Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Tribes In The Media: Great Balls Of Fire

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The following Buffalo News article captures the state of affairs in upstate New York that is characerized largely by the pending tax collection on cigarettes sold on the Seneca reservation. The Senecas agreed Monday to stop paying the state its slice of casino revenues, court action will take place today in an attempt to halt the cigarette tax collections and attempts are being made to stem any violence when tax collection take effect Wednesday. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a suspicious attempt to derail a passenger train traveling over Seneca land last month.

State lawyers win another round in cigarette tax battle
Collections by state to start Wednesday unless tribes obtain injunction in federal Dan Herbeck
The Buffalo News
August 30 2010

The stakes are high, and the clock is ticking.

Lawyers for the Seneca Nation and other Indian tribes have one more day to convince a judge that the state's efforts to tax millions of dollars in Native American cigarette sales to non-Indians are illegal.

Lawyers for New York State won the latest round in the legal fight Monday. State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek lifted two injunctions previously issued by another judge, which had prevented the state from taxing any Native American cigarette sales.

With tax collections scheduled to begin Wednesday, the Seneca Nation and other Indian tribes will get another chance to fight the law in federal court tuethis afternoon.

They will ask U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to issue an injunction delaying the implementation of the new law, which could ignite some violent demonstrations by angry Senecas.

"For us, these are grave circumstances," said Robert Odawi Porter, a Seneca Nation lawyer and tribal presidential candidate who attended Monday's proceedings. "For the first time in decades, the state is making a real effort to put an embargo on our tobacco economy."

Meanwhile, Seneca tribal leaders voted Monday night to withhold future casino slot machine revenue payments to New York State, contending that the state has violated terms of its 2001 Gaming Compact with the nation.

"We have run out of patience. We are tired of the ongoing process of the state violating more of our treaty rights, our sovereign rights and the Gaming Compact," Tribal Council Co-Chairman J.C. Seneca said.

In a ruling issued late Monday afternoon on the cigarette issue, Siwek said she agreed with state lawyers who argued that the state acted legally in enacting a new tax-collection law earlier this year.

"I find that the state has met its burden," Siwek said, reading her order from the bench of her downtown Buffalo courtroom.

Lawyers for the Seneca Nation and two businessmen had argued against implementation of the law. Today they hope to have better success in Arcara's court.

The legal fight is held against a backdrop of deep concern over the possibility of violence by Senecas who feel that their livelihoods are being unfairly threatened by the state.

Some Seneca officials, as well as a number of state and federal law enforcement officials, have expressed concern about the possibility of violent and destructive protests if the law goes into effect as planned.

Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr. issued a statement saying tribal leