Friday, April 30, 2010

Pennsylvania Gaming Board To Consider Revoking Gaming License For Foxwoods Philadelphia Group

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A petition to revoke the gaming license for the Foxwoods Philadelphia group was presented to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board yesterday.

The Philadelphia Daily News summed up yesterday's events, "Moments after the seven-member gaming commission unanimously voted down (Foxwoods Philadelphia's) request for a 180-day extension on its time limit to submit new plans for development of the controversial Columbus Boulevard and Reed Street site, Cyrus Pitre, the gaming board's chief legal counsel, announced he had authorized a petition asking for the revocation of Foxwoods' license."

The state gaming board also gave the Foxwoods Philadelphia group five days to pay $114,000 in fines that are a result of about two months' worth of daily fines of $2,000 a day for not meeting key deadlines.

Wynn Resorts recently said it was not interested in financing the casino, dealing the Foxwoods Philadelphia group a blow in its efforts to find a source of money to build the casino. Steve Wynn, the CEO of Wynn Resorts, said yesterday in a conference call with analysts that it remains interested in the Philadelphia market but not the Foxwoods Philadelphia deal.

The petition to revoke the license of the Foxwoods Philadelphia group could take years by some accounts should the group fail to find the financial means to build the Philadelphia casino.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mohegan Gaming Authority Reports Lower Earnings

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported a net income, or profit, of about $20 million for the three months of January through March, a decline of nearly 40 percent from the same three month period last year.

It should be noted that for the same three month period in 2009, the roughly $33 million in profits included a one-time $8 million gain on paying off some bonds.

The amount of money lost by customers from January through March was $319 million, a decline of slightly less than one percent from last year, which was the net result of a 2.3 percent decrease in slot revenues and a 4.3 percent increase, yes increase, in table game revenue.

No doubt a large reason for the slower decline in gaming revenues was due to about $14 million in free slot play that was given out to customers for the quarter compared to nearly $4.5 million in free slot play redeemed by customers during the same three month period in 2009.

The press release issued by MTGA today also noted a 9.7 percent decrease in adjusted EBITDA (adjusted means they found more things to deduct, like some expenses related to the buyout of the former management partners, in addition to the standard interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).

Non-gaming revenues, before any expenses are factored in, increased by about 10 percent.

Pocono Downs' income from operations, which does not take into account interest expense on the money borrowed to buy, expand and fund the continuing losses, was about $3.9 million for the three-month period, compared to about 3.5 million the year before. Pocono Downs is still losing substantial money when interest expenses are factored into these numbers.

MTGA's total debt remained at $1.64 billion while interest expense on that debt is now running about $10 million a month.

MTGA provided an update on the suspended hotel project on the reservation:
"In September 2008, the Authority announced the suspension of the hotel, retail and new parking garage elements of Project Horizon due to a slowdown in business volumes and uncertainties in the financial markets resulting from the national economic recession. The costs incured for the suspended elements were related to excavation and foundation work for the planed podium and hotel tower, as well as professional fees for design and architectural work. The Authority is currently evaluating its options with respect to the development of the suspended elements, including the new hotel; however, it can provide no assurance as to if or when the suspended elements wil resume. As of March 31, 2010, $75.9 milion of assets related to the suspended elements were included within constrction in process."

No updates were given on the $47 million hallway, which is also known as the Winter Entrance and food court.

The entire set of financial statements - the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows - are expected to be released in a few weeks which will allow us to better analyze the quarter's results.

The headlines in Connecticut's newspapers about the earnings report were the following:

Mohegan Sun Reports Large Decline In Profits (Hartford Courant)

Mohegan Sun's Fortunes Changing - losses slow as economy begins to recover (Norwich Bulletin) The Norwich Bulletin cites 'income from earnings,' a term that we are totally unfamiliar with and don't believe exists.

Sun profits down, but revenues 'stabilizing' (The Day)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flash: Interior Secretary Salazar Approves Nantucket Sound 'Cape Wind Project' Despite Wampanoag Indian Objections

Agreement Said To Be Reached With Developer To Build A Hotel At Mohegan's Pennsylvania Slot Parlor

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Two Pennsylvania newspapers are reporting this afternoon that an agreement has been reached for a developer to build a $60 million hotel at the location of Mohegan's Pennsylvania slot parlor.

The Times Leader and Citizen's Voice websites noted that a memorandum of understanding has been reached which calls for a developer, who has not yet been named, to finance and build a $60 million, 300-room hotel. The Mohegans will "operate the hotel and pay an annual lease fee to the developer." According to the articles, the agreement will allow the Mohegans "to purchase the hotel from the developer in the future."

In keeping with a "wow the financial analysts" strategy, the news comes one day before the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is to release and explain their second quarter operating results.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mohegan Gaming Authority To Release 2nd Quarter Earnings Report Later This Week

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Updated 2

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has scheduled a conference call with financial analysts this Thursday, April 29, at 11 a.m. to discuss its earnings for the quarter of January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2010.

It is expected that MTGA will release those numbers to the public the same day as the conference call.

For the period of January through March in the prior year, in 2009, MTGA reported $33 million in net income, or profit, which included a one-time gain of about $8 million on the extinguishment of some bonds. MTGA's profit figures do not include distributions that MTGA makes to the Tribal government except for reimburseable expenditures.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Moquot Nation No. 2 Revised

Photos: First Annual University Of Rhode Island Powwow

The URI Native American Student Organization's first powwow was lightly attended and had about five vendors but it was a beautiful Spring day where the powwow competed with the powwow at the University of Massachusetts (and a hemp festival on URI's Kingston, R.I. campus).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mashantucket's Dan Little Takes Seat On National Indian Gaming Commission

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Mashantucket Pequot tribal member Daniel J. Little begins his three-year term on the National Indian Gaming Commission today. Little was formerly the Tribe's government affairs manager.

Little said in a press release, "I’m looking forward to contributing to the team at the NIGC in protecting tribal interests and assets. The Indian gaming industry has played a key role in revitalizing tribal economies over the past several decades, and consistent oversight is the bedrock in implementing the Commission’s statutory responsibilities and securing industry compliance with IGRA."

The NIGC’s primary mission is to regulate gaming activities on Indian lands for the purpose of shielding Indian tribes from organized crime and other corrupting influences, to ensure that Indian tribes are the primary beneficiaries of gaming revenue and to assure that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly by both operators and players.

The three-member board is comprised of associate commissioner Little, acting chairman George Skibine and vice chairwoman Steffani Cochran.

The Mohegan Tribe's first chief of staff, Tom Acevedo, was a NIGC commissioner prior to working for the Mohegan Tribe. Acevedo no longer works for the Mohegans.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

United States And Canada Are Last Holdouts On United Nations Indigenous Rights Treaty But Considering Positions

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an Associated Press article on the gathering of momentum in support of the United Nation's Indigenous Rights Declaration.

New Zealand backs indigenous rights, US to review
By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press
April 19, 2010

New Zealand on Monday announced its support for a U.N. declaration protecting the rights of more than 370 million native peoples worldwide, and the United States is set to announce that it will review its opposition to the declaration.

The declaration affirms the equality of indigenous peoples and their right to maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It also establishes standards to combat discrimination and marginalization and eliminate human rights violations against them.

When the General Assembly adopted the declaration in September 2007, there were four opponents - the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand - who argued that it was incompatible with their existing laws.

Australia announced its support for the declaration in April 2009, and New Zealand's Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples announced his government's approval at Monday's opening session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which about 2,000 native peoples are attending.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice is scheduled to address the forum on Tuesday and will announce that "we will be conducting a formal review of the declaration and the U.S. position on it," according to an excerpt from her prepared text obtained by The Associated Press.

"Our first nations face serious challenges: disproportionate and dire poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime and bitter discrimination," Rice says. "We recognize that, for many around the world, this declaration provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues."

The Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general last month that it would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration "in a manner fully consistent with Canada's constitution and laws." Indigenous groups have urged the government to embrace the human rights instrument without conditions or limitations.

The declaration, which is not legally binding, was approved by the 192-member General Assembly after more than 20 years of deliberation. The vote was 143-4, with 11 abstentions and 34 countries not voting.

It calls on states to prevent or redress the forced migration of indigenous peoples, the seizure of their land or their forced integration into other cultures. It also grants indigenous groups control over their religious and cultural sites and the right to manage their own education systems, including teaching in their own languages.

The opponents and many countries that abstained said they wanted to work toward a solution, but they took exception to several key parts of the declaration which they said would give indigenous peoples too many rights and clash with existing national laws.

New Zealand's Sharples said that "when voting took place in 2007, Maori - my people - were hugely disappointed that our country had voted against it and since that time many Maori have been working" to reverse the government's position.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a North American member of the Permanent Forum and founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, said she is "hopeful" that both Canada and the United States will support the declaration.

During President Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, she said, "he did state very clearly to indigenous leaders here in the United States that he was committed to the adoption of the declaration, ... so we still feel very positive about that and hope that he will commit to that promise."

University Of Rhode Island Powwow This Saturday

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The University of Rhode Island's Native American Student Organization will be hosting a powwow this Saturday, April 24, at the school's old track field, off route 138.

The powwow lasts from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Grand entry is at noon. Entrance fee is $5, $3 for seniors, $2 for URI students and free for children under 12.

The school's address is 7 Lippit Road, Kingston, Rhode Island.

From the north: take I-95 South to Exit 9 (Route 4 South) in RHODE ISLAND, follow Route 4 to Route 1 South. Stay on Route 1 until the intersection of Route 138 West. Route 138 West will bring you to the University.
From the south: take I-95 North to Exit 3A (Route 138 East). Continue east on Route 138 to the University.
From Newport: follow Route 138 West over the Newport and Jamestown bridges to Route 1. Take Route 1 South to Route 138 West. Follow Route 138 West to the University.
From outer space: head toward earth, veer off toward the United States, land in the Atlantic off New England, swim to Rhode Island and ask for directions.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Foxwoods Philadelphia Project Seeks New Investors

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the Foxwoods Philadelphia group who is looking for new investors since Wynn Resorts said they were not interested.

Foxwoods partners seeking new investors
By Jennifer Lin
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 18, 2010

With Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn out of the game, the local partners in the Foxwoods Casino project are talking to more than one investor group about taking his place, according to sources familiar with the venture.

One of the groups is said to involve several investors from Philadelphia and is being assembled by Gregory Weinberg, a local entrepreneur who was a real estate developer in Atlantic City during the 1990s.

Who might replace Wynn "is premature to discuss," Stephen A. Cozen, a Foxwoods lawyer, wrote in an e-mail reply to The Inquirer. "We are working on the options with several folks, but we have no intention of discussing it publicly."

For the South Philadelphia casino, time is running out.

In 11 days, Foxwoods' lawyers must appear before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to present a plan to salvage the waterfront project on Columbus Boulevard between Tasker and Reed Streets.

The seven-member panel could give the Foxwoods team more time to work out a deal, or revoke the $50 million license, opening the possibility of a new round of bidding for a different site.

The Foxwoods project won one of the city's two slots licenses in 2006. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe was supposed to raise money to build the casino and run it, but the tribe has had to take a backseat because of financial problems back home in Connecticut.

Wynn, the founder and chairman of Wynn Resorts, emerged in March to revive the stalled project. But he abruptly pulled out of the deal April 8. According to people familiar with the situation, the Las Vegas operator concluded that the Philadelphia project was too complicated to pursue.

"The hope is they can move this forward without the project and license withering on the vine," said Alex Picou, a gaming expert in New York for the investment bank KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.

The gaming board expects to discuss Foxwoods at its next public hearing April 29 in Harrisburg, board spokesman Doug Harbach said, "but I'm not sure what shape the discussion is going to take."

The Foxwoods project includes the charitable trusts of two prominent friends of Gov. Rendell's: Center City developer Ron Rubin and New Jersey lawyer Lewis Katz. A third Rendell friend - Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider - has pledged his profits to charities.

With Wynn, the local investors and the tribe would have given up control in return for Wynn's developing, financing, and operating a casino.

If the Foxwoods partners can attract new investors, their first order of business will be to ask regulators for an extension of their license.

The existing license calls for 1,500 slot machines to be operating by May 2011. The gaming board's chief enforcement counsel, Cyrus Petri, testified at a board meeting April 7 that he had "no confidence" the partners could meet that deadline.

The state's new gaming law allows them to seek an extension through December 2012 - a provision Cozen lobbied for during closed-door drafting of the gaming bill last fall.

Gaming experts say it is unlikely that a recognizable gaming company such as Harrah's or Penn National would step in. Both operators already own casinos in Pennsylvania - Harrah's in Chester and Penn National in Dauphin County - and are limited by law to a 33 percent stake in a second project.

A more likely scenario, experts say, is for a group of investors and lenders to team up to pump money into the project, with a casino operator hired to manage the facility.

State Sen. John Wozniak, a Democrat from the Johnstown area, has proposed another option: Strip Philadelphia of its second license and put it on his side of the state.

"There comes a time when you have to pull the plug," Wozniak said in an interview.

But redrawing Pennsylvania's gaming map would be more complicated than it might seem. Other lawmakers say it would require reopening the gaming act just passed in January after three months of wrangling.

State Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., a Democrat whose district includes the Foxwoods site, would prefer that the gaming board select the operator - but allow the city, with public input from stakeholders, to pick a better location.

The Foxwoods project faced immediate backlash from neighbors when it was selected in December 2006. In the commercial corridor of Columbus Boulevard, the proposed casino would draw tens of thousands of cars a day.

"We all agree on one thing: that's not a good site for a full-blown casino," Farnese said, speculating that "Steve Wynn came to the same conclusion. You can't build that particular project at that location because of the congestion and traffic."

Farnese said he wouldn't count Wynn out. He would not be surprised, he said, if Wynn made an independent bid on a site "where he wants to build his casino - not where he has to."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Family Of Student Killed In Car Crash Files $15 Million Suit In Tribal Court

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The following installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in today's Norwich Bulletin concerning a lawsuit that was filed in the tribal court system that claims the casino and the owner of bars in the casino were negligent in serving alcohol to a man that was involved in a car accident which resulted in the death of an area student.

$15 million suit filed against Mohegan Sun
By Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin
April 17, 2010

Mohegan, Conn. — The family of a 20-year-old Connecticut College student killed last year in a suspected drunken driving crash on Interstate 395 in Montville has filed a $15 million wrongful death suit in tribal court against Mohegan Sun and backers of several privately run casino bars.

The suit was filed by the family of Elizabeth Durante, a pre-med student from West Islip, N.Y., who died March 7, 2009, when the van she was traveling in was struck head-on by a car driving the wrong way on the interstate. Several other students were injured.

Daniel E. Musser, a former Navy sailor who told police he had been drinking in a bar at Mohegan Sun before the crash, is expected to plead guilty May 5 to vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the crash.

New London attorney M. John Strafaci, who represents Kathleen and Keith Durante in the lawsuit, said Musser was visibly intoxicated when he left Ultra 88 nightclub and had a blood alcohol level of .136 more than three hours after he left Mohegan Sun. The legal limit is .08.

“Mohegan Sun casino had a responsibility to watch out for intoxicated people who are leaving the casino and not let them drink and drive. You need to have some kind of procedure to stop them,” Strafaci said.

Strafaci said Mohegan Sun After Dark and Ultra 88 have “a long history of liquor violations, including serving intoxicated patrons.”

He said it was also Mohegan Sun’s responsibility to enforce rules that prevent bars from serving intoxicated patrons.

Cathy Soper, Mohegan Sun public relations manager, said the casino cannot comment on pending legal matters.

Strafaci said if the casino is found negligent, Durante’s family could be awarded damages by a tribal judge based in part on a formula for economic loss.

“By all accounts, Elizabeth had an absolutely bright future ahead of her,” Strafaci said.

On way to mission trip

At the time of the crash, Durante was headed to Logan International Airport in Boston with other students on a humanitarian mission to Africa. She had plans to become a surgeon and, one day, travel with Doctors Without Borders.

The suit comes months after a similar suit was filed in state court against Ultra 88 permittee Patrick T. Lyons and backer Plan B LLC, of Boston. That suit makes claims under the state’s Dram Shop Law, which allows for up to $250,000 in penalties against any establishment proven to have served alcohol to an intoxicated person who later causes a death.

Strafaci said Mohegan Sun has taken the position it is not subject to Dram Shop statues but has an ordinance that allows for negligence claims.

“We’re not relying on Connecticut law. We’re saying under Mohegan law they were negligent,” Strafaci said.

Strafaci said Mohegan Sun also is listed on the liquor permit for the bar, putting it in a position to accept responsibility for what happens in the bar.

After three fatal drunken driving accidents in 2009, Mohegan Sun announced initiatives aimed at keeping a closer eye on intoxicated patrons. They include more employee training and limits on free drinks.

Durante’s death prompted Gov. M. Jodi Rell to withdraw her proposal to allow casinos to serve alcohol 24 hours a day as a way to boost state slot revenue.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flash: Mohegan Sun's March Slot Revenue Down 2.7%, Foxwoods Down 10.8%

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Mohegan Sun reported that its March slot revenue decreased by 2.7 percent from the same month last year while Foxwoods' slot revenue declined 10.8 percent.

The amount of free play that both casinos gave out in March has not yet been posted to the state's Division of Special Revenue website. Until we can access the free play figures, any analysis of March's slot revenue would be meaningless.

In February, the Mohegan Sun gave away more than $5.6 million in slot machine free-play promotions while Foxwoods gave out slightly more than $5 million in free slot play. The month of February marked the highest amount of free play promotions ever used at Mohegan Sun in one month but did nonetheless not stop Mohegan's February slot machine revenue from declining by 7.7 percent.

Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods Expected To Release March Slot Machine Figures Today

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


By Ken Davison
Feather News
Updated 3

The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation tonight that calls for two casinos to be built and the installation of up to 750 slot machines at the state's four racetracks.

The bill, passed by a veto-proof margin of 120 to 37, still needs Senate approval before it is presented to Governor Deval Patrick for his signature. Both Gov. Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray have indicated that they do not support slot machines at racetracks. House Speaker Robert Deleo's district includes two racetracks.

Today's vote shows the dramatic change in how casino gambling and the revenue it could bring to the state is perceived since a three-casino proposal, supported by Gov. Patrick, was defeated by a vote of 108 to 46 two years ago.

The appeal of casino gambling to legislators is its ability to create thousands of jobs while also generating millions of dollars for the state.

Each of the two casinos will be expected to pay a $100 million up-front license fee and a 25 percent tax on its revenues. Additionally, the bill requires each of the two casinos to spend at least $500 million on each casino.

It is possible that the two federally-recoginized Indian tribes in Massachusetts could also build casinos someday under federal laws which, in addition to the two casinos in the House bill, would mean four casinos in the state. The prospects for tribal casinos are on hold for the time being as a result of the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Carcieri v. Salazar case that has stopped the federal government, in most cases, from taking land into trust for Indian tribes that were federally recognized after 1934.

There hasn't been any significant movement in Congress to approve legislation that would overturn the Supreme Court decision, which could prompt the two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts to bid on any future commercial casino licenses.

It is estimated that about $1 billion is spent by Massachusetts residents annually at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut and the Twin River slot parlor-racetrack in Rhode Island. About 20 percent of Mohegan Sun's customers are estimated to live in Massachusetts while about one-third of Foxwoods' customers are Massachusetts residents.

Among the changes to the House bill that were voted down yesterday was a proposed amendment that would have required one of the two casinos to be built in Western Massachusetts. The Mohegan Tribe is part of a group that seeks to build a casino in Western Masachusetts, in the city of Palmer.

While it is still possible that one of the casinos could end up in Western Massachusetts, the proposed amendment requiring Western Massachusetts to be the location for one of the two casinos proposed under the House bill was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 136 to 17.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tribe In The Media Series On Montville Land

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media series is an article in The Day newspaper about what could happen to 344 acres of prime land in Montville. The Feather News is not convinced that the sale to Lew Rome's secret partner will happen, at least not at the price mentioned in the article. We believe the land will be put on the market and then Rome's secret partner can bid on the land. Granted, we don't know all of the details of Tarragon's bankruptcy but that is generally how the bankruptcy court can ensure that the highest payment is received for that land. As always, the Feather News is happy to accept comments on this article from those that think otherwise.

Pending land sale poses concern for Montville officials
By Megan Bard
The Day
April 10, 2010

Montville - About 344 prime acres between Route 32 and Massapeag Side Road are likely to change hands again, a prospect that has town officials concerned about the future of the area.

On March 29, an agreement between sellers Mohegan Hill Development LLC and Mohegan Hill Development/Wilson LLC and buyer attorney Lewis B. Rome, listed as a trustee of an unidentified party, was filed on the town's land records.

The pending sale was made for $9 million and required Rome to put $500,000 into escrow. If various requirements are fulfilled, the closing is scheduled for June 15.

Almost immediately, town officials began trying to obtain details of what is to come and how it could affect plans to designate that area as the heart of the town's future economic-development initiative.

"It will have a major impact, without a doubt, to the town," Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz said Friday evening. "We can't dispute that. We really don't know the details but we're looking into what they want it for."

When reached Friday afternoon, Rome said he was not "at liberty to discuss" the transaction and added that he was acting as a trustee.

In the past, Rome has acted as counsel for the Mohegan Tribe. A tribal official Friday deferred comment to Rome.

Tribal officials with the authority to comment on the transaction could not be reached Friday.

The property has been ripe for development speculators for the majority of the past decade. During that time, the tribe has expressed interest and negotiated with several property owners in an attempt to purchase some of the parcels included in the 344-acre tract. The property also includes an area that is significant in Mohegan tribal history.

In the early 2000s, Hackman Capital Partners LLC, a California-based firm, began buying individual parcels at above-market prices.

In October 2005, Mohegan Hill, backed by Tarragon Corp., paid $33.3 million for about 246 acres in the area and continued the trend of buying parcels at inflated prices.

In 2006, Tarragon officials said they intended to build a hotel, an 18-hole golf course, luxury condominiums, upscale stores and a marina on the properties. In all, the sale price for all the properties included was about $48 million, according to Town Planner Marcia Vlaun.

In 2008, Tarragon filed for bankruptcy. According to documents filed in the Town Clerk's office, the 35 properties listed in the current Purchase-and Sale Agreement are not part of the bankruptcy proceeding. However, they are considered an asset and any sale of the parcels must first be approved by the bankruptcy court.

"At this point, it's a very cloudy picture as to what's going on," Vlaun said. "We're not going to jump to conclusions. Everything we do, we'll do in the best interest of the taxpayer."

Vlaun has been closely monitoring activity on the property for years. In the proposed Montville Plan of Conservation and Development, which is slated to be approved in the coming weeks and is subject to a public hearing Tuesday night, the area is identified as a primary location for the town to expand its economic development base.

According to the proposed Plan of Conservation and Development, the land is identified as one of the town's key job-investment areas, meaning it is one of the primary areas in the town where officials hope to create commercial, light industrial, industrial, mixed-use and municipal development, along with substantial infrastructure investments.

In the commercial build-out maps, some of the properties subject to the sale are also identified as having the greatest potential for large development. Much of the property is currently zoned either commercial or residential.

One of the biggest concerns town officials have is the possibility that the tribe could purchase the properties, then file with the federal government to take the land into trust, thus removing it from the tax rolls.

The properties are within the tribe's settlement area and are contiguous with other tribal properties, making the area eligible for casino-type development.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Las Vegas Strip Casinos Post 33% Increase In February, Atlantic City Casino Revenue Down Almost 6% In March

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The 41 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip showed a 32.8 percent increase in its gambling revenue during the month of February compared to the same period last year while Atlantic City's 11 casinos recorded a 5.6 percent decline in revenues during the month of March. The revenue reported by the casinos in Nevada trail those of New Jersey by one month.

The Las Vegas Strip numbers reflect the largest monthly increase in over 10 years and was driven by a 255 percent increase in baccarat win compared to the same month last year. Other casinos in the state of Nevada did not fare as well. Nevada casinos, overall, reported a 13.9 percent increase in gaming revenue during February.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Connecticut Sun Chooses UConn's Tina Charles And Kansas' Danielle McCray In WNBA Draft, Trade Black And Holt

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The Connecticut Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, picked the University of Connecticut's Tina Charles and Kansas' all-time leading scorer, Danielle McCray, in today's WNBA draft.

Charles was the first overall pick in the draft while McCray was the seventh overall pick. The 6-foot-4 Tina Charles was the first player selected in the draft. As UConn's center, she averaged 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. McCray, the 5-foot-11 guard and forward, averaged 19.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in the 20 games she played before tearing a knee ligament which may sideline McCray in her first year with the Sun.

The Sun traded Amber Holt and Chante Black to the Tulsa Shock (formerly the Detroit Shock but under new ownership in Tulsa) for the opportunity to pick McCray. The Sun gave up its first and second-round pick in next year's draft to acquire the rights to forward Kelsey Griffin, who was picked third by Minnesota.

The Sun also added to the roster Louisiana State University's guard Allison Hightower and Franklin Pierce's guard-forward Johannah Leedham.

The Sun got this year's first round draft pick after it made a deal that gave the Minnesota Lynx the second overall draft pick and former Sun star player Lindsay Whalen.


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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the stunning news that Wynn Resorts is no longer interested in taking over the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project.

Wynn pulls out of casino project
By Jennifer Lin
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 8, 2010

A news release from Wynn Resorts Ltd. in Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon sent seismic waves through Philadelphia: Gambling magnate Steve Wynn had changed his mind and did not want to build a casino on the Delaware River waterfront after all.

A lawyer for the original investors in the Foxwoods Casino project said he was "amazed."

Mayor Nutter, who had just met Wynn on Monday to review drawings of the proposed gaming hall, was "stunned."

And Gov. Rendell was uncharacteristically silent, issuing an official "No comment."

In a two-paragraph statement, Wynn Resorts said it had "terminated all agreements and negotiations."

"We are fascinated by the legalization of full gaming in Pennsylvania and stimulated by the opportunity that it presents for Wynn Resorts. But this particular project did not, in the end, present an opportunity that was appropriate for our company."

"I'm in a state of shock," said Stephen A. Cozen, a lawyer for the Foxwoods investor group.

Cozen said he heard the news at the same time as the public. "We're trying to find out what the reasons are for this and determine what, if anything, can be done about it," he said. "That's the only comment I can make."

Nutter offered only a hint of an explanation. He said Wynn Resorts general counsel Kim Sinatra reassured him "very directly and clearly that their decision had nothing to do with the city . . . and had to do with the actual transaction."

It was on Monday that Wynn had visited Nutter at City Hall to personally explain his vision for a riverfront casino in South Philadelphia on Columbus Boulevard between Tasker and Reed Streets.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Nutter, speaking Thursday evening to reporters at 30th Street Station after returning from a trip to Washington.

The mayor said he had "a great meeting" with Wynn that lasted 75 minutes.

"I've never seen someone more enthusiastic about a project," Nutter said. "There was not one doubt in my mind after our meeting" that the casino project was moving forward.

The same day as his City Hall meeting, Wynn submitted detailed drawings of his project to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in Harrisburg - three weeks before the state deadline.

A week earlier, he had turned over details of how he would pay for the project and how control would shift from the original group - called Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners (PEDP) - to Wynn Resorts.

Regulators, too, were caught off guard. "We certainly were made aware of [the termination of talks] taking place, but we don't have any details," said Richard McGarvey, a spokesman for the gaming board.

Industry observers said the announcement might be a negotiating ploy to get a better deal from the Foxwoods investor group. Or, they said, it could be a signal that Wynn had decided the project was too hard or too expensive to finish.

An analyst who did not want to be named speculated that a sticking point might have been the amount of debt Wynn was willing to assume. The investor group has more than $127 million in existing debt, more than half of which is the price of the land.

On Monday, Wynn had said the overall value of the project - taking on the debt and building the casino - would range from "$500 million to $600 million."

Analysts cited another possibility for his change of heart: Wynn may be interested in taking over the partially built Revel Casino, which needs a cash infusion of $1 billion. Wynn had traveled to Atlantic City on Tuesday. He had been one of the first casino operators in Atlantic City, but his company currently has no property there.

In an interview with The Inquirer on Monday, Wynn was eager to get moving on the Philadelphia property, which he said would be "Wynn top to bottom."

He said he had signed a "final term sheet" with the original investors, but indicated that time was an issue.

"We have to be on the ground by September to do it," Wynn said after meeting with Nutter. "The gaming board needs to do its investigation, the city has to do planning, and I have to go before community groups."

On March 3, when Wynn testified for the first time before the gaming board, he said the deal was conditioned on Wynn Resorts' getting an extension from state regulators to finish the project by the end of 2012, approval for a license, and all necessary city permits.

State Rep. Michael O'Brien, a Democrat who opposes using waterfront property for big-box casinos, said Wynn, after doing due diligence on the project, may have realized that there wasn't enough time to finish the project.

He said Foxwoods needed at least a dozen city, state, and federal permits, and, if there are riparian lands, state legislation to allow construction.

Wynn's decision, he said, was "proof conclusive of what we've been saying over the last four years - that this is simply not a developable site."

For that, "we all owe Mr. Wynn a great debt," said O'Brien, whose district includes communities directly across from the proposed site. His constituents have feared congestion along the commercial corridor of Columbus Boulevard.

Since last fall, the lead local investors in the Foxwoods project - Center City developer Ron Rubin, Comcast/Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, and New Jersey entrepreneur Lewis Katz - have been courting Wynn.

They needed to find a replacement for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe of Connecticut, which is facing financial problems of its own due to the recession.

Under the deal that went away, Wynn Resorts would have taken over 51 percent of the original PEDP partnership. According to sources, Wynn wanted to eventually buy out the others.

Wynn told The Inquirer earlier that he was offering to give PEDP investors shares of Wynn Resorts in exchange for their stakes in the project.

"They have a choice," he said. With his offer, "they can own stock and receive dividends, as well as have liquidity, which gives them something they don't have at the present time."

The Wynn deal is just the latest setback for the star-crossed project. From the get-go, the development faced intense community and political opposition.

In September 2008, the Foxwoods investors agreed to move the project to Center City, only to be ordered back to the waterfront by the state gaming board last August.

Wynn's pullout may doom the project.

"It's over," said City Councilman Frank DiCicco.

He said the state would either have to put up the license for bidding again, "or maybe they just do one [casino] for now."

Editorial: Why Wynn Will Weturn

By Ken Davison
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Wynn Resorts announced today that the company is no longer interested in buying out the partners of what has been dubbed the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project.

Wynn will be back in Philadelphia. Either he will return after there is no life left in the Foxwoods Philadelphia project or the partners in the Foxwoods Philadelphia project will offer Wynn better terms before its last gasp.

The Feather News knew that Wynn was the prospective secret investor in the Philly Foxwoods project months back if only because he had just become Atlantic City's jilted lover (over the company's ties with investors deemed suspect by N.J. regulatory authorities) and Wynn's deep pockets ready for financial revenge and financial gain across the Delaware River.

There is money to be made in gaming in Philadelphia as long as the investment is reasonable. Why would Wynn pay a premium to take a 51 percent stake in the project that could also lead to court battles when he could get a larger stake for the same investment or less in a newly-bid out casino license?

Make no mistake, there will be a second casino in Philadelphia with or without Foxwoods or Wynn. But there will be a second casino there. Governor Rendell wants it - he lobbied heavily for casinos on the Philadelphia waterfront in the 1990's when he was the mayor of the city of Philadelphia - and he will agressively push now both behind the scenes and publicly to make sure that a second casino becomes a reality. Two casinos on the Philly waterfront will be the finishing touch to the same waterfront that Rendell remade when he was that city's mayor.

Rendell's term as governor is up in the Fall when he will have completed his statutory two-term limit. We think Rendell will get what he wants and the state will get what its coffers need.

Note: Ken Davison was a finance consultant to the city government of Philadelphia under the administration of then-mayor Ed Rendell. He worked at 1600 Arch.

Former Dealer At Mohegan Sun Sentenced To Two Months For Cheating

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article by Karen in The Day newspaper on the sentencing of a former Mohegan Sun dealer involved in a card cheating ring.

Former MS dealer to serve two months for cheating scheme
By Karen Florin
The Day
April 7, 2010

A U.S. District judge sentenced former Mohegan Sun table games dealer Jesus Rodriguez Wednesday to two months in federal prison and three years' supervised release for participating in a card cheating scam operated in Connecticut and throughout the country by the Sand Diego-based Tran Organization.

Judge Mark R. Kravitz also ordered Rodriguez and others involved to re-pay the casino $126,000.

The 40-year-old Groton man had admitted to being recruited by the organization, getting coached on performing “false shuffles” and helping the organization to steal more than $100,000 from the Uncasville casino in blackjack and baccarat games. He performed the false shuffle two or three times and was paid $2500 to $4,000 each time, according to a court document.

Through the scheme, a co-conspirator tracked the order of cards as they were legitimately played and then Rodriguez performed a false shuffle, creating a “slug” of un-shuffled cards. A co-conspirator tracked the cards until the slug reappeared in the deck as they were dealt, then signaled to other co-conspirators as to how to bet on the subsequent hands in order to cheat the casino.

More than 30 people nationwide have been charged in an investigation led by Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section (OCRS). The cheating schemes occurred at more than two dozen casinos in the United States and Canada.

Rodriguez had faced a lengthier sentence under federal guidelines. His attorney, Jeremiah Donovan, argued for a reduction, citing Rodriguez’s prior lack of a criminal record and his history as a hard-working, law-abiding citizen. Each false shuffle lasted about 10 seconds, Donovan noted, “so the length of Mr. Rodriguez’s overt activity in furtherance of the conspiracy was thus about 30 seconds.”

Rodriguez, who had worked at the casino since 2001, resigned in 2009 after hearing he would be indicted.

Mount Airy Casino And Two Other Pennsylvania Facilities Approved For Table Games

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Pennsylvania regulators approved table game applications for the Mount Airy Casino Resort and the Sands Casino Resort, which are the two closest competitors to the Mohegan Sun's Pocono Downs racetrack-slot parlor, in addition to the Hollywood Casino near Harrisburg.

A total of five facilities in Pennsylvania have received approval for table games thus far, including the Mohegan's Pocono Downs operation. These facilities will pay a one-time $16.5 million fee for the table game license and continually pay a 16 percent tax on table game revenues.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

UConn Women Win National Basketball Championship

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The University of Connecticut women's team won the NCAA national basketball championship last night by defeating Stanford by a score of 53-47. That win marked UConn's 78th consecutive winning game.

Ancient Indian Village In Rhode Island Pits Preservation Against Property Rights

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in the New York Times on Rhode Island's laudable efforts to halt development on an ancient Indian-occupied site in that state and the extent to which it is really pissing off the developer of that property.

Ancient Indian Village in Rhode Island Pits Preservation Against Property Rights
By Elizabeth Abbott
New York Times
April 6, 2010

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Long before this town existed, there were Indians of that name who lived, camped, hunted, fished and grew maize in the woods and fields along the shoreline.

Now, archaeological evidence of the Narragansetts’ early presence in Rhode Island has ignited a debate over private development on a site that some consider to be culturally and historically significant. The state maintains it has the regulatory authority to stop development on the site. The developer says this amounts to a taking of his land, for which he is constitutionally entitled to compensation, a claim the state denies.

At issue is a 25-acre parcel in Narragansett, a town of about 16,500 people that hugs the southern coast of Rhode Island. The parcel is part of a 67-acre tract on which the developer, Downing Salt Pond Partners, wants to build 53 single-family houses.

Downing has a permit from the state dating from 1992 that allows the subdivision. The state says the permit was conditioned on the developer’s agreeing to respect the site’s archaeological significance, which was established in a preliminary survey in the 1980s. The developer has owned the property, originally 100 acres, since 1985 and has built a shopping plaza and 26 single-family homes on it.

A 2006 survey in preparation for the new subdivision revealed what archaeologists consider the remains of a Narragansett Indian village dating from 1100 to 1300. In 2007, the state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission recommended that Rhode Island revoke the permit. The state says it has a right to protect its cultural and historic heritage and last summer issued a cease-and-desist order to stop bulldozing on the site.

The developer maintains it has sought clarification from the state about the status of the permit but could not get a response, prompting a lawsuit in federal court.

“This is part of our history,” said Edward F. Sanderson, the executive director of the historical commission. The agency has asked the Coastal Resources Management Council, which issued the permit, to conduct a public hearing on Downing’s request to continue work on the parcel, taking into consideration the site’s archaeological significance. That hearing is expected to take place within the next few weeks.

In the lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Providence in August, Downing claimed the measures the state had taken to prevent it from developing the subdivision had amounted to a “de facto” taking of the property.

The state is seeking to create a public archaeology park out of private land that Downing had already started to develop, not only violating the developer’s private property rights but also causing it considerable financial harm, the lawsuit states.

The federal court dismissed that complaint on March 19, saying that the case did not fall under federal jurisdiction. No decision has been made yet whether to appeal the decision, said William R. Landry, the lawyer for Downing, a limited partnership whose principal is Richard Baccari, a well-known developer in the state. Mr. Baccari declined to be interviewed.

“Our position is that the government can take land for parks and roads, but they have to pay for it,” Mr. Landry said. He said the property was worth at least $10 million, and while the state has discussed buying it as a means to preserve it, it has not made an offer.

The discovery of the Indian village has excited archaeologists because of the insights it may give into how Indians lived in pre-Columbian times. To find the remains of an entire village is rare, according to archaeologists; only one other village similar in scope and complexity has been found on the East Coast, in Virginia.

“The fact of the matter is most have been destroyed through the process of development over the last 200 to 300 years,” said Elizabeth S. Chilton, an archaeologist, who is the chairwoman of the anthropology department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of individual homes, but nothing that would reveal how Indians lived, worked and worshiped together in a community before Europeans arrived, she said.

Preliminary surveys of the Narragansett tract, known as RI 110, have revealed a village with perhaps as many 22 structures, as well as three known human burial sites. There is also evidence of granaries, ceremonial areas and storage pits that may shed new light on the importance of maize agriculture to woodland tribes like the Narragansetts, Ms. Chilton and others said.

“Each and every time a layer of history has been peeled back, more history has been revealed,” said John Brown, the historic preservation officer for the Narragansett Indian tribe.

The first phase of construction on Downing’s property, which took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, proceeded largely without controversy.

Not only did the developer obtain necessary permits, but it also complied with state requirements to conduct archaeological surveys of the site and confined construction to the eastern end of the parcel, which was considered less archaeologically risky.

Downing Salt Pond Partners’ suit did not dispute that the state has legitimate intellectual and cultural interest in the property, but it challenged the right of the state to take private land without payment, Mr. Landry said. The state has been unable to find the money to compensate Mr. Baccari, Mr. Sanderson of the historical commission said.

“There is no fund to acquire sites like this,” he added.

Legal questions aside, Ms. Chilton said, the real question was whether society valued heritage and knowledge as much as the rights of private property owners. In other countries, there is a more developed sense of stewardship of private lands for the benefit of the public, but that is not yet the case here, she said.

She and others said the Narragansett site represented a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn about life hundreds of years ago. If Downing were to prevail in this case, Mr. Sanderson said, “it would be a tremendous loss.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mashantucket Pequot Member Recently Nominated For Federal Gaming Commission Under Media Scrutiny

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an ABC News item on the politically-charged writings that some are attributing to Daniel Little, the Mashantucket Pequot member who was recently nominated to the powerful National Indian Gaming Commission. We hope that Little can overcome this obstacle to his nomination.

Did Obama Administration Appointee Slam Obama Online?
ABC News
April 1, 2010

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: In the comments section of media Websites, "djlndc" has cut quite a swath.

On a Washington Post blog, djlndc wrote last February, "the leftist media [are] covering for Obama -- just like during the campaign."

At last July, a commenter with the same handle sounded off on “the thieves in the White House and Congress stealing all the wealth from the producers and bankrupting this country for future generations.”

Last March, djlndc accused the “leftist editors” of the Las Vegas Sun of removing some of his postings: “They are a bunch of Democrats that love Obama and didn't report the truth during the election. Why would I think they would report the truth now? Everyone should thank Obama and the Sun editors for all the lost revenue Vegas has seen due to the lost convention business. Pathetic!”

The comments are rather typical for anyone who’s spent any time perusing reader commentary on blogs covering politics and government.

But there’s evidence to suggest that this is not your typical commenter.

Last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his intent to nominate Daniel J. Little for a seat on the three-person National Indian Gaming Commission. The post, which does not require Senate approval, has to be filled by a Republican because the other two slots on the commission are filled by Democrats.

Little is a Republican. He is manager of national governmental affairs for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe -- which runs the massive Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut -- and has been active in Washington circles of Indian gaming for years.

Little is also fond of the online handle “djlndc” -- his initials, “DJL,” followed by “n” -- as in “in” -- “DC.” Until recently, his Twitter account was @djlndc; it was taken down after Salazar announced he would nominate him for the commission post, but a cached version remained available online as recently as earlier this week.

Websites including,,,, and all have “djlndc” users registered, with profiles or comments that match at least portions of Little’s name or hometown.

Little did not respond to several requests for comment. A Department of Interior spokesperson said he would not be available to comment because his nomination is still pending.

But the Interior spokesperson, Kendra Barkoff, released this statement: “Mr. Little has no recollection of making these statements and does not believe that he did.”

Though Salazar announced his intent to nominate Little in the Federal Register on Feb. 25, he actually has not formally named him to the post, a three-year appointment with the quasi-independent regulatory agency that pays $145,700 per year.

Public input on the nomination was open until March 29, so Salazar is now free to make his selection formal. An Interior official said public comments are now being reviewed, and nomination papers have not yet been signed.

The Federal Register notice praises Little’s background in Indian affairs: “This experience has given Mr. Little a thorough knowledge of the laws and regulations governing Class II and Class III gaming and casinos. By virtue of his work on gaming issues and his extensive knowledge of relevant laws and regulations, Daniel J. Little is eminently qualified to serve as a member of the National Indian Gaming Commission,” Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes wrote.

It’s not clear how Salazar became aware of Little, and Interior official declined to comment on the selection process. Two veteran lobbyists on Indian affairs issues said the Obama administration asked lobbyists and others involved in Indian gaming in Washington for names of possible Republican picks for the commission, and that Little’s name came up in those discussions.

Phil Baker-Shenk, a partner in the Indian Law Practice Group at Holland & Knight, said Little’s professional background is roughly comparable to that of previous nominees for the post.

“He has a good reputation. I’m not surprised by it,” he said.

Steven Andrew Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota, said Little brings an “extensive resume” to the job. He noted, however, that most commission members in recent years have law degrees, while Little does not.

“What Little brings to the table is the practical experience that he has,” Light said. “He comes from a tribe where the experiences he had come at a high level.”

Flash: Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller Dies

Part 1 Of A Series: Fundraising Drive Contemplated For Mohegan Flag To Fly At Elders Fort Hill Property

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Drive by the Elder's housing complex on the Mohegan Reservation and you will not see our Mohegan flag flying. Our Mohegan flag has been missing for some two years, according to some estimates.

A United States flag is flying there 24 hours and is illuminated at night but not a Mohegan flag.

It has been said that a durable flag would cost about $500 which apparently is the obstacle to buying one.

Tribal members, think about the importance of our flag flying on that parcel of our Reservation and consider making a comittment of, say $10, toward the purchase of a flag if the situation is not rectified.

Two years is too long.

More On Regional Tribes' Attempts To Restore Their Languages

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a New York Times article on local tribes' attempts to restore their languages.

Indian Tribes Go in Search of Their Lost Languages
By Patricia Cohen
New York Times
April 5, 2010

As far as the records show, no one has spoken Shinnecock or Unkechaug, languages of Long Island’s Indian tribes, for nearly 200 years. Now Stony Brook University and two of the Indian nations are initiating a joint project to revive these extinct tongues, using old documents like a vocabulary list that Thomas Jefferson wrote during a visit in 1791.

The goal is language resuscitation and enlisting tribal members from this generation and the next to speak them, said representatives from the tribes and Stony Brook’s Southampton campus.

Chief Harry Wallace, the elected leader of the Unkechaug Nation, said that for tribal members, knowing the language is an integral part of understanding their own culture, past and present.

“When our children study their own language and culture, they perform better academically,” he said. “They have a core foundation to rely on.”

The Long Island effort is part of a wave of language reclamation projects undertaken by American Indians in recent years. For many tribes language is a cultural glue that holds a community together, linking generations and preserving a heritage and values. Bruce Cole, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsors language preservation programs, has called language “the DNA of a culture.”

The odds against success can be overwhelming, given the relatively small number of potential speakers and the difficulty in persuading a new generation to participate. There has been progress, though, said Leanne Hinton, professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, who created the Breath of Life program in California in 1992 to revive dormant languages in the state.

Representatives from at least 25 languages with no native speakers have participated in the group’s workshops so far, she said. Last month Ms. Hinton and a colleague at Yale received a federal grant to create a similar program based in Washington, D.C.

Of the more than 300 indigenous languages spoken in the United States, only 175 remain, according to the Indigenous Language Institute. This nonprofit group estimates that without restoration efforts, no more than 20 will still be spoken in 2050.

Some reclamation efforts have shown success. Daryl Baldwin started working to revive the dormant language of the Miami Nation in the Midwest (part of the Algonquian language family), and taught his own children to speak it fluently. He now directs the Myaamia Project at Miami University in Ohio, a joint effort between academics and the Miami tribe.

Farther east is Stephanie Fielding, a member of the Connecticut Mohegans and an adviser on the Stony Brook project. She has devoted her life to bringing her tribe’s language back to life and is compiling a dictionary and grammar book. In her eyes language provides a mental telescope into the world of her ancestors. She notes, for example, that in an English conversation, a statement is typically built with the first person — “I” — coming first. In the same statement in Mohegan, however, “you” always comes first, even when the speaker is the subject.

“This suggests a more communally minded culture,” she said.

Now in her 60s, Ms. Fielding knows firsthand just how tough it is to sustain a language effort over time, however. She said she was still not fluent.

“In order for a language to survive and resurrect,” she said, “it needs people talking it, and for people to talk it, there has to be a society that works on it.”

Chief Wallace of the Unkechaug in Long Island already has a willing student from a younger generation. Howard Treadwell, 24, graduated from Stony Brook in 2009 with a linguistics degree. He will participate in the Long Island effort while doing graduate work at the University of Arizona, where there is a specialized program researching American Indian languages.

Mr. Treadwell is one of 400 registered members of the tribe, which maintains a 52-acre reservation in Mastic, on the South Shore. The Shinnecocks have about 1,300 enrolled members and have a reservation adjacent to Southampton.

Robert D. Hoberman, the chairman of the linguistics department at Stony Book, is overseeing the academic side of the project. He is an expert in the creation of modern Hebrew, the great success story of language revival. Essentially unspoken for 2,000 years, Hebrew survived only in religious uses until early Zionists tried to update it — an undertaking adopted on a grand scale when the State of Israel was established.

For the American Indians on Long Island the task is particularly difficult because there are few records. But Shinnecock and Unkechaug are part of a family of eastern Algonquian languages. Some have both dictionaries and native speakers, Mr. Hoberman said, which the team can mine for missing words and phrases, and for grammatical structure.

The reclamation is a two-step process, the professor explained. “First we have to figure out what the language looked like,” using remembered prayers, greetings, sayings and word lists, like the one Jefferson created, he said. “Then we’ll look at languages that are much better documented, look at short word lists to see what the differences are and see what the equivalencies are, and we’ll use that to reconstruct what the Long Island languages probably were like.” The Massachusett language, for example, is well documented with dictionaries and Bible translations.

Jefferson’s Unkechaug word list was collected on June 13, 1791, when he visited Brookhaven, Long Island, with James Madison, later his successor in the White House. He wrote that even then, only three old women remained who could still speak the language fluently.

Chief Wallace said he had many more records, including religious documents, deeds and legal transactions, and possibly a tape of some tribal members speaking in the 1940s.

“When we have an idea of what the language should sound like, the vocabulary and the structure, we’ll then introduce it to people in the community,” Mr. Hoberman said.

While it may seem impossible to recreate the sound of a lost tongue, Mr. Hoberman said the process was not all that mysterious because the dictionaries were transliterated into English.

“Would someone from 200 years ago think we had a funny accent?” Mr. Hoberman asked. “Yes. Would they understand it? I hope so.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

Foxwoods Philadelphia Group's Request To Keep Finances Private Runs Into Public's Right To Know

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the status of the Foxwoods Philadelphia project and says that financial information (including that of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe) could be made public as early as Wednesday as the group seeks to potentially sell control of the project to Wynn Resorts.

Wynn deal privacy sought
Investors say proprietary information is at stake.
By Jennifer Lin
Inquirer Staff Writer
April 2, 2010

The Foxwoods Casino partners who are ceding control of the project to Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas do not want the finances and other conditions of the deal made public.
In a motion filed Thursday with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the original investor group - Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners (PEDP) - said it anticipated entering into a purchase agreement with Wynn/PEDP L.P., a newly formed affiliate of the Nevada gaming company run by Steve Wynn.

That agreement contains "confidential, proprietary information, as well as trade secrets related to the business activities and financial affairs of Wynn/PEDP," according to the motion.

It also said the agreement had credit, commercial, and financial information "which, if disclosed, would cause substantial harm to the competitive position" of the partnership.

Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the state gaming board, said the purchase agreement would remain confidential until the board takes up the matter. Its next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

On March 3, Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, told the gaming board about his company's plan to take over the faltering casino, to be built on Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia.

At the time, Wynn said the transaction would cost about $600 million, with Wynn Resorts most likely putting up $250 million and borrowing the rest. Of the cost, about $127 million is existing debt incurred in the acquisition of the waterfront property and a $50 million gaming license.

Under orders from the gaming board, the Foxwoods group had to submit "definitive financing" documents on Wednesday. Sketches of the proposed project are to be filed by April 26, with a public hearing scheduled for April 29.

"I don't see any good reason why the board or Wynn would want to deprive the public of information that I think is relevant to determining whether the new ownership structure is going to be suitable for this project," said Adam Cutler, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Cutler said that without details, it would be impossible to gauge the progress of the Wynn deal.

"It is relevant for the public to know whether they have a firm deal, not just a commitment or a memorandum of understanding," he said.

Maureen Garrity, a spokeswoman for Wynn Resorts, said that some details would be "made public as the process continues," but that the company wanted to keep "proprietary elements" confidential.

The original partners, who won a casino license in 2006, include the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut and 14 other investors.

Gary Armentrout, president of Foxwoods Development Co., the tribe's development arm, said he was not prepared to comment on the purchase agreement.

Under the original deal, a group representing the charitable interests of developer Ron Rubin, New Jersey entrepreneur Lewis Katz, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider had the largest stake in the Foxwoods project.

But Cutler said he wondered what will happen to that charitable component once Wynn Resorts takes over. The fact that 42 percent of the casino's profits were committed to charities in Philadelphia was "a major selling point" when the Foxwoods group was vying for a license, Cutler said.

"What is Steve Wynn going to do about that?" he asked. "We don't know."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shinnecock Indians Seek To Recover Language

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Sag Harbor Express on the Shinnecock Indians' attempt to revitalize their language.

Shinnecocks Learning an Old Language
By Marissa Maier
Sag Harbor Express
April 3, 2010

According to James Crew, developer of T.R.A.I.L.S., a software that teaches, restores and archives indigenous languages, Wickham Cuffee was the last Shinnecock Indian Nation member to fluently speak the native language. Cuffee passed away in 1925. But the Shinnecock language wasn’t buried along with him. Though it has lain dormant for many decades, now a team of eight Native Americans, mainly comprised of members of the Southampton-based Shinnecock and Mastic-based Unkechaug nations, hope to wake this sleeping language giant through the revitalization of the Northeastern dialect of Algonquin, the language of the Shinnecock’s ancestors.

On Tuesday afternoon, the committee, which formed in August under the auspices of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Enrichment Program, met in the basement of the Indian Education Program building on the reservation. The members swapped information about computer keyboards specially tailored to Native American languages and discussed the search for funding to host linguistic speakers at the Shinnecock reservation. For the past six months, this committee has vetted nearly every aspect of the emerging language education program — from the proper pronunciation of words to researching the best way to teach the Shinnecock language.

“These efforts have been many years in the making,” noted Josephine Smith, the cultural enrichment and language program coordinator. She pointed out that the committee’s efforts are piggybacking on a number of projects. Committee member Tina Tarrant added that in 1990, she and several others started a three-year project with grant monies. The group, she noted, combed through historical documents, hoping to help piece together the full Shinnecock language. Smith explains that though the Shinnecock language isn’t dead, it isn’t spoken with the same level of fluency as it once was.

“In 1876, [after 10 Shinnecock men died trying to save a stranded freighter, called the Circassian], there were all of these reports that that was the last of the Shinnecock,” remarked Smith. “That is like saying we aren’t here. We are still speaking the words and there is a degree of fluency. We know the colors or phrases. A number of us have learned words and teach those, like the words for ‘come here’ or ‘thank you.’”

Smith noted Algonquin words are used in the traditional Shinnecock songs, at special events and written into the program at the Shinnecocks’ famous pow wows. Many words have been incorporated into the English language, like moccasin and papoose, added Smith.

“Our language isn’t dead. As long as you know one word in your language it isn’t dead,” argued Smith. “This is about revitalization and maintaining the language.”

For Smith, and other members of the committee, language acquisition is vital to maintaining the Shinnecock culture. With the introduction of European settlers to the Southampton area in 1640, the fluency of the Shinnecock people in their native tongue has slowly eroded, said Smith. She added that English and the Christian religions of the settlers were imposed upon the indigenous tribe.

“English isn’t expressive of all things. For some reason the language has always been in our hearts. A lot of times people say, ‘I don’t know how to say [this emotion or concept],’ and this is because we aren’t speaking the language of our ancestors to express or describe something,” noted Smith. “Disconnecting people from their language is a way to disconnect them from their value system. Many people are seeing this and that is why there is a drive for language.”

According to a press release distributed by the Shinnecock, in August, 12 people from teenagers to tribal elders received four days of language training with T.R.A.I.L.S. The multimedia system trains students to become educators of an indigenous language on several learning levels. Committee member Deborah Arch said the phonetic nature of the program allowed her to retain more information. She has expanded her vocabulary of phrases and is working towards becoming a conversational speaker.

The committee members noted language acquisition and retention is often easier for children than adults. This is why the group is paying particular attention to teaching the native language to the youth in the community.

“The infants are the teachers of the future; and the future is bright for the native people,” said Crew. He recalled a recent story in which a Native American woman taught her daughter from infancy the language of her ancestors. The daughter became the first fluent speaker of the language since the 1700s.

On speaking the Shinnecock language, Smith’s daughter Cholena said, “If we could do that, we could think and do as they thought and did. Our people would be stronger and more unified for a better community.”

The committee hopes to kick-off formal language classes by the end of May; and in the meantime will start a series of fundraising initiatives to raise money for educational supplies, conferences and speakers. The Shinnecocks are also working with the Stony Brook University Southampton campus to create an Algonquin language institute, which would be the first of its kind in the country.

Although a fair amount of work is yet to be done, Smith believes it is worth the effort: “Language builds a better community.”

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mohegan Sun Buffets Offers 2-For-1 Deal On Mondays In April In "Mass Appeal" Campaign

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The Mohegan Sun's two buffets are offering a 2-for-1 deal every Monday during April if you arrive after 4 p.m. New additions to the buffet for April include lobster bisque, yankee pot roast, Boston cream pie and more.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Massachusetts Lawmaker Lays Out Details Of His Gambling Proposal

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Day newspaper on the Massachusetts House Speaker's gambling proposal for that state.

Massachusetts gaming bill could bring state hundreds of millions
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
April 2, 2010

House speaker unveils plan to allow two casinos and slots at racetracks

Boston - Mohegan Sun would have to pay an up-front licensing fee of $100 million and commit to a capital investment of at least $500 million more if it were chosen to develop a resort casino in Massachusetts, under a bill introduced Thursday by House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The state would also claim 25 percent of the casino's gaming revenues.

Casting the measure as a "jobs bill," DeLeo for the first time provided details of his plan to authorize two resort casinos and up to 750 slot machines at each of four existing racetracks in eastern Massachusetts. He said the legislation would create 15,000 to 18,000 permanent jobs and generate between $1.4 billion and $1.9 billion a year for the cash-strapped state.

Surrounded by fellow lawmakers, business leaders and union tradesmen at a State House press conference, DeLeo, a Democrat from Winthrop, said it was high time Massachusetts competed with neighboring states that have long since embraced casino-style gambling.

"Much of the revenue being gambled in other (New England) states comes from Massachusetts," he said. "I have an obligation to keep that revenue in Massachusetts. No longer can we afford to let that revenue escape."

Just this week, a UMass Dartmouth study reported that more than a third of Foxwoods Resort Casino's patrons are Massachusetts residents, as are nearly a fifth of Mohegan Sun's. Almost half of those who visit Twin River, the Lincoln, R.I., "racino," are Bay Staters.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, has been positioning itself for more than a year to vie for a gaming license in the event Massachusetts approves casinos. In 2008, it secured an option on a 152-acre site in Palmer, in the western part of the state.

While the authority originally intended to invest more than $1 billion in the project, it's believed economic conditions have forced it to scale back its plans.

"We applaud Speaker DeLeo for his efforts to move this initiative forward,'' Jeffrey Hartmann, the authority's chief operating officer, said in a statement issued after DeLeo's press conference. "This establishes a framework for gaming in Massachusetts and the creation of jobs and new revenues for western Massachusetts and the entire Commonwealth.

"We look forward to the opportunity to compete for a destination casino license, and to further demonstrate why Palmer is the premier site in Massachusetts."

Paul Burns, president of the Palmer Town Council, also registered support for DeLeo's bill, noting that unemployment has reached "historic highs" in towns near Palmer, ranging between 12 and 14 percent.

"Without a Western Mass Casino many of the gambling dollars that flow to Connecticut will continue to do so," Burns said in a statement. "A Palmer casino ensures that we capture as much revenue as possible, revenue that currently leaves Massachusetts and only enriches casino operators to our south, drawing jobs and opportunity away as well."

DeLeo introduced state Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, co-chairman of the legislature's Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, as the chief architect of the bill. Dempsey said lawmakers avoided specifying geographic zones for the two resort casinos, preferring "to let the gaming entities tell us where they should go."

In setting the licensing fees and levels of capital investment, lawmakers were careful not to "overreach," Dempsey said.

While developers who bid on the resort casino licenses would have to commit to the $100 million up-front fee and a capital investment of at least $500 million, each of the racetrack operators would have to pay $15 million up front and invest $75 million. The licensing fees alone would provide the state with $260 million.

Adding slot machines to the racetracks would save more than 600 jobs that are now in jeopardy and create additional ones, DeLeo said.

Following DeLeo's press conference, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, repeated his opposition to slots at the tracks but stopped short of saying he would veto DeLeo's bill if the legislature approves it.

The legislation also calls for the creation of a Massachusetts Gaming Commission that would have investigative and enforcement authority.

Mashantucket Pequot's Former Tribal Council Chairman Reels Gets Civil Rights Nod From Quinnipiac Student Group

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Former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Kenneth Reels was given the Thurgood Marshall Award by the Quinnipiac University’s Black Law Student Association.

Reels, currently the vice-chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Gaming Commission, received the award on March 25 for exemplifying "the values of quality and civil rights for which Marshall fought."

Reels is also on the board of directors of the Native American Bancorporation.