Friday, October 30, 2009

Mashantucket Pequot Election On Sunday

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article from The Day newspaper on Sunday's tribal council election on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. On a trip to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum for an archeaology conference last week I saw about a dozen campaign signs on the edges of the short span of Tribal roadway that leads to the museum.

Sunday's tribal council vote a turning point for Mashantuckets
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
October 30, 2009

Mashantucket - Serene despite the talk of financial upheaval that has buffeted it lately, the Mashantucket Pequot Indian reservation bore a striking resemblance Thursday to other places where democracy is scheduled to play out next week.

Fallen leaves colored the ground and stuck to less-traveled roadways. Campaign placards sprouted near parking lots and intersections. Tidy and well-manicured, it could have passed for an upscale subdivision anywhere in Connecticut.

The quiet belied the stakes at hand though.

In just three days, the tribe would hold an election that would yield at least one and as many as three new tribal councilors as well as a new council chairman. Nothing less than the fate of the tribe and its world-class gaming enterprise - Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods - would await the seven-member council that takes office Jan. 1.

What qualities should the electorate - about 450 tribal adults 18 and older - be looking for in the candidates? Aside from the obvious one, the effect of the casinos' declining revenues on the tribe's finances, what are the issues?

The slogans on the campaign signs only hinted at answers. For outsiders, they would have to do.

"Bring honor, respect and honesty back to Tribal Council," read one candidate's signs, evoking a common theme. "Vote for Jim Walker."

Theresa Hayward Bell, whose brother, Richard "Skip" Hayward, has been credited with almost single-handedly resurrecting the tribe in the 1970s, listed her qualifications on her signs: "Experienced. Dedicated. Openness. Honest. Fair."

Bell worked in tribal government in the 1970s and '80s and was named executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center years before it opened in 1998. When she stepped down in 2006, she told a reporter she'd grown tired of working for people who failed to grasp the significance of their heritage.

She said then that the casino-borne cash had been a curse as well as a boon and wondered aloud whether it could last forever. She doubted it.

Reached by phone this week, she declined to discuss her candidacy. The tribe's business is private, she said.

Anthony M. "Tony" Beltran, who served a term on the council from 1998 to 2000, might have spoken about his bid to return to the council if he hadn't been dealing with a bad back when a reporter called. His campaign signs had begun to appear in late summer, dominating the reservation's landscape for weeks.

"Haven't we had enough yet?" his signs asked, even before word of the tribe's financial woes surfaced.

Like the signs of several of the 18 candidates - one has dropped out of the record field of 19 that declared themselves Oct. 1 - Beltran's suggest the tribal council is a ship that's badly off course and in need of righting.

"Equal Voices & Equal Opportunities," Michael Sebastian's signs promise.

Those of L. Brian Sebastian claim he offers "Unrivaled experience, unmatched dedication."

Both Karen Hatcher, former head of the tribe's Pequot Health Care, and Clifford Sebastian III, at one time the tribal police chief, would put tribal members "first," their signs say.

The two councilors seeking re-election state their cases, too.

"Re-elect Charlene Jones," the council secretary urges. "Dedicated to Community, Culture, Health & Education."

Rodney Butler, the council treasurer, keeps it simple. "Vote for Rodney," his signs advise.

Up until September, the ballot figured to list a third incumbent, Michael Thomas, whose seven-year reign as council chairman ended amid controversy over his response to the financial crisis. His pledge to put tribal government and "incentive" payments to tribal members ahead of payments to creditors soared like a cement glider in the financial world and, for that matter, Indian Country.

His fellow councilors wasted no time distancing themselves from such a notion, first placing Thomas on administrative leave and eventually voting to expel him.

No one with the tribe would say Thursday what's to become of Thomas' seat between now and the end of his term Dec. 31. Presumably, it will simply remain vacant until the new council takes over.

Sunday's first round of voting at the tribe's community center will conclude at noon. Then, once the three top vote-getters are identified, the membership will elect a chairman from among those three and the four councilors not up for election - Vice Chairman Richard E. Sebastian, Marjorie Colebut-Jackson, Maureen Sebastian and James Jackson.

There were no signs Thursday to suggest who the new chairman might be.

Massachusetts Legislative Committee Holds Gambling Hearing

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The following Tribe In The Media installment is a South Coast article on yesterday's hearing held by a Massachusetts legislative committee on the issue regarding the possibility of expanded gaming in that state. The Mashpee Wampanoag chairman said at the hearing that the Tribe could be interested in a commercial casino license should gaming be approved but noted that it still pursues a casino on tribal land permitted under federal Indian Gaming law.

Proponents, foes of expanded gaming make their cases before state committee
By Steve Decosta
South Coast
October 29, 2009

BOSTON -- In a steady stream they approached the microphone, singly and in groups, to make their impassioned or dispassionate, facts-and-figures pleas for and against the most divisive issue currently facing the Massachusetts Legislature: expanded gaming.

Under the pall of the state’s rising unemployment and shrinking revenues, dozens of partisans made their arguments before the Legislature’s Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on Thursday in a hearing that began at 10:10 a.m. and lost steam by mid-afternoon; a similar hearing last year stretched more than 14 hours.

Those testifying in favor of expanded gaming outnumbered opponents, but it remained unclear whether any minds were changed. Several committee members clearly expressed their biases on the issue, while others sat stone-faced listening to the testimony in three-minute bursts.

Membership on the committee has turned over dramatically, as has the speakership of the House, since the gaming issue was last addressed – and overwhelmingly defeated -- in March 2008.

The state’s economic woes were cited Thursday as both the prime reason and the worst excuse to expand gaming.

While Gov. Deval Patrick was announcing the latest round of state budget cuts in Worcester, state Sen. Marc Pacheco argued that: “A million dollars a day – a day – we have lost,” because the Legislature has failed to authorize expanded gaming.

Carrying the mantle of opponents from her seat on the panel, Sen. Susan Tucker, countered: “I don’t know how it would help our economy to have people dumping millions of dollars into slot machines and having the profits shipped out of state.”

Officially, the hearing was conducted to review 16 specific pieces of pending legislation that would expand gaming in one form or another, but ostensibly it focused on two broad topics: “It’s all about jobs and money,” state Sen. Joan Menard said.

From the corporate headquarters of the Mohegan Sun to the kitchen of a typical family of Bridgewater, those who testified offered myriad theories about how many jobs would be created, how much revenue would be raised, how soon gaming facilities could be set up and how much the Bay State would suffer, primarily in social costs, but there was little in the ways of consensus.

Proponents, primarily union representatives and casino developers, promised new jobs and the recapture of millions of dollars in lost revenues, while opponents predicted a litany of horrors, including increased crime and addition and the domination of a predatory industry that could not be controlled by any regulatory agency.

“The initial proposal is always based on what people hope and what people hope is never what happens in the end,” said Cape and Islands Sen. Robert O’Leary. “Once these facilities are built, they own you as much as you own them.”

When the meeting was called to order, the auditorium was about two-thirds full and there was little in the way of the spectacle that pervaded a similar hearing on the issue in March 2008.

Hardhatted union demonstrators gathered outside, bearing signs claiming “Casinos equal 20,000 Massachusetts jobs.” Inside, there were a few T-shirted shows of force, notably several dozen in turquoise from Plainridge Race Course in Plainville and those from western Massachussetts who donned equations claiming “Casino + Palmer = Jobs,” but nothing like last year, when red-shirted union members filled about half the seats in the room.

The governor didn’t hit lead off, as he did last year, but representatives of his administration made a strong pitch for casinos to drive economic development and recapture revenue being gambled and spent elsewhere by Massachusetts residents.

Gaming opponents, clearly outnumbered in the room, proclaimed themselves at a distinct disadvantage to well-financed industry supporters and said they welcomed the public hearing forum to make their case. “We don’t have millions of dollars so this is how we get our message out,” said Kathleen Conley Norbut, resident of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts.

Asked is she thought any minds were being changed at the hearing, Norbut said, “There are some (legislators) who are convinced on one side and others who are convinced on the other side, but I think there are plenty of legislators in the middle who are looking for a reason to vote no.”

At Thursday’s hearing, committee members were able to take in the testimony without the glaring disapproval of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, an avowed gaming opponent now under indictment on a separate issue. His successor, Robert DeLeo, supported by the governor and the Senate president, has promised a single gaming bill for consideration early next year.

While the 2008 hearing has a decidedly SouthCoast flavor, only a few of those testifying Thursday had SouthCoast connections. The only SouthCoast legislators to offer testimony were Sens. Pacheco and Menard.

Summarizing the findings of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis’ New England Gaming Behavior Survey, director Clyde W. Barrow told the committee, “Massachusetts residents have listened to the arguments for 14 years now and they have come to the conclusion that the benefits of casinos outweigh the costs.”

Also appearing before the committee was Cedric Cromwell , chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which was the catalyst of last year’s debate after proposing a resort casino on sovereign land in Middleboro. That plan has been stymied by a Supreme Court decision, but Cromwell said, “we are very confident about the process being fixed” by pending federal legislation and it remains the tribe’s primary intention.

Still, Cromwell said the tribe would consider seeking a state gaming license, should one become available. “The tribe is open to talking with the state to determine what the best route is, (but) it’s premature for us to talk without knowing what the specifics are. We want to keep that dialog open. We’d love to sit and talk with you.”

While there was little discussion of where any casinos might be located, New Bedford Democratic Rep. Robert Koczera used his seat on the panel to push the interest of SouthCoast. “There are regions of this state, mine included, whose economies are hurting,” he said. “The economic benefits of locating a casino there are important.”

As the hearing wound to a close and the testimony became more personal and poignant, committee members -- including House chairman Brian Dempsey -- drifted out of the room until only a handful were left.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indian Military Veterans Invited to Ceremony At Mashantucket Pequot Museum On Nov 14th

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In recognition of Veteran's Day, the Mashantucket Pequots will hold their annual honoring cemerony for veterans on Saturday, November 14th from noon to 2 p.m.

Native veterans are asked to register by November 12th by calling Trudie Lamb Richmond, the director of programs for the Mashantucket museum, at (860) 396-6862 or Jean Little at (860) 396-6938.

The master of ceremonie is Buddy Gwin (Hidatsa/Mandan). Guest speakers include Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Elder and Pequot War Chief Stan Harris. Kenny Merrick (Mandan/Dakota) of the Mystic River Singers will do honoring songs on the hand drum.

Mohegan Gaming Authority Makes Presentation Today

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is to make a presentation today to the Wells Fargo Securities 2009 Consumer Growth Conference at the New York Palace Hotel.

MTGA is to begin the presentation by pointing out that the Mohegan Sun has 53 percent of the Connecticut market share compared to Foxwoods' 47 percent market share despite the Sun having given away $28 million in free slot play while Foxwoods gave out twice that amount in free slot play.

Out of a database of 4 million rated customers, 37 percent are from Connecticut, 23 percent come from Massachusetts, another 23 percent from New York, 4 percent from Rhode Island and 13 percent from other parts.

Pocono Downs has a database of 400,000 rated customers with 77 percent from Pennsylvania, 11 percent are from New York, 5 percent from New Jersey and 7 percent from other parts (including 1 percent from Connecticut).

MTGA is projecting a decline of about 8 percent in net revenues for fiscal year 2010, which are the twelve months of October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010, from $1.57 billion to $1.46 billion. If revenues do decline by 8 percent, then profits could likely decline much more.

Forecasted maintenance capital expenditures are estimated at $21 million this fiscal year (2010), which is about less than half of the $45 million average spent for fiscal years 2005 - 2008.

One chart shows the breakdown of due dates that MTGA must repay debt principle. Of special note is that $760 million will be due in 2012, or about half of MTGA's $1.6 billion in total debt. The balance of the debt is to be paid between 2013 through 2017. In 2013 $250 million is due, in 2014 $225 million is due, in 2015 $150 million is due while the last remaining piece - the $200 million that was borrowed in Ocotober - comes due in 2017.

Leo Chupaska, CFO of MTGA and Peter Roberti, VP Finance of MTGA, are to make the presentation.

Mashantuckets And Lenders Agree To Truce Until January 20

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's senior lenders agreed not to take action on possible defaults - such as non-payments or violating loan conditions - by the Tribe until after January 20, 2010 while Tribal debt restructuring negotiations continue.

The Mashantuckets have a $700-million revolver loan due in July 2010. The Mashantucket's total debt is believed to be around $2.5 billion, which includes $500 million in bonds at 8.5 percent interest that mature in 2015 and $250 million of bonds at 5.9 percent interest rate that are due in 2021.

A $21 million interest payment is scheduled to become due next month on the $500 million (Year 2015) bonds mentioned above.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Local Newsaper: Tribal Stipends Under Scrutiny

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Today's front page headline in The Day newspaper of New London reads, "Tribal Stipends Under Scrutiny." The article is printed below as part of The Tribe In The Media series:

Tribal stipends under scrutiny
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
October 25,2009

Times were flush when the Mohegans sought the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs' approval of the tribe's plan for distributing gaming revenues.

After ensuring that the plan provided adequate funding for tribal government and economic development, among other things, the deputy commissioner of Indian Affairs signed off on the plan on July 16, 2001. It calls for 40 to 50 percent of the tribe's net gaming revenues from Mohegan Sun to be distributed to the tribe's adult members on a quarterly basis.

More recently, on Jan. 4, 2008, the office of the secretary of the Department of the Interior approved a Gaming Revenue Allocation Plan submitted by the Mashantucket Pequots. Under the plan, up to 30 percent of the net gaming revenues generated by Foxwoods Resort Casino (including MGM Grand at Foxwoods, which opened in May 2008) are to be distributed to tribal adults "to help advance their personal health, safety and welfare."

The plans, which the BIA requires of tribes that choose to make so-called per capita payments to members, have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly in the case of the Mashantucket Pequots, who are seeking to restructure a debt load of more than $2 billion. Gaming industry analysts and the Mashantuckets' creditors are more interested than ever in how the tribe distributes its gaming revenue.

The creditors were alarmed in late August when Mashantucket Chairman Michael Thomas, addressing tribal members about the "dire financial times" facing the tribe, vowed to protect funding for tribal government and per capita "incentive" payments from further cuts. The pledge, which many within and without Indian Country considered irresponsible, cost Thomas his chairmanship. Placed on administrative leave and facing a tribal council vote to expel him from the council, Thomas announced he would not seek re-election Nov. 1.

"He's not that relevant at the moment," Jane Pedreira, a gaming analyst with Rye, N.Y.-based Clear Sights Research, said last week.

With Thomas out of the picture, the investment world is keen to learn about the tribe's funding of its tribal operations and the payouts its members receive. If they're having trouble finding such information, "it's not for our lack of looking," one investor said.

Plans' percentage breakdowns

Copies of the revenue-allocation plans, which The Day obtained from the BIA through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, detail the percentage breakdown of the tribes' allocation of their net gaming revenues. The Mohegans' 10-page plan specifies that 30 to 40 percent of the tribe's revenue is to be dedicated to tribal-government operations and programs, including investments and education; 5 to 15 percent to the general welfare of tribal members, including investments, health, housing, social services and youth services programs; and 10 to 20 percent to economic development, both gaming and non-gaming related.

The plan also provides for charitable contributions, funding for local government and "any purpose authorized by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act" in amounts "deemed appropriate by the Tribal Council."

The per capita distributions - 40 to 50 percent of the tribe's gaming revenue - "shall be provided to qualified tribal members in equal amounts, unless determined otherwise by the Tribal Council," the plan says. Per capita benefits for minors are placed in trust.

The Mashantuckets' six-page plan specifies that 25 percent of the tribe's revenue is to be allocated to tribal government; 15 percent to the general welfare of tribal members; 25 percent to economic development; 5 percent to charitable contributions and 30 percent to per capita distributions.

Mashantucket per capita payments are paid monthly in amounts that vary based on a tribal member's age. Adult members, of which there are about 450, are divided into three age groups - 18 to 34; 35 to 54; and those considered tribal elders, 55 and above. Fifty percent of the payment for those 18 to 24 is determined by whether they are employed full time, enrolled full time in "a qualified school," in military service or in the ministry.

The plan specifies that the tribe provides full medical care and payment of educational expenses, including tuition, for those under 18.

A spokesman for the Mashantuckets did not respond last week to requests for comment on the subject of revenue allocation plans. Lynn Malerba, the newly elected chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, was traveling much of the week and conveyed answers to questions e-mailed through Chuck Bunnell, the tribe's chief of staff.

Malerba said her tribe does not publicly discuss details of its plan, and characterized the Mohegans' per capita payments as "modest." Reportedly, the payments are about $28,000 a year, a figure Bunnell would neither confirm nor deny. About 800 adult members of the 2,000-member tribe are eligible for the payments.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun, released preliminary financial results for its 2009 fiscal year in advance of last week's private sale of $200 million in senior secured notes. The authority said its distribution of casino revenues to the tribe during the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, totaled $72 million, and that it expects to distribute between $59 million and $64 million to the tribe in fiscal 2010.

"Much of the distribution ... funds tribal services and programs," Malerba said. "Our philosophy has been to support cultural preservation, education, health care, elder care and child care above all. Our priority is programs."

The chairwoman said the projected reduction in the authority's distribution to the tribe "is directly tied to decreases in casino revenues, which are an effect of the global economic downturn. … We remain deeply committed to honoring all our financial obligations."

Pequot payments higher

While the Mashantuckets have never disclosed their per capita payments, it's long been believed that they are considerably higher than those paid by the Mohegans. In August, a source who discussed the Mashantuckets' finances with The Day on condition of anonymity said the payments have been reduced in recent years and now range between $90,000 and $120,000 a year. Tribal members who spoke to The Day confirmed that payments are in that range.

Unlike the Mohegans, the Mashantuckets do not register their debt with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and are not obligated to report their financial results. Sources, however, have said the tribe counts on $90 million to $100 million a year in Foxwoods casino revenues to fund tribal government and per capita payments.

Given the Mashantuckets' need to restructure their debt and the prospect that Connecticut's casinos will face increasing competition from virtually every direction in the years ahead, some analysts have questioned whether the tribe can maintain its current level of funding for tribal expenses.

"I personally don't have a problem with the tribe providing support to tribal members if they want to go to college, say, or to get training for better jobs," said Pedreira, the gaming analyst. "But I would object to 'disincentiving' them by paying them for doing nothing. You don't want to undermine them.

"What if Massachusetts (casinos) come in a big way and tribal members aren't prepared for careers? They miss the boat. … I'd rather see them keep it (gaming revenues) for a rainy day fund and to provide for training and education so members can stand on their own two legs. Perhaps in economic times like this you come in and help out."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Federal Recognition Likely For Six Virginia Tribes And The Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina

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The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved a bill yesterday that would give federal recognition to six tribes in Virginia and the 55,000-member Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a similar piece of legislation earlier this year for these tribes. The bill bars the tribes from having Indian casinos.

The six tribes in Virginia are the Eastern Chickahominy, Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan and Nansemond.

The Obama administration has not made any public statements about the Virginia tribes though President Obama has said that he supports federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe.

The legislation bypasses the Interior Department's federal recognition petitioning process, which the Senate Indian Affairs Committee chairman Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, says is broken.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mohegan Gaming Authority Sells $200 Million In Debt Notes

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Reuters is reporting that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority sold the $200 million of debt notes today. The proceeds of the sale will be used to pay down loans with MTGA's prime bankers.

The final coupon interest rate on the notes is 11.5 percent but a sold at a discount of 96.2 cents to every dollar, pushing the effective yield to 12.25 percent. The second lien senior secured notes are due in 2017.

See Reuter's at http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN1446730220091021

New York Governor Asks Feds For Help In Charging State Taxes On Cigarettes Sold On Indian Reservations

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New York Governor David Paterson has asked the federal government for help if confrontations result from the state's intent to collect state taxes on tax-free cigarettes sold on Indian reservations in that state.

Gov. Paterson's letter to U.S. Attorneys in Brooklyn, Syracuse and Buffalo noted the "likelihood of violence and civil unrest" if he began enforcing the state tax on Indian reservations in New York. Recent New York governors have chosen not to collect the tax but projected state budget deficits are adding pressure on officials to enforce the tax collection.

The following installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in yesterday's Buffalo News:

Paterson asks feds to weigh risks of collecting taxes on Indian cigarettes
By Tom Precious
Buffalo News
News Albany Bureau
October 20, 2009

ALBANY -- Gov. David A. Paterson has asked the U.S. Justice Department for a "threat assessment" if he were to begin trying to collect taxes on cigarette sales by Indian tribes, including the Seneca Nation.

In a letter to top federal prosecutors, the governor also suggests he might need help from Washington in putting down any possible unrest by Indian tribes if the tax collection starts.

The unusual request, dated September 23 to the U.S. Attorneys in New York state, including Buffalo, seeks the federal government's assistance to the "likelihood of violence and civil unrest" if he began enforcing the state's collection on the tax-free cigarette sales.

"Furthermore, I would appreciate your operational commitment to help mitigate any disturbances that might occur in each of your districts if implementation were to occur," Paterson wrote to the U.S. Attorneys in Brooklyn, Syracuse and Buffalo. He did not elaborate.

"We are going to let the letter speak for itself," Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Paterson, said when asked today about the letter.

A copy of the letter was obtained by The Buffalo News.

The governor said it is his "intent" to continue to try to negotiate agreements with the tribes over their long-standing refusal to collect taxes on the cigarette sales, which amount to hundreds of millions of cigarettes sold tax-free each year at smoke shops, in the mail and over the internet.

But Paterson is under mounting pressure from some legislators to begin collecting the tax. Some lawmakers say the state is losing upwards of $1 billion by not collecting the taxes on the Indian sold cigarettes.

The state faces a $3 billion deficit and lawmakers are desperately looking for ways to slash the red ink without resorting to spending cuts, such as to education, that the governor proposed last week.

Word of the letter comes just a week before the state Senate is to hold hearings on the issue of the uncollected sales.

Sources said the Seneca Nation was told last month by Paterson's office about the letter to U.S. Attorney Kathleen Mehltretter of the Western District of New York, as well as Andrew Baxter in Syracuse and Benton Campbell in Brooklyn.

"We see the letter as nothing more than the Governor doing his job to assess the historic consequences of what happens when the state tries to violate our treaty rights,'' said Richard Nephew, chairman of the Seneca Nation Council.

Paterson begins his letter asking the top federal prosecutors for "your guidance as to the potential consequences" if the state were to begin collecting the tax. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 said the state had the legal right to collect taxes on cigarette sales by Indians to non-Indians.

The governor noted past unrest, including battles in 1997 along the New York Thruway when then-Gov. George Pataki tried to collect the taxes.

"As a result of such unrest, a policy of forbearance was put in place" by the state tax department, Paterson wrote.

Governors, going back to Mario Cuomo and continuing to Paterson, have avoided resolving the tax issue. The matter has intensified as the state over the years has sharply raised tobacco excise taxes, giving Indian retailers a major leg up on the competition, raising the criticism of non-Indian retails and health groups, who maintain the state's goal of raising taxes to help dampen consumption has been undermined.

Mashpee Wampanoag Indians Scale Back Size Of Possible Casino

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In today's Boston Globe, the Mashpeee Wampanoag Tribe discuss the status of the relationship with their investors and building a smaller casino once state and/or federal legislation allows them to take land into trust for a casino or the state selects the Mashpees for a commercial casino license.

The Tribe In The Media:
Wampanoag tribe cuts size of casino project
By Christine Legere
The Boston Globe
October 21, 2009

MIDDLEBOROUGH - Leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe have scaled back plans to build a billion-dollar resort casino in Middleborough, saying they would start small with a facility that simply offers some gambling choices and food.

Primarily because of the slow economy, the vision for the project has changed, a tribal council member said yesterday, following a Monday meeting with town officials.

Amenities, such as a hotel, would come later, and its size would be dictated by need, officials said.

The tribe’s proposal in 2007 for a glitzy resort was crafted along the lines of Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Plans called for a sprawling casino with 4,000 slot machines and 125 gaming tables. Other amenities included a 1,100 room luxury hotel, a living museum rivaling Plimoth Plantation, a golf course, a complex of restaurants and shops, and other recreational facilities, including water parks.

Tribal council vice chairman Aaron Tobey said plans will not be formalized until the tribe is within six months to a year of construction.

“Realistically, that’s when we will do a feasibility study,’’ Tobey said. “We are not going to transplant Vegas into Middleborough. We’ll do something that represents the tribe and the town.’’

Tobey added that the tribe wants to see an adequate return on investment and wishes “to do something affordable.’’

Eric Cederholm, chairman of the Middleborough Resort Advisory Committee, said that at their meeting with tribe officials on Monday, “they gave every indication the project will move forward, but on a smaller scale than before.’’

“They gave no hard details, but said they would use a phased-in approach,’’ he said. “I got the impression that until they have their own issues worked out, a lot is still up in the air.’’

In addition to the shaky economy, the tribe faces several obstacles. A disagreement with investors has halted potential funding, and a Supreme Court ruling in February, called the Carcieri decision, barred land from being placed into federal trust for tribes recognized after 1934. The Mashpee tribe achieved federal recognition in 2007.

Washington lawmakers are working to amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 through legislation that would affirm the interior secretary’s authority to take land into trust for all tribes, regardless of when they were recognized.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe hopes that issues related to the Carcieri decision can be addressed on Nov. 5, when tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell and representatives from other tribes meet with President Obama.

“The biggest thing that’s near and dear to Indian country is sovereignty and getting land back by having it put in federal trust,’’ Cromwell said yesterday. “We feel very confident it’s only a matter of time until our land will be placed into trust.’’

The mood among Massachusetts lawmakers has also bolstered tribal confidence. After rejecting casino gambling last year, state officials appeared to be more supportive of the prospect.

What they decide regarding slots at racetracks or commercial casinos will affect the plans of the Wampanoag, Tobey said.

Tribal leaders have had no conversations with Governor Deval Patrick regarding their casino proposal, but Tobey said they hope the project will remain a front-runner when casino licensing is discussed.

“We’d like to think that because we are natives and from Massachusetts, it would make good business sense to say the Wampanoag are the ones to get first consideration for a casino in Massachusetts,’’ Tobey said.

Regarding the dispute between investors and the Mashpee Wampanoag, Cromwell said both sides have pledged not to talk about ongoing negotiations, but issues are expected to be resolved.

Middleborough Selectmen chairman Patrick Rogers said his board had been previously told by Cromwell that the project would be smaller, so it was not surprising to hear about Monday’s discussion with the Resort Advisory Committee.

“The site will support future growth,’’ Rogers said. “For now, I would think they would build something suitable for the times. It makes good business sense.’’

Payments to the town, based on the 2007 agreement approved by Middleborough voters, are tied to some extent to the size of the casino operation. The town would get $7 million annually, plus 4 percent of hotel revenue. That latter amount was expected to drive the yearly total above $10 million.

Clyde Barrow, a professor at the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and an analyst on casinos, characterized the Wampanoag’s initial billion-dollar casino proposal as “a little over the top.’’

“With talk of two or three resorts in the state and slots at the tracks, you would almost have to scale back the project,’’ Barrow said.

“The average casino in Atlantic City is a $250 to $350 million operation, so what the tribe is talking about is the size of an Atlantic City casino,’’ he said. “It’s not small.’’

Lawmakers Agree On $15 Million Table Game License Fee For Pennsylvania Slot Parlors

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Pennsylvania passed a budget that included revenue from table games but no laws have yet been passed that allows table games to be implemented.

Talks continue between lawmakers on passing legislation that will make table games a reality. They have not agreed on what tax rate should apply to table game revenue but one political leader said yesterday that lawmakers have agreed on a one-time licensing fee of $15 million that the slot parlors must pay to have table games at their facilities.

Officials for the Mohegan's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor have publicly stated that they want to add table games if approved by the state.

The following Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article is the latest installment of The Tribe In The Media series:

Legislators agree on $15 million, one-time fee for table games in casinos
By Tom Barnes
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HARRISBURG -- Several crucial details remain unresolved in a bill to legalize table games at slots casinos, but one element seems to be set: a $15 million licensing fee.

House Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon, said yesterday there is agreement among legislators about the size of that one-time, upfront fee that casinos will have to pay the state to add table games.

But legislators still haven't reached an agreement on what tax rate will be applied to gross revenue from table games, and whether all the money will go to the state or whether a small portion will go to the casinos' host counties and municipalities.

Casino officials want a tax rate of no more than 12 percent. They also want a license fee of $10 million, but it appears they won't get that.

A Senate bill on table games sets the tax rate at 14 percent -- 12 percent for the state's general fund and 1 percent each for the local governments. Gov. Ed Rendell said yesterday the state's tax rate should be a minimum of 16 percent to generate the $200 million or more in annual revenue the state needs from table games.

Other legislators favor a tax rate ranging from 18 percent 34 percent. Some casino officials say they won't add table games if the rate is too high because table games are labor intensive, which increases costs.

The governor met yesterday with legislative leaders in an effort to get table game details ironed out so the Legislature can vote on a bill. Mr. Rendell said he'd like to have an agreement on the bill by Friday, but Mr. McCall and House Democratic Leader Todd Eachus didn't promise that.

"We are still negotiating the terms of the table games bill," Mr. Eachus told reporters after the meeting. "We're still working on the numbers."

The House doesn't have a formal voting session planned until Nov. 9. Mr. Rendell said he'd like action before that. The chamber is on a "six-hour call," meaning members can be called back to vote within six hours if a deal on a bill comes together.

"We won't bring the House back until we have an agreement on all aspects," Mr. McCall said. "We have to make sure the math (on tax revenue) adds up."

Until legislation for table games is approved, the state can't distribute $730 million in state aid to institutions such as Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Carnegie Museums and 24 other medical, educational and arts groups around the state.

Mr. Rendell said the table games bill must generate a sufficient amount of recurring revenue to balance the state budget in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Revenue estimates are for $200 million this year and at least $250 million next year.

Besides the questions over the tax rate and local share, several other important issues are still unsettled:

• Whether to include approval for table games as part of overall reforms to the state's 2004 gaming law or as a separate bill;

• Whether two resort casinos authorized by the state can have table games or increase above the limit of 500 slot machines.

• Whether tax revenue from table games should go into the general fund permanently or shift to property tax relief after three years.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leo Mugford Passes On

Feather News


Leo Mugford passed away over the weekend and a service will take place today at the burial grounds at Shantok at 2 p.m. The following is an excerpt from Leo Mugford's obituary:

Leo Sherman Mugford October 29, 1947 - October 18, 2009
UNCASVILLE - Leo Sherman Mugford, 61, was born on 29 October 1947 in Hono-lulu, Hawaii. He died at Backus Hospital in Norwich, CT, on October 18, 2009. He was the youngest of three children born to Alfred and Margery Mugford. Leo's heritage included Native blood from opposite sides of America; Hawaiian from his father and Mohegan from his mother. Leo graduated from Kalani High School in Honolulu in 1965. He loved to surf and he loved to make things. The latter led to his profession as a Master Carpenter. Leo built houses and commercial buildings, cabinets and furniture. He had a good eye for measurement as well as aesthetics. Leo spent most of his life in Hawaii, but left Hawaii in 1995 to join his parents in Colorado where they had been living for a few years, then preceded them to Uncasville, Connecticut, where the family was anxious to become involved in Mohegan tribal activities. He worked as a carpenter for the Tribe's Public Words Department until he was disabled from an accident while on the job. Leo loved people and was loved dearly in return. He made friends easily and loved giving gifts. This led to his Mohegan name, Miyawin, The Giver, which had not yet been bestowed by the Council of Elders. Leo had no children of his own, but loved his nieces and nephews and their children. Leo will be buried at the Mohegan Burial Grounds at Fort Shantok on Tuesday, October 20th at 2:00 pm. Church & Allen Funeral Home has been entrusted with these arrangements.

Mohegan's Pennsylvania Slot Revenue Flat

Feather News


For much of the past year, slot machine revenue at the Tribe's racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania has shown increases over the same period in the prior year. Those year-over-year increases in monthly slot machine revenue at the Pennsylvania facility are likely to change.

Those monthly increases in slot revenue over the past year have been based on double the amount of slot machines in use at the Pennsylvania facility over the last year compared to half that number in use in the previous year. The doubling of slot machines, to about 2,500 machines, certainly contributed to the increased slot machine revenue at the Pennsylvania facility while that same logic did not apply to Mohegan Sun, where the additional 650 approximate slot machine expansion in the August 2008 Casino of the Wind did not stem the year-over-year losses in its monthly slot reports.

One year has elapsed since the Tribe doubled the number of slot machines at its racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania so now the facility will be comparing slot revenue based on approximately the same number of machines in use for the prior year.

Since the expansion took place just over a year ago in July 2008, this past August was the first full month in which a slot revenue comparison can be done to the same month in the prior year that included approximately the same number of slot machines.

Just over a year ago in August 2008, the first full month after doubling the number of slot machines to about 2,500 machines, was about $20 million. That same month this year, August 2009, slot machine revenue declined to $19 million.

Monthly slot machine revenue is often compared to the same month of the prior year because of the cyclicle nature of the revenues, always higher in the summer months and always lower in the winter months.

These figures are based on the money won from customers during those months less promotional slot play and does not take into account any expenses, including taxes which eat up about half of those slot revenues alone.

While August showed a small decline in revenue over August 2008, this past September saw a modest slot revenue increase over September 2008.

Slot machine revenue for September 2008 was about $17 million and in September 2009 slot revenue was about $18 million.

Slot revenues are the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's largest source of revenue. MTGA reported last week that fiscal year 2009 combined gross slot revenues at both the Pennsylvania facility and Mohegan Sun are "expected to range between $977 million and $1.02 billion, a decrease of between 1% and 5% compared to fiscal 2008." The decline in slot revenue at Mohegan Sun was partially offset by the increase at Pocono Downs.

The Pennsylvania racetrack-slot parlor also substantially increased its slot play promotions since last year. These slot play promotion figures are deducted from slot revenue to arrive at the figures described above as slot revenue. In August 2008, slot play promotions totaled $566,000 while in August 2009 that figure grew to $3.3 million. In September 2008, slot play promotions were $897,000 while September 2009 slot play promotions totaled $3.3 million.

If anything is a sure bet in Pennsylvania its that the state will allow table games at the slot parlors. The addition of table games will attract a broader customer base and could allow some relief to the high tax rates paid by the slot parlors.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Schagticoke Indians Lose Court Appeal

Feather News


A federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the denial of the Schagticoke Tribe's federal recognition was not a result of improper political influence.

The appeals court decision says the Connecticut Tribe failed to prove its allegations of improper political influence by Connecticut's congressional delegation and others to block the Tribe's federal recognition.

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a final determination for the Schagticoke's federal recognition in January 2004 but that decision was reversed in 2005. The Tribe sought to overturn that reversal in federal court but it was struck down in August 2008. The appeal decision issued today reaffirms that 2008 lower court decision.

The Schagticoke Tribe is recognized by the state of Connecticut.

Mohegan Gaming Authority Announces Deal With Bankers To Allow For Possible Hotel In The Poconos

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority announced an agreement with its prime bankers that, among other things, gives MTGA the flexibility to consider a hotel on the site of its racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania as long as MTGA follows through with its proposed borrowing of $200 million that was announced last week. Proceeds of the $200 million proposed borrowing would be used to pay down some of MTGA's debt with those primary bankers.

The following is an excerpt of MTGA's announcement:

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority Receives Requisite Consent to Amend Its Bank Credit Facility

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Oct. 16, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, or the Authority, the owner and operator of a gaming and entertainment complex located near Uncasville, Connecticut, known as Mohegan Sun, and a gaming and entertainment facility offering slot machines and harness racing in Plains Township, Pennsylvania, known as Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, or Pocono Downs, announced today that it has received the requisite consent of its bank lending group, led by Bank of America, N.A., as Administrative Agent, to amend its bank credit facility. Among other things, the Authority has received requisite consent to:

*Modify the terms of the Authority's total leverage ratio covenant to increase the covenant by 25 basis points for the quarterly periods ending March 31, 2010, June 30, 2010, June 30, 2011, September 30, 2011 and December 31, 2011, and by 50 basis points for the quarterly periods ending September 30, 2010, December 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

*Modify the terms of the Authority's senior leverage ratio covenant to increase the covenant by 25 basis points for the quarterly periods ending March 31, 2010 and continuing through December 31, 2011.

*Gain the ability to obtain a release from liens securing the bank credit facility of a portion of the land on which Pocono Downs is sited to permit its sale or lease to a third-party in connection with the development of a potential hotel project, consisting of a minimum of 200 rooms, subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions.

*Modify the terms of the Authority's covenant relating to its incurrence of permitted indebtedness to allow the Authority or its subsidiaries to incur additional debt (which may consist of capital lease obligations) in an aggregate amount not to exceed $55 million, at any one time outstanding, in connection with the development of the potential hotel project at Pocono Downs.

