Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Flash - Mohegan Gaming Authority Publicly Reports Its Audited Financial Statements

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority filed its fiscal year 2009 audited financial statements yesterday as part of its 10K annual public filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

A link to the document is posted in the right-hand column of this website under the label ¨Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority SEC Reports¨ then click on the document entitled ¨1) Audited Casino (MTGA) Financial Statements Per SEC : Oct 2008 thru Sep 2009.¨

MTGA issued a press release on its fiscal year 2009 earnings but had not issued its complete financial statements for fiscal 2009 until yesterday. In addition to its earnings, yesterday´s public filing includes MTGA´s balance sheet and cash flow statement as well as other information such as the status of its diversification plan and compensation for top MTGA officials.

The Feather News will attempt to highlight in an article information and figures gathered from the fiscal year 2009 audit report as soon as possible.

AP - Schaghticoke Chief Charged With DUI

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The Associated Press is reporting that the chief of the Schaghticoke Tribe was charged with driving under the influence on Christmas night.

The AP article further states that ¨Fifty-nine-year-old Richard Velky was arrested Christmas night. Police say an off-duty officer who saw Velky driving his SUV erratically pulled him over at about 9:15 p.m. Friday. Velky was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failure to drive right and breach of peace. He posted $5,000 bail and is to be arraigned Jan. 4 in Waterbury Superior Court. A woman who answered a phone listing for Velky Tuesday said his arrest wasn't newsworthy and hung up.¨

The Schaghticoke Tribe is recognized by the state of Connecticut.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mohegan Tribal Member Don Chapman Appointed As U.S. Commerce Department´s Senior Advisor On Native American Affairs

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The Tribal Nation´s Conference hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. this past November was a historic gathering for Indian Country and allowed the President´s cabinet to speak directly with the Indian leaders present.

The heads of federal agencies affirmed to a crowd of over 400 representatives of Indian Country of their commitment to Indian Country. The head of the U.S. Commerce Department, Secretary Gary Locke, told the gathering that his Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs Don Chapman II was his point person regarding Indian Affairs.

¨I want to let you know that I have one person in the Department of Commerce that I count on and who has absolute direct access to my office, to me, anytime, on any issue and that´s our senior advisor for Native American affairs Don Chapman. Stand up. He´s with the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut,¨ U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke told the audience.

¨We need to do better, we need to do more. We´re absolutely committed as part of the economic recovery of this nation to make sure that that recovery, the prosperity of America includes tribal lands and tribal people,¨ Locke added.

Commerce Secretary Locke is a former governor of the state of Washington and was accustomed to dealing with the 26 federally recognized tribes in that state. ¨I really believe and respect the sovereignty of the tribes all across America.¨

President Obama campaigned on a pledge to uphold a ¨nation-to-nation¨ relationship with tribes, not just a ¨government-to-government¨ relationship.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who co-hosted the event, told the audience that ¨self-determination, sovereignty, self-government, empowerment, and self-reliance are not abstract concepts; they are the tools that enable Indian country to shape its own destiny. Our role, as an administration, is to help you fulfill your vision for your nations; to help your communities achieve their promise; to help your cultures flourish.¨

Chapman was recently appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Native American Business Development. The senior advisor´s office is in Washington, D.C., and the office´s broad function includes serving as the primary interface with all tribes and other federal agencies, such as 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 Commerce Department.

Chapman is the U.S. Commerce Department´s first senior advisor on Native American Affairs, charged with implementing the President´s executive order 13175 which requires federal departments, agencies, and bureaus to create an office and policies on tribal consultation.

Chapman´s father, Don Chapman, is a former treasurer of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

Chapman will continue serving as a guest speaker and lecturer at Indian Country business outreach seminars.

Yale University Hiring Director For Native American Cultural Center

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Yale University in New Haven, CT, is seeking a director for its Native American cultural center. The position will provide strategic direction and supervise the operation of the Native American Cultural Center, serve on committees and lead various student and academic programs. More info at www.yale.edu.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mohegan Gaming Authority Audited Financial Statements To Be Made Public Any Day

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority could make public its audited financial statements as early as this week, based on the filing dates in previous years.

