people were charged in the scam, including craps dealers who claimed the scam had been going on for years. The cheating players would place bets for dealers or would meet up with the casino employees to pay them for allowing the players to place late bets. Police said one dealer alone, Mattie Tarlton, is alleged to have received about $60,000.

The State Police Casino Unit began the investigating in December 2007 after a floor person at Foxwoods told a manager that a craps dealer was cheating. Taylor and Tarlton were the first of several arrests.

In the game of craps, players can make bets in two ways: putting their chips on certain parts of the table or by calling out bets before the dice land on the table. Taylor said he always calls out his bets. Taylor allegedly told colluding dealers that they could identify other participants in the scam when these players used certain code words, like "strawberry daiquirie" or "hot chocolate."

Shortly after the arrests, this reporter walked up to various table games blurting out random words like "olive martini" or "blueberry cheesecake" but got no reaction from dealers. However, when the drink called "sex on the beach" was blurted out, dealers would inevitably look up and we think this lead might possibly require a separate investigation.

Next Competitor Of Tribe's Pa. Slot Parlor To Open In Three Weeks

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Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, located about 70 miles from the Mohegan's Pocono Downs slot parlor in Pennsylvania, is scheduled to open to the public on May 22.

The new Bethelehem slot parlor, owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and built on the brownfield site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, will open its doors with 3,000 slot machines. Sixteen virtual blackjack and three-card poker consoles will also be installed. The company said it plans to add 2,000 more slot machines in the first six months.

The slot parlor will also feature a restaurant operated by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, a food court, a 220-seat cafe open around the clock and an Irish pub. The master plan includes a 300-room hotel.

The new Bethlehem slot parlor is expected to further cut into the revenues of the Mohegan's slot parlor, which has about 2,500 slot machines, in Wilkes-Barr, Pa. The Tribe's Pennsylvania slot parlor is currently not profitable when taking into account the interest expense on borrowings to purchase and expand the property.

The Bethlehem slot parlor is scheduled to open to the public on May 22, assuming its two state-mandated preliminary test-opening nights on May 18 and 20 go well.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. owns the The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino and The Venetian, both on the Las Vegas strip, a casino in Macau and is currently building a casino in Singapore . The company owned and operated the Sands Hotel, which was demolished and in its place The Venetian casino was built. The majority of the company is owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the world's richest men.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan's Credit Rating Downgraded

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from the Wall Street Journal on the credit downgrade of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Tribe. The credit downgrade came one day after MTGA issued its earnings report for the period of January 1 through March 31. One innacuracy in the article states, "... Waterford Gaming LLC, which manages Mohegan Sun in a 50/50 joint venture with Sun International Hotels Ltd." These entities formed Trading Cove Associates, which formerly managed the Mohegan Sun but currently receives five percent of revenues generated at Mohegan Sun (except for revenues derived from the Casino of the Wind) until 2014. MTGA paid Trading Cove Associates $76.1 million in fiscal year 2008, down from $77.5 million in fiscal year 2007.

Moody's Lowers Ratings On Owners Of 2 Conn Casinos
By Kathy Shwiff
WSJ Dow Jones Newswires
May 1, 2009

Moody's Investors Service cut its credit ratings on the owners of two Connecticut casinos, saying weak gambling trends in that area will make it difficult for the tribes to reduce their debt in the near to medium term.

Ratings were cut further into junk territory on the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation, which runs Foxwoods Resort Casino, and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which runs Mohegan Sun. Moody's also cut its ratings further into junk on Waterford Gaming LLC, which manages Mohegan Sun in a 50/50 joint venture with Sun International Hotels Ltd.

"We believe the Connecticut market will eventually stabilize, however the timing and degree of any stabilization is difficult to predict at this time," said Moody's Senior Vice President Keith Foley.

Consumers have cut back on gambling throughout the country amid the recession, though casinos in tourist towns, such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, seemed to have suffered the biggest downturns.

Moody's downgraded its corporate family and probability of default ratings on all three companies by one notch, putting Mashantucket at B1 and Mohegan at B3. Waterford's corporate family and probability of default ratings were lowered one notch to Caa2 and Caa1, respectively. All have negative outlooks. Waterford's income is tied to the Mohegan Sun casino's revenue, and its recovery prospects are uncertain should Mohegan seek bankruptcy protection, liquidate or reorganize, Moody's said.

The firm pointed out the Mashantucket's ratings could be cut again if Connecticut gambling trends remain weak or worsen.

The same trends are hurting Mohegan, which also suffers from a large interest burden, a significant dividend obligation to the Mohegan Tribe, and increased competition, Moody's said.

"The decline in MTGA's comparable monthly Connecticut gaming revenues has accelerated so far this year and remains vulnerable to competition from gaming and hotel capacity added by Foxwoods Resort Casino, its primary competitor, as well as from neighboring jurisdictions," Foley said.

He added the tribe's Pennsylvania casino is not contributing enough to offset the cash flow decline at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Moody's predicted the Mohegan may have to seek covenant relief this year and it could face increases in its term loan amortization if $150 million in loans are not repaid by June 2010.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Connecticut Attorney General And Others Don't Want A Quick Fix To Supreme Court Ruling

By Ken Davison
Feather News


Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal and the attorneys general from 16 other states do not want Congress to rush into writing new laws that would undermine a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricts many Indian tribes from having land taken into trust by the federal government.

In that case, (Rhode Island Governor) Carcieri v. (Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department) Salazar, the Supreme Court overturned a 1934 law that allowed the federal government to take land into trust as reservation land for all federally recognized Indian tribes. The decision still will allow the US Department of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes recognized as of 1934 but the court decision will affect dozens of tribes that became federally recognized after 1934.

The attorneys general sent a letter to the chairmen of the Senate Indian Affairs Comittee and the House of Representative's Committee on Natural Resources asking that Congress not rush into a legislative fix for that Supreme Court ruling. The attorneys general said in the letter that "the goal of any legislation should be to craft a workable process that allows all interested parties an opportunity to be heard. The process used to draft any legislation must include all of the stakeholders in order to reduce the potential for disputes and further litigation."

The court case involved 31 acres in Charlestown, R.I., that the U.S. Department of Interior took into trust on behalf of the Narragansett Tribe. Once land is taken into trust by the federal government on behalf of an Indian tribe, the land can no longer be taxed and will not fall under the regulatory laws of state or local governments unless an agreement between the state and the tribe allow for compliance with state laws.

Since the Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983, the Supreme Court ruled they were not covered by a 1934 law called the Indian Reorganization Act, which was the law that gives the Department of Interior the authority to take land into trust for Indian tribes. Since Congress agreed to a settlement act with the Mohegan Tribe that expressly permitted the Tribe to add land until the Tribe reaches its 700-acre settlement area limit, it should not affect the Mohegan Tribe until after the 700-acre limit is reached. The 158-acre Fort Shantok property is not included in the 700-acre limit. Currently the Mohegan Tribe's Reservation includes about 350 acres, not including Fort Shantok or property owned by the Tribe but not yet taken into trust.

Two days after the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in Carcieri, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal noted that neither the Mohegan Tribe or Mashantucket Pequot Nation were federally recognized in 1934 and that the court decision “effectively prohibits the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes from annexing land outside their settlement areas. The Supreme Court decision leaves intact the existing reservations, because both were created by acts of Congress."

Besides the attorney general from Connecticut, other New England state attorneys general signing the letter were those from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.