*Modify the terms of the Authority's permitted capital expenditures covenant to affirmatively allow for the existing $125 million of permitted capital expenditures to be utilized for Pocono Downs in addition to Mohegan Sun and related businesses, including the payment of licensing fees associated with those operations.

*Permanently reduce the revolving commitments by $25 million.

*Modify the terms of the applicable pricing rates. The Authority's modified rates will be as follows: (i) the applicable rate for base rate loans will be between 1.25% and 2.75%; (2) the applicable rate for Eurodollar rate loans will be between 2.50% and 4.00%; and (iii) the applicable rate for commitment fees will be between 0.20% and 0.50%.

The effectiveness of these amendments is conditioned, in part, on the consummation of the Authority's proposed offering of $200 million aggregate principal amount of second lien senior secured notes due 2017 in a private offering to be conducted pursuant to Rule 144A and Regulation S under the Securities Act of 1933, as described in the Authority's press release dated October 14, 2009, and satisfaction of other customary conditions.


See press release at http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS188744+16-Oct-2009+GNW20091016 for full details.

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Snowfall Of Season In Uncasville

Feather News


Snow was seen falling lightly yesterday in Uncasville but leaving no accumulation in a storm that set records as the earliest snowfall in some parts of the northeast. A second storm is expected to begin tomorrow and has triggered fload warnings along the Connecticut coastline and snow inland. The snow also affected the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania yesterday, the location of the Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor.

The Status Of Table Games At Pennsylvania Slot Parlors

Feather News


The following Philadelphia Inquirer article provides an update as to the status of table games at Pennsylvania slot parlors, including the Tribe's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor:

Deadlock over taxing table games chokes off help
By Suzette Parmley, Mario F. Cattabiani, and Susan Snyder
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 15, 2009

A seemingly small but unresolved piece of the state budget has delayed millions of dollars in aid for state-supported colleges, museums, and hospitals.

The holdup is "table games" - poker, blackjack, and other games being added to Pennsylvania casinos. Though Gov. Rendell signed the other bills comprising the $27.8 billion budget last Friday after a 101-day impasse, legislators still haven't decided how much to tax the new games.

Until they do, aid to colleges and others has to wait.

The situation prompted testy words yesterday between the Republican-controlled state Senate and the Democratic-led House. It has also left officials reeling at Temple, Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University - the four "state-related" colleges due to get more than $600 million from the state this fiscal year to help educate 158,000 students.

"I understand that they have to find the money to pay for everything, but our higher-education institutions are more important than gambling is," said Arthur Hochner, president of Temple's faculty union. The school is due about $183 million in state aid.

Penn State is awaiting a monthly $30 million check. The state's flagship university says it has had to dig into cash reserves and has taken a hit on investment earnings as a result of the delay. "We just hope it's resolved quickly," said spokeswoman Lisa Powers.

Gary Tuma, press secretary for Rendell, said the governor could not sign the bills to get colleges' aid flowing until the table-games legislation, with its projection of $200 million in revenue, was in place. "We see this more as a timing issue than anything else," Tuma said.

The delay prompted the Senate majority leader, Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), and its president pro tempore, Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), to write to House Speaker Keith McCall (D., Carbon) yesterday urging him to call the House back into session to take up table games and the delayed appropriations bill for colleges and others.

"There is simply no good reason to withhold this critical funding," the senators wrote.

The House is not scheduled to return to session until Nov. 9, but House members were put on six-hour call, meaning they could get called back to Harrisburg on short notice.

"We are hopeful we can resolve our differences quickly," said Brett Marcy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd A. Eachus (D., Luzerne). "We are hopeful we can find a middle ground on these issues so that we can complete these last pieces of the budget."

The state Senate passed a bill late Friday that would tax the games at a rate of 12 percent, plus an additional 2 percent to local municipalities, and charge each casino a $15 million license fee; smaller "resort casinos" would pay half that amount.

Pileggi said yesterday that he thought Senate Republicans could agree to a 15 percent tax rate. A Democrat-backed House bill calls for 34 percent, but Democrats have signaled they would settle for the high teens.

"We would have preferred to have reached a compromise on table games," Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), the House majority whip, said yesterday. "But we did not, so in order to fund the traditional state budget, every other measure was included in the appropriations bill and fiscal code, except for the table games" and the bills freeing up money for state-related colleges, hospitals, and museums.

Unlike, say, the state police, the colleges are merely "state-related," not state-run. "They can only be funded if there is money available," explained Johnna A. Pro, spokeswoman for State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), the House appropriations chairman.

In all, 28 institutions fall into that category. They range from Penn State and Temple to the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Their state aid this fiscal year adds up to about $730 million.

School officials say they are dismayed that their funding has become entangled in the table-games debate.

"The state-related institutions are still without a budget because of the battle over table games," said Temple president Ann Weaver Hart, speaking at the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities conference in Philadelphia on Monday. "We have no appropriation, and it is now October."

Meanwhile, casino operators throughout Pennsylvania want a resolution soon, too. They are hoping to have poker and other games running by spring.

The Pennsylvania Casino Association, which represents three of the state's casinos - SugarHouse in Philadelphia, Mount Airy in the Poconos, and The Rivers in Pittsburgh - has insisted all along on a tax rate of 12 percent for table games.

The rate "will determine the number of tables that we see," said the group's executive director, Ken Smukler.

Just get it done, said Michael Hill, vice president for development and external relations at Lincoln University in Chester County, awaiting nearly $14 million in state funding. In other words, 22 percent of Lincoln's budget.

Hill said the school had frozen its hiring and cut back on travel.

"The issue of gaming is not the issue. It's the issue of resolving," Hill said. "Get together and resolve whatever issues to allow us to continue to educate our students."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Announcement: Indian Social Saturday In Groton


Click on poster to enlarge it for better viewing.

Mohegan Sun Reports 11.3% Decline In September Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Reports 2.8 Percent Decline

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported today that its September slot revenue declined 11.3 percent when compared to the month of September 2008 while Foxwoods reported a decline of 2.8 percent.

Since the Mohegan Sun opened its Casino of the Wind expansion at the end of August 2008, the September slot revenue report is the first to compare current monthly figures with a prior period that includes the approximately 650 slot machines that went into operation when the Casino of the Wind opened.

The comparison that is always done with the same month in the prior year is now more of comparing "apples to apples" because the comparison is between two periods that include about the same number of slot machines in operation.

Casinos had an extra boost this September because Labor Day weekend landed in September whereas last year the holiday weekend was in August.

In terms of dollars, slot revenue for the month of September at Mohegan Sun was $59.4 million and Foxwoods was $54.8 million. Both casinos pay 25 percent of their slot revenue to the State of Connecticut.

Figures for free slot play promotions at both casinos, given away to lure customers, were not available at this time.

Bloomberg News On Mohegan's $200 Million Debt Offering

Feather News


The following article appeared in Bloomberg News yesterday. Note that 100 basis points would be equal to 1 percentage point. So when the article refers to 972 basis points that is equivalent to 9.72 percent.

Mohegan to Sell First Tribal Gaming Debt in 18 Months (Update1)
Bloomberg News
By Beth Jinks, John Detrixhe
October 14, 2009

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, in the first bond sale by an American Indian gaming company in more than a year, plans a $200 million private offering of notes.

Proceeds of the second-lien, senior secured debt due in 2017 may be used to repay term loans and revolving credit, the Uncasville, Connecticut-based casino operator said today in a statement. Gambling-company bond yields widened 3 basis points relative to comparable-maturity Treasuries to 972 basis points yesterday, according to Merrill Lynch & Co.’s U.S. High Yield Gaming index. Spreads narrowed to 910 basis points on Sept. 24, the tightest this year, the data show.

Mohegan is offering notes almost two months after the chairman of the Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribe, owner of the Foxwoods Resort Casino located about 10 miles from Mohegan Sun, spooked bondholders by reportedly telling his constituents that they would be paid before creditors in a restructuring. Bonds of the tribe plunged on Aug. 27. Five days later, the tribal council said it placed Chairman Michael Thomas on administrative leave pending an internal review after backing away from his comments.

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s cut their ratings on Mashantucket’s estimated $1.5 billion of debt by four steps on Aug. 26. They said the gradings could be lowered further.

Previous Issue

FireKeepers Development Authority, an unincorporated subdivision of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, was the last American Indian casino to sell bonds, issuing $340 million of seven-year, 13.875 percent notes on April 22, 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The debt priced at 96 cents on the dollar to yield 14.95 percent, or a spread of 11.52 percentage points.

The notes traded yesterday at 105 cents on the dollar to yield 12.4 percent, or a spread of 10.47 percentage points, according to Merrill Lynch data.

Lenders may “retrench” from American Indian gaming if a restructuring impairs existing creditors while protecting tribal cash distributions, Moody’s said on Aug. 31. That would make “it difficult for other Native American gaming issuers to raise additional funds in the capital markets,” the debt-rating service said.

Leo Chupaska, Mohegan’s chief financial officer, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Its Official: No Cost Of Living Increase In Social Security Payments This Year

Feather News


The federal government announced today that Social Security recipients will not receive a cost-of-living increase in their checks this January, marking the first time that automatic cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security recipients will not be paid out since the rule was adopted in 1975.

Last January, the automatic cost-of-living increase was 5.8 percent, the highest increase in about 25 years.

In reaction to the news, President Obama suggested that the federal government issue one-time checks of $250 to the nearly 60 million citizens who not only receive Social Security but also to those who receive veteran's and disability benefits, railroad retirees, and retired public employees who don't receive Social Security.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment is determined by the inrease or decrease in prices of a number of products during the three-month period of July through September. The price of gasoline, one of the items in the index, dropped so much since last year that it has been predicted for months that Social Security would not issue a cost-of-living increase in January and possibly for the next few years.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flash: Mohegan Gaming Authority Issues Preliminary Earnings Report For 4th Quarter

Feather News
Updated


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority today issued a press release announcing the preliminary operating results for the last quarter of fiscal year 2009, which are the months of July through September, and for the entire fiscal year 2009, which are the 12 months beginning October 1, 2008 and ending on September 30, 2009.

FISCAL YEAR RESULTS:

Net revenues for fiscal year 2009 are "expected to range between $1.43 billion and $1.48 billion, a decrease of between 6% and 9% compared to fiscal 2008" and net income (or profits) are "expected to range between $115 million and $120 million, a decrease of between 20% and 23% compared to fiscal 2008," according to the press release.

For the year, slot revenues are expected to show a decrease of between 1% and 5% and table game revenue is expected to show a decrease of between 17% and 20% when compared to the previous fiscal year. Total gaming revenue, which is both slot revenues and table game revenues combined, is expected to decrease between 5% and 8% according to the press release (MTGA's slot revenue amounts to just over three times the amount of revenue derived from table games).

QUARTER OF JULY 1ST THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30TH:
For the three months of July through September 2009, net income (profit) "is expected to range between $63 million and $66 million, a decrease of between 24% and 27% compared to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008." Net revenues are expected to decrease between 10% and 14% compared to the same three-month period last year while the slot revenue component is expected to decrease between 6% and 10%.

OTHER:
In other highlights of today's press release, MTGA stated that distributions to the Mohegan Tribal government "totaled approximately $72 million for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2009." Further, "distributions to the Tribe are anticipated to approximate between $59 million and $64 million for fiscal 2010."

MTGA's total debt is $1.64 billion while the interest expense on that debt for the fiscal year is expected to total between $107 and $112 million, an increase of between 15% and 19% over fiscal year 2008.

It is important to note that the projected figures may differ from the actual results. MTGA adds a disclaimer in its press release saying that they "cannot assure you that projected results or events will be achieved."



See press release at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=175419 for complete details. MTGA's distribution to the Tribal government does not include utilities and reimbursed expenditures, such as reimbursed gaming commission expenses and public safety-related reimbursements.

Mohegan Gaming Authority Seeks To Borrow $200 Million

Feather News


The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued a press release today about its intent to borrow $200 million to largely pay off existing debt. Under the title, "Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority Announces Proposed Private Offering of $200 Million of Second Lien Senior Secured Notes Due 2017," MTGA provides the following information:

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, or the Authority, announced today that it intends to offer, subject to market and other conditions, $200 million aggregate principal amount of second lien senior secured notes due 2017, or the Notes, in a private offering to be conducted pursuant to Rule 144A and Regulation S under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act. The Authority is the owner and operator of a gaming and entertainment complex located near Uncasville, Connecticut, known as Mohegan Sun, and a gaming and entertainment facility offering slot machines and harness racing in Plains Township, Pennsylvania, known as Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, or Pocono Downs.

The Authority intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to repay all of its existing term loans under its bank credit facility, of which $147 million in aggregate principal amount is outstanding, to repay $48 million of revolving loans under its bank credit facility, including a $25 million permanent reduction in the commitment, and to pay related transaction costs and expenses. The Notes will be collateralized by a second lien on substantially all of the Authority's property and assets, and that of its existing and future guarantor subsidiaries, or the Guarantors, and will be fully guaranteed, jointly and severally, on a second lien senior secured basis, by the Guarantors.

The Notes have not been registered under the Securities Act or the securities laws of any other jurisdiction and may not be offered or sold in the United States absent registration or an applicable exemption from registration requirements. This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy the Notes.

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Oct. 14, 2009 GLOBE NEWSWIRE
Source: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=175418

Electricity Goes Out In Montville

Feather News


About 90 percent of the residents in Montville lost power yesterday afternoon. A spokesman for Connecticut Light and Power said the power outage happened around 11:15 in the morning and was restored at 12:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Phoenix Wins WNBA Championship

Feather News


Phoenix beat Indiana in game five of the WNBA basketball championship, winning the series 3 games out of the five-game series. The Mohegan's team, the Connecticut Sun, did not qualify for the playoffs this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"If The Casino Goes Belly Up, Creditors Can't Take The Land," Says Chupaska

Feather News


Wow. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority announced in Sunday's edition of the Norwich Bulletin that it is "considering" the restructuring of its debt. Mohegan Sun chief financial officer Leo Chupaska says, "If the casino goes belly up, creditors can't take the land." The article, while reporting the Mashantucket's debt, does not mention that MTGA's debt is $1.6 billion. The Feather News reported last year that MTGA would soon need to restructure its existing debt.

Mashantuckets, Mohegans lack flexibility when dealing with debts
Indian Gaming Act restricts solutions
By William Sokolic
The Norwich Bulletin
October 11, 2009

In May 1978, Resorts opened in Atlantic City, N.J., as the first casino outside Nevada.
A decade later, Merv Griffin bought the property. Almost a decade after that, Griffin sold the company to Sun International, which sold it to Colony Capital in 2001 for a huge loss.

Each new owner assumed the debt of the previous ownership.

This year, the creditors are seeking to take over ownership from Colony Capital for failure to pay its debt service.

At the center of all these changes was debt — an issue very much on the minds of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owners of Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, and the Mohegan Gaming Tribal Authority, which owns Mohegan Sun.

Millions, billions owed

The Mashantuckets reportedly have debt obligations of more than $2 billion. The Mohegans have to repay $150 million in $30 million increments, beginning next year, the result of an agreement with the bank to retire a $330 million note.

Neither tribe can seek any of the options available to previous owners of Resorts. They cannot look for a buyer to take the load off their shoulders. Or sell off a gaming hall to reduce debt. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act says only a tribe can own a casino, said Shawn P. Pensoneau, a spokesman for the National Indian Gaming Commission. If property is on the reservation, the land is owned and held in trust by the federal government.

The Mashantuckets have retained Miller Buckfire & Co. LLC as a financial and restructuring adviser and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP as legal counsel to provide professional services in connection to restructuring its large debt.

Mohegan Sun faces similar approaches.

“We’ll have difficulty making those payments on the $150 million, so we are considering debt restructuring,” said Leo Chupaska, Mohegan Sun’s chief financial officer. “We are studying what we can do to take care of the issue.”

More options

Nontribal gaming companies have more options. They can issue additional debt or stock, he said.

“The tribes can’t sell off or convert anything to equity,” said Clyde W. Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Said Chupaska, “If the casino goes belly up, creditors can’t take the land.”

And while tribes can lease land for retail and restaurant operations — and can hire a company to manage the casino — it cannot sell its casino assets to a nontribal entity.

There are a lot of private operators on Indian reservations, Chupaska said. Mohegan Sun has a number of third-party retailers who pay a leasing fee. Most pay a percentage of revenue, he said.

“The regulatory act is specific for Indian gaming, not for retail,” Pensoneau said.

So what’s a financially strapped tribe to do?

If a tribe went into default, creditors could hire someone to run the casino, but the management team would have to be licensed by the National Indian Gaming Commission, Chupaska said.

“It’s difficult to pass muster with the NIGC,” he said. “The only thing we can do to raise money is to go into debt markets or issue bonds, so we’re at a little disadvantage.”

Like foreign nation

Barrow likens it to trying to collect on a debt from a foreign government.

“You can cut them off,” he said. “But if they do not have money, you can’t get blood from a stone.”

They may declare bankruptcy.

“But don’t expect an Obama bailout,” he said.

If banks are so inclined, they can write off the debt as they do for mortgages, restructure to lower interest rates, or lengthen the time to pay to back, Barrow said. Those steps are in the bank’s self-interest, since they cannot take over a casino.

Meantime, it’s business as usual, Chupaska said.

“We do not anticipate that the financial restructuring being considered by the tribe will affect our employees, customers, vendors or business partners,” he said. “The tribe does not plan to make any additional comments regarding this matter at this time.”

Source: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/casinos/x1128407612/Mashantuckets-Mohegans-lack-flexibility-when-dealing-with-debts

No Deal Yet On Mohegan Pocono Hotel

Feather News


An official for the Mohegan's Pennsylvania racetrack-slot parlor discussed the possibility of adding a hotel to the location in Saturday's edition of a Pennsylvania newspaper.

Mohegan Sun considers plan for 300-room hotel
By Nicholas Sohr
The Times-Tribune
October 10, 2009

PLAINS TWP. - Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has applied for preliminary construction approvals for a 300-room hotel and convention center after hoteliers approached the casino about forming a partnership, a casino official confirmed Friday.

"We're very preliminary right now," said Jim Wise, a Mohegan Sun vice president. "It is not an indication we have a direct timeline to build a hotel. We are trying to cross all the t's, dot all the i's and go through the preparation hurdles so that if a deal would be struck, it would allow us or any sort of partnership to begin working sooner."

Space for a hotel is included in the casino's master plan between the two main entrances.

Mr. Wise said discussions with the hoteliers began about a year ago.

"Those conversations are starting to become a little more frequent and a little more detailed," he said. "Although people appear interested, I don't know if that's going to lead to a contractual agreement."

According to the documents filed, the hotel would have about 300 rooms and space for a convention center.

Mr. Wise said the details are all hypothetical.

"It's a framework - could go down or could go up - but that is in the ballpark," he said. "There's dozens of details that we've made no determination on yet."

Mohegan Sun opened its $208 million Project Sunrise expansion in July 2008. The circular, 300,000-square-foot facility more than doubled the number of slot machines, added dining, retail and entertainment options, and has consistently boosted revenue since its opening.

In September, the state Gaming Control Board reported $227 million in wagers at Mohegan Sun, compared to $190 million a year earlier and $183 million in September 2007.

Mr. Wise said Mohegan Sun officials are keeping a watchful eye on a bill legalizing table games - poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and other dice and card games - as part of the state budget package.

"Adding tables expands our offering and makes us closer to being that type of full-service gaming operation we've always wanted to be," he said.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mohegan Indian To Head Up Indian Business Development Agency In The U.S. Department Of Commerce

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Mohegan Tribal member Don Chapman II was appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Native American Business Development.

The office, located in Washington, D.C., has a broad function serving as the primary interface with all Tribes and other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Housing and Urban Development, concerning business development and trade promotion for Indians. The office also leads the way on International Import-Export and Tourism development on behalf of Indian Country and the Department of Commerce.

The office was created in 2000 under legislation sponsored by former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and is designed to promote economic self-sufficiency and political self-determination for Indian tribes and members of Indian tribes.

The office's duties also include reporting to Congress and advising the Secretary of Commerce on legislation, according to the law that created the Office of Native American Business Development.

Chapman will replace Kay Bills, an Osage Indian, who is retiring. He has served in an executive capacity to four different Alaska Native Corporations and the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma. Chapman currently serves as an expert advisor on tribal federal business development to the Tuck/Dartmouth School of Business's Minority Business Program and on the boards of directors of other businesses, including tribally-owned and individually native-owned businesses.

Numerous recommendations by tribes and organizations around the nation were sent on Chapman's behalf to the Secretary of Commerce.

Chapman will continue serving as a guest speaker and lecturer at Indian Country business outreach seminars. His office is located at the US Department of Commerce, Office of Native American Business Development, 1401 Constitution Ave., NW, Room 5093, Washington, DC 20230.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The New Tribal Council

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Day newspaper on yesterday's change in leadership of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

Mohegan tribe has a new leader
Malerba is first woman to serve as chair of tribal government
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
October 6, 2009

Mohegan - She could describe herself as a feminist, the embodiment of a woman's right to achieve. But she'd rather put it another way.

”I'm an 'equalist,' “ Lynn Malerba said Monday after the nine-member Mohegan Tribal Council elected her chairwoman, making her the first woman to lead a tribe whose centuries-long history features the contributions of strong women.

”I am absolutely thrilled … and proud to be the first female chair of this tribe,” she said. “It's a dream come true.”

The 56-year-old Malerba, vice chairwoman of the tribe since 2005, had been expected to ascend to the council's top spot after winning the most votes in tribe-wide balloting for five council seats this summer. Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, the chairman since 2005, finished second in the voting and was elected vice chairman by the council Monday.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council members congratulated Malerba on her election, saying, in a statement, “We look forward to our continuing relationship with the Mohegan tribe.”

Malerba invoked the memory and example of Gladys Tantaquidgeon and other Mohegan women, including her own mother, Loretta Roberge, a tribal councilor for 30 years; her great aunt, Loretta F. Schultz, and Schultz's daughters; Katy Strickland, who died last week; and Virginia Damon.

”We must all stand in love for the tribe,” Malerba said, quoting Tantaquidgeon, the much-accomplished medicine woman who died in 2005 at the age of 106.

”I'm thankful to the men, too,” Malerba said. “We have been well regarded by men.”

Earlier Monday, Malerba, Bozsum and the other councilors elected in August - incumbents William Quidgeon and James Gessner and newcomer Kathy Regan-Pyne - were sworn in during a private ceremony in the Mohegan Church. Bob Soper Sr., chairman of the tribe's council of elders, administered the oath.

Malerba called the election outcome “a real strong vote of confidence” in the council, which has presided amid “unprecedented economic and legislative challenges.” She said she and Bozsum have been “a great team” and would continue to share responsibilities.

The new chairwoman worked as director and later executive director of the tribe's Health and Human Services Department from 1997 to 2005, and before that spent 21 years at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, where she continues to serve as a director. She has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

Malerba acknowledged that more challenges lie ahead, given the economy's continued effect on gaming in general and Mohegan Sun, the tribe's casino, in particular.

”We study the financials daily,” she said, with an eye toward making judgments based on whether ventures return value to the tribal community. She said the tribe is prepared to introduce table games at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the racetrack casino it owns in Pennsylvania, where the legislature is poised to approve the expansion of gambling.

The tribe is also monitoring the situation in Massachusetts, where it has proposed building a resort casino in Palmer if the legislature legalizes casinos. Closer to home, Malerba said no decisions have yet been made regarding Project Horizon, the Mohegan Sun expansion project suspended a year ago, or the resumption of construction on the tribe's government building/community center on Crow Hill. That project was halted early this year.

”We need to have the economy rebound and that hasn't happened yet,” she said, adding, “If the recession has taught us anything, it's that we need to diversify (beyond gaming).”

She declined to say what other projects the tribe might pursue.

Also Monday, the council elected Thayne Hutchins Jr. treasurer. Hutchins succeeds Quidgeon, who sought to relinquish the office while continuing to serve as a councilor. Other officers include Allison D. Johnson, recording secretary; Gessner, corresponding secretary; and former Chairman Mark Brown, ambassador. Cheryl Todd also serves as a councilor.

Regan-Pyne, the lone new face on the council, has been the tribe's career development manager. Previously, she worked in the insurance industry, holding management positions at Lincoln Financial Group and Cigna Property & Casualty. She has been elected to the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. After college, she played professional basketball in Europe.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Photo: Mohegan Congregational Church


The Mohegan Congregational Church moments before the swearing-in of five Tribal councilors today. Sources indicate that Lynn Malerba and Bruce Bozsum switched positions, with Lynn now the chair of the Tribal Council, and Thayne Hutchins became the new treasurer after a vote among the newly-constituted Tribal Council after this morning's swearing-in ceremony took place.

Indiana Beats Phoenix 86 - 85 In WNBA Finals

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Indiana beat Phoenix in the third game of the WNBA finals yesterday by a score of 86-85. Indiana has won two of the three games played so far in the five-game series.

The next game will be on Wednesday night at 7:30 on Channel ESPN2.

Pennsylvania Legislators Discuss Table Game Bill

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an AP article on the status of table game legislation in Pennsylvania.

Pa. House takes break from 11-hr debate over games
By Mark Levy
Associated Press

HARRISBURG — State House members worked to advance a bill to legalize table games at Pennsylvania's slot-machine casinos in an unusual Sunday session, as the politically divided Legislature struggled to finalize a government budget that is already three months late.

The proposal is a key element of lawmakers' efforts to find new tax revenue to offset the state government's huge, recession-driven revenue shortfall. On the sidelines of the debate, Gov. Ed Rendell worked to repair a rift between Senate Republicans and House Democrats after last week's collapse of a handshake budget deal between leaders.

Leaving the Capitol on Sunday night, Rendell reported "significant progress" but would not give details of his discussions.

Meanwhile, the Democratic-penned measure met with staunch Republican opposition in a long, sometimes testy debate that was to continue Monday to finish sorting through dozens of proposed amendments. Sunday's session ended at 11 p.m. after eight hours of debate.

A final vote on the bill was not expected before Tuesday.

Even if it does pass, it faces changes in the Senate. Leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate favor legalizing and taxing table games to help close the state's multibillion-dollar budget hole, but they oppose some crucial aspects of the House bill.

Democrats hope to raise about $240 million from a 34 percent tax rate on the casinos take from table games and a $20 million fee that casinos must pay for the right to operate the games. However, casinos say those costs may be too high to run a profitable enterprise, and Senate Republicans agree.

Debate quickly became heated.

"I think it's a sad day in Pennsylvania when the members of the House of Representatives are called to Harrisburg to debate gaming on a Sunday afternoon," admonished Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren.

Democrats fired back.

"When you're elected a member of the Legislature, you're expected to be here every day of the week, especially when we don't have a budget," said Rep. Christopher Sainato, D-Lawrence.

During the debate, the chamber approved a few amendments — including doubling the minimum amount of money given to compulsive gambling treatment programs to $4 million — but rejected most others, including ones written by Republicans to ban ATM machines in casinos and force casinos to close on Christmas and each day between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Rep. Joseph Preston, D-Allegheny, accused Republicans of mounting a self-righteous and hypocritical opposition, noting they are not moving to limit other forms of gambling, such as the lottery and church bingo.

"We need to really start practicing what we preach," Preston said.

That brought an immediate rebuke from Minority Whip Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, who called Preston's comments "out of line."

Aside from legalizing table games, the bill would triple the number of slot machines allowed at the state's miniature "resort" casinos to 1,500, a provision opposed by Senate Republicans and the state's larger casinos.

It also would impose provisions to combat corruption, including thickening walls between state gambling regulators and the casino companies and restoring a ban on political campaign contributions from the gambling industry.

The Supreme Court struck down the previous ban in April, saying a complete prohibition on contributions went further in practice than called for by the 2004 law that legalized slot-machine casinos.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nonner Lamphere Passes Away

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The following is an excerpt from the obituary that appeared today in The Day newspaper on the passing of Nonner Katy Lamphere. Our sympathies go out to all family and friends:

Montville - Catherine A. (Strickland) Lamphere, 79, of Uncasville, passed away suddenly at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009.

Kate was a life-long resident of Uncasville and an active and respected member of the Mohegan Tribe; she was a Nonner and former Tribal Council member.

Kate graduated from NFA in 1948 and married Charles Lamphere on Aug. 26, 1950, at the former Uncasville Methodist Church; he survives her.

She enjoyed doing crafts with her fellow residents of Fort Hill, was her grandchildren and great-grandchildren's number one fan at all their sporting events, and was a member of the Mohegan Congregational Church.

A 10 a.m. graveside memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, at Fort Shantok Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Kate's name may be made to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, PO Box 196, Libertyville IL 60048.

The Church and Allen Funeral Home has been entrusted with Kate's care.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Photo: Mohegan Daycare Center At The Beginning Of The Fall Season

Tribal Council To Elect Chairperson Next Week

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Members of the Mohegan Tribe that were elected to the Tribal Council in August will be sworn in Monday at the Mohegan Congregational Church and the full Tribal Council will, later, appoint its own officers, including the title of chairperson.

A sometimes shaky source - my intuition - tells me that Lynn Malerba will be the next chairperson, replacing Bruce Bozsum. Lynn furthered her education while serving on the Tribal Council, earning a master's degree in public policy.

Bozsum has served as the chair of the Tribal Council since 2005.

The Tribal Council will also elect among themselves who will serve as vice-chairperson, recording secretary, corresponding secretary and treasurer.

The Tribal Council is not required to appoint one of its body to the role of ambassador, a position not listed in the Constitution as are other officer positions, but could do so next week at the same time it appoints the officers.

Indiana Ties Phoenix In WNBA Final Series

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Indiana beat Phoenix last night by a score of 93-84 tying the series at 1-1. The third game of the five-game WNBA championship series will be Sunday at 4 p.m. and will be televised on channel ESPN2.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prospect Of Casinos In Massachusetts

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This installmnet of The Tribes In The Media is an article from the State House News Service in Massachusetts on the prospect of casinos in Massachusetts.

Mohegan eyes reduced licensing fees, two-year window until opening
By Jim O'Sullivan
State House News Service
October 1, 2009

BOSTON - The state should charge casino licensing fees between $25 million and $50 million and level tax rates in the low 20-percent range on gambling revenues, according to a top executive at the Mohegan Sun casino firm, one of several business interests circling as the Legislature considers gambling legislation.

A full-scale facility could be up and running in Palmer within two years of receiving a license, said Jeffrey Hartmann, Mohegan Sun’s chief operating officer. Hartmann said the company would pay fully for associated infrastructure costs around the Palmer site and expects to create between 2,500 and 3,000 permanent jobs, including 500 white-collar positions.

Hartmann said Mohegan was willing to suffer some lost business at its Connecticut facility, spying in Palmer a “recapture opportunity” and calling it an ideal locale for job creation.

Options for building up the Palmer casino in the future, Hartmann said, would hinge on the market. “Business levels will dictate future expansion,” he told the News Service during an interview in the Boston offices of O’Neill and Associates, Mohegan’s lobbying firm.

Lawmakers are preparing legislation sanctioning casinos and racetrack slot machines, with the expectation that a bill will be considered next year.

Hartmann’s proposed fee and tax rates are significantly lower than the numbers in the plan Gov. Deval Patrick filed in 2007, when he called for minimum licensing fees of $200 million and annual taxes on gross gaming revenues of 27 percent. Prospective bidders are expected to watch those figures closely as they develop their proposals.

Since 2007, the casino industry has seen a broad decline, the recession reversing long-running positive profit trends, lowering expectations both for what the state can demand from the industry and what it can expect in return.

Hartmann declined to say what state-levied charges would be high enough to sour Mohegan’s enthusiasm. Higher fees and taxes, he said, would limit economic development opportunities by inhibiting property investment.

Rep. Brian Dempsey, House chair of the Economic Development Committee charged with vetting gambling legislation, said, “The tax question is the single most important decision that we’ll make in terms of the long-term success of gaming, of revenue, of investment, cap investment, and the kinds of infrastructure we’d like to see.”

“Everything’s on the table. We’re going to look carefully. I don’t want to give any numbers,” Dempsey said. “But we are mindful of the fact that we certainly are in a different climate than we were a couple years ago. We’re also aware that Massachusetts is also a very strong market for gaming.”

Under Patrick’s earlier plan, leading bids were not guaranteed one of the three licenses. A gaming authority would weigh proposals on about a dozen factors. And the fee and tax thresholds in his bill would have been subject to change in the House and Senate.

Senate President Pro Tempore Stanley Rosenberg, designated the Senate’s lead casino policy analyst, said pinpointing payment levels was premature.

Patrick’s bill died in the House on a 108-46 vote in March 2008, amid a dramatically different political and economic climate. Lawmakers who opposed the bill then say the state’s revenue crash could change their minds this time. Further, House Speaker Robert DeLeo is an active proponent of racetrack slot machines and casinos, while then-Speaker Salvatore DiMasi worked to swing votes against the Patrick plan, after helping muscle an adverse report from the Economic Development and Emerging Technology Committee.

“[L]et's please not forget that the true arm-twisting Sal had to do in last year's casino debate was just to get a negative report from the committee,” a source who worked with House leadership on casino strategy said in an email. “He always had the votes on the floor. So the hand dealt DeLeo … is much worse. He has to flip 30 or more votes. That's no small task when every rep in the building is terrified they will be tossed out next year.”

Lawmakers are often leery of changing votes, especially in the wake of this month’s vote to grant Patrick power to appoint an interim U.S. senator, which saw 58 House members change their votes.

If legislation does clear the Legislature, numerous choices await any decision-making body the new law could create. Suffolk Downs and Wonderland have lined up political backing for an East Boston casino, announcing support Wednesday from that neighborhood’s chamber of commerce, while Plainridge Racecourse and Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park are angling for slot machines – and could still receive financial backing for a full-scale casino bid.

“If they believe that racinos should turn into casinos, we’ll be there ... Obviously, we’re going to be interested in that,” said Plainridge owner Gary Piontkowski. “Whatever the powers-that-be think is the most opportune for this region after their study, we’re supportive.”

Scott Ferson, a spokesman for Raynham-Taunton, said, “Raynham is more than capable of handling a full-blown casino on the site … They’ll take this one step at a time.”

Suffolk Downs workers are confident that, with support from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other political interests, their bid could capitalize on estimates that the state capital provides a healthy casino market.

Another factor is the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which has sought casino rights but been hobbled by organizational problems. A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year cast doubt on the tribe’s casino rights. Dempsey said the shape of a congressional response to the ruling was unclear and “evolving.”

As the momentum behind expanded gambling appears to mount, uncertainty around how the market will interact with state government as both push toward new gambling facilities, has sparked as much speculation on Beacon Hill as whether a bill will pass.

“If you ask me, there are a multitude of questions,” said Sen. Michael Morrissey, the Quincy Democrat who has long played a role in gambling policy in the Legislature.

Mohegan’s push in Palmer, where the firm envisions a 600-room hotel and resort complex on 152 acres, includes a commitment to pay for infrastructure upgrades and a storefront that opened there with fanfare earlier this year.

“We’ve spent probably two years preparing for the process in terms of the site, accessibility, a resort product that fits on the destination,” Hartmann said, adding that he expected Mohegan’s spadework to give it a head start on other successful bidders.

“Two years from a selection date, we can be open,” said Hartmann.

Rosenberg said the national average timeline from site selection to open casino doors was two years and four months, calling Hartmann’s projection “in the ballpark.”

“That assumes that everything falls into place, and we’d be state number 37, so there’s a lot of wheels we don’t have to invent,” Rosenberg said.

Hartmann rejected suggestions that Mohegan’s designs on the western Massachusetts site constituted a flank-guarding exercise, intended to protect its interests in Connecticut, where Mohegan Sun employs about 7,000 people and does battle with nearby Foxwoods. Mohegan also operates a slots casino at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

“We really think it’s a two-fold opportunity, to import new gaming customers into the Commonwealth, from New York and Albany, Vermont and New Hampshire,” Hartmann said. “Obviously there’s a recapture opportunity for those customers of the Commonwealth that are going to Rhode Island and Connecticut.”

“Our business will be impacted slightly,” Hartmann said. About 22 percent of the Connecticut casino’s business comes from Massachusetts with about 70 percent from New York and Connecticut, he said.

Morrissey said he preferred a casino on a publicly owned site, where the state could peddle a long-term lease or outright sale of the property.

“I don’t know that Palmer’s a done deal. I think out west is a done deal,” Morrissey said, speaking on the presumption of a bill’s passage. “Warren comes to mind, Holyoke comes to mind, Springfield comes to mind.”

“What does Palmer do for us? Enrich a private landowner,” Morrissey said.

DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray said Monday that action on casino legislation would likely wait until 2010. A hearing on expanded gambling bills will be held sometime in October, according to DeLeo.

Editor's Note: O'Neill & Associates advertises in the News Service's Weekly Roundup.