MTGA publicly announced in October its estimated earnings for fiscal year 2009, which are the 12 months that ended September 30th, and MTGA in November reported its actual earnings for fiscal year 2009. MTGA reported a profit of $119 million for the twelve months that ended on September 30, 2009. Its important to remember that distributions to the tribal government are not deducted and that $45 million of the profit is the result of an adjustment on paper relating to th the total amount expected to be paid to the casino´s former management company, Trading Cove Associates, over the next 5 years.

The audited financial statements will include the figures in this earnings report released in November in addition to the balance sheet and cash flow statement, which have not yet been made public.

Other information in MTGA´s financial statement filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will include MTGA executive staff compensation and details on MTGA´s debt.

The Feather News will report on the filing, more than likely during the holidays.

Spirit Lake Intertribal Social Postponed Until February

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Saturday´s Spirit Lake intertribal social in Groton, CT, has been postponed until February 20th.

Blizzard Of 2009 Strikes Over The Weekend

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Some parts of Connecticut saw over 2 feet of snow in the blizzard that struck over the weekend. Heavy winds created even higher snow drifts.

Although the snow ended yesterday, the Mashantucket Tribe is on a 90 minute delay in its opening this morning as well as Norwich schools. Montville schools are on a 2 hour delay this morning.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Approves Land Into Trust Fix

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Providence Journal article on legislation approved by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week that seeks to amend the ¨land into trust¨ laws.

Senate panel OKs bill to overturn ruling on Narragansetts
John E. Mulligan
The Providence Journal
December 17, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Without dissent, a key Senate panel took a big step Thursday toward reversing last winter's U.S. Supreme Court decision that blocked a special land status for the Narragansett Indians -- and many other tribes across the country.

The bipartisan vote of the Indian Affairs Committee to send the measure to the full Senate for debate was an important milestone on the path toward enactment of a bill that is a high priority in Indian Country and has the strong support of the Obama administration.

Rhode Island Democratic Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have said, however, that they are prepared to oppose the measure on the Senate floor if necessary.

Other opponents include the town of Charlestown; Governor Carcieri; Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch; Rep. James R. Langevin, the Democrat who represents the Narragansetts and their neighbors; and officials in a number of other states. Opponents assert that the measure threatens to provoke more clashes between Indian tribes on the one hand and state and local interests on the other. In Rhode Island and other states, the worry at the root of the opposition is that the legislation could open the door to gambling casinos on tribe-held land. Langevin, Reed and Whitehouse oppose any change in law that would permit the Narragansetts to pursue casino gambling without the approval of Rhode Island voters.

The author of the legislation, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said in an interview that his measure "is not about gaming.''

The Narragansetts have worked hard but without success over the years to secure gambling rights in Rhode Island. They have said, however, that the parcel of land at issue in the Supreme Court case was meant not for gambling but for housing.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Narragansetts were ineligible to have that piece of land taken into federal trust because the special status was available only to tribes recognized by the federal government as of 1934. Tribal lands that are taken into federal trust are removed from the jurisdiction of local and state laws and taxes.

The Narragansetts and other tribes viewed the Supreme Court decision as a blow to native American sovereignty. Tribal advocates said the ruling has disturbed the system of taking Indian lands into federal trust, clouding the status of economic development, law enforcement and other undertakings on tribe-owned parcels nationwide.

The key provision in the pending legislation would essentially restore the status quo before the Supreme Court ruling, removing the effective date of 1934 from the pertinent section of a landmark law that is the basis for much of the modern relationship between native tribes and the federal government.

In other words, the Narragansetts and other tribes federally recognized after 1934 would once again be allowed to request that their lands be taken into government trust.

One big question mark about prospects for the legislation is whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, will schedule it for a full Senate vote.

Reid has taken no position on this bill specifically but he has been a strong opponent of using a mechanism at the heart of the Rhode Island case -- federal land trust -- to create gambling casinos outside the boundaries of Indian reservations.

The House version of the "Carcieri fix'' -- so called after the name of the Supreme Court case, Carcieri v. Salazar -- has yet to be voted by the committee with jurisdiction over Indian issues, the Natural Resources Committee.
The panel's chairman, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia, said in an interview Wednesday that he hopes to schedule a vote early in the new year.

Democratic Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, the Rhode Island delegation's only supporter of the measure, has said he believes it can be signed into law next year.

But Kennedy has also predicted that the Narragansetts will never win casino gambling rights in Rhode Island without the agreement of state officials, including the rest of the congressional delegation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SHINNECOCK INDIANS GIVEN PRELIMINARY FEDERAL RECOGNITION APPROVAL

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs gave preliminary federal recognition to Long Island's Shinnecock Indian Tribe yesterday. A final decision will be made after a 90 day public comment period followed by another 30 days for the Shinnecock Tribe to respond.

The Shinnecocks previously said publicly that they are willing to negotiate with the state for a casino site, possibly in the Catskill Mountains or on Long Island.

The Tribe´s reservation is in Southampton, N.Y., located on the eastern end of Long Island.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mohegan Sun Reports About 11% Drop In November Slot Revenue

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported that its November slot revenues decreased by 10.8 percent compared to November 2008 while Foxwoods reported a 1.4 percent decline.

Total November slot revenue at Mohegan Sun was $59.6 million and at Foxwoods, slot revenue was $53.7 million. The tribes pay the state of Connecticut 25 percent of their slot revenue.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recent Newspaper Accounts

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Two recent articles appeared in The Day newspaper on the Mohegan gaming authority and we posted them below. The Feather News added a footnote at the end of the second article.

Mohegan Sun: We're not Foxwoods
By Patricia Daddona
TheDay
December 3, 2009

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reduces stipends to tribal members when changes like the current economic downturn warrant it, casino officials told the financial community today.

Mohegan Sun also has a stable management team that is continuing to work to improve the product it offers patrons, despite the effects of the recession.

Casino officials made the comments this morning during a Webcast presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2009 credit conference in New York City. Participants in the Webcast included a broad range of members of the financial industry.

The tribe's Mohegan Sun casino is one "you could put anywhere and it would be a category killer and a market leader," said Mitchell Etess, the casino's president and chief executive officer.

"We've been constantly evolving our product ... trying even in this (economy) to keep things fresh, keep things going."

In touting that stability, Etess differentiated the Mohegans from their neighboring competitors, the Mashantucket Pequots. The Mashantuckets own and operate Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods.

"We have been very cautious to make everybody know we're not Foxwoods," Etess said. "We operate differently than Foxwoods."

The Mashantuckets are struggling to restructure debt and could default on loans. Tribal members recently ousted Tribal Chairman Michael Thomas, whose promise to keep tribal stipends intact before lenders were paid sent shock waves through the global financial community.

Mohegan Sun is also hurting from the recession but its balance sheet is strong, Etess said. Net revenues were down 12 percent year over year and overall revenues are down 7.5 percent, he said.

Peter J. Roberti, vice president of finance at the casino, pointed out that the tribe, whose 1,700 members get monetary distributions from casino revenues, reduces that take when necessary.

"The tribe is making moves to reduce their expenditures, and taking a look at the stipends and taking less out of the Gaming Authority," he said.

Tribal Council Chairwoman Lynn Malerba later clarified that Mohegan Sun is always evaluating financial performance. She said the tribe made reductions last year to tribal government, but it did not reduce individual stipends.

Etess said, "Our tribe understands the situation; what happens when money gets shorter. Our tribe shows what happens; they take less money."



Mohegans seek partner to finish hotel tower
By Patricia Daddona
The Day
December 4, 2009

The Mohegan tribe is looking for a partner to help it finish the Project Horizon luxury hotel at Mohegan Sun.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority said Thursday it is seeking partners for a couple of key projects besides the suspended Project Horizon, including a $500 million casino in Palmer, Mass., and a hotel at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

Partnering for future growth is part of an effort to incur less debt, Mitchell Etess, the president and chief executive officer for the casino, said Thursday following a Webcast presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2009 Credit Conference in New York City for people in the financial and investment industry.

Demand is high for more hotel rooms to complement Mohegan Sun's existing hotel, but the economy is not out of the woods yet and it's not clear when the expansion, which was halted in the fall of 2008, could resume, said Etess, who represented the gaming authority at the conference.

Adding a hotel partner, possibly one with a brand name, is being pursued aggressively, he said.

"The most important thing right now is to improve our balance sheet," he said, "and the lopping on of additional debt for our hotel tower wouldn't necessarily be the first thing we would do. However, if someone else could build that tower, and we could get additional rooms, that would generate significant additional cash flow, which would allow us to improve our financial position."

Tribal Chairwoman Lynn Malerba confirmed that intent later in the day.

"We are committed to reduce our overall debt, and one way to do that is to enhance the overall property and revenues without putting a lot of our own capital in," she said.

The Mohegans are also keeping track of the possible legalization of casinos in Massachusetts, where Etess said they hope to find a partner to help develop a resort-style casino smaller than Mohegan Sun but larger than the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania. He said a casino there could include 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games, a hotel, retail operations and branded restaurants.

Project Horizon started out in 2007 as a $740 million project that escalated to $925 million. The "Earth Hotel Tower," a 39-story edifice intended to be the tallest building in Connecticut, was the centerpiece.

Etess said that partnering on the hotel tower doesn't signal any change in direction for the proposed expansion, which would add 920 rooms and include a House of Blues music hall. The featured restaurant, Margaritaville, and new gaming hall called Casino of the Wind, have already opened.

"Exactly how that tower turns out will depend very much on who we end up partnering with," Etess said.

Branding a hotel at the tribal gaming property is risky, said Jane Pedreira, a gaming analyst with Rye, N.Y.,-based Clear Sights Research.

"I would be somewhat skeptical of that working, unless they were going to run it as a convention business where people actually go there not to gamble," she said. "I don't know what percentage of their rooms are cash versus (complimentary), but the industry standard is to 'comp' your big gaming guests."

At the conference, Etess and Peter J. Roberti, the casino's vice president of finance, reviewed this year's casino operating results and acknowledged that while there's no sign the declining trend for gaming revenue has reversed course, the casino balance sheet is strong. Net revenues were down 12 percent year over year and overall revenues are down 7.5 percent, they said.

"We're hoping we will flatten out this next year," Etess said. "We think one day the economy will get better and people will start spending again."

In the meantime, Roberti said, a "disciplined approach" to capital spending and reducing full-time positions through attrition rather than layoffs have helped contain costs. Malerba later noted that reductions to tribal government costs, although not to individual stipends, have helped curb expenses.

Etess called that a "prudent" way of managing distributions.

He sought to differentiate Mohegan Sun from Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, which are owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation on the reservation in nearby Ledyard.

"We've been very cautious, especially lately, to make sure everybody realizes we're not Foxwoods," Etess said. "We operate completely differently than Foxwoods in every aspect of operations, and we also have better market share."

For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, Mohegan Sun operated with an average daily slot win per machine of $316, versus $240 at Foxwoods, Roberti said.

The Mashantuckets are struggling to restructure a debt load of more than $2 billion and could default on loans. Tribal members recently ousted Chairman Michael Thomas, whose promise to keep tribal stipends intact before lenders were paid sent shockwaves through the global financial community.

Pedreira, who listened later in the day to a recording of the conference call, said the Mohegans and their casino managers "have got the gaming industry down to a science."

"I definitely feel they're great operators," she said. "They have great upside in Pennsylvania. They've done a great job of trying to diversify, probably better than any other Indian tribe. What impresses me about them is they're so progressive, they're ahead of the curve - running the property, getting out ahead of Massachusetts."


Footnote ... The Feather News contacted Ms. Pedriera and asked if she was misquoted since it appears that MTGA´s approximately three quarters of a billion dollar investment in diversification (Poconos plus corporate diversification department costs since inception) has resulted in annual losses in the tens of millions of dollars each year, maybe $50 million last year alone if one takes account interest expense on the Pocono facility and the ogoing costs for MTGA´s corporate diversification department (which was $17 million last year alone).

Ms Pedreira responded in an email, ¨Mohegan is the only tribe to get licensed by a state so they are considered a legitimate force when bidding on a new venue which is the path to take for diversifying.Keep in mind, PA is about to get table games. As with many new jurisdictions, it takes time to ramp up and develop. Many states will pass regs that are strict but ease up over time. So you can’t always measure success in first few years. Mohegan also has a shot at MA which would enable them to mitigate against damage to CT. No telling if they get that but they were out in front.¨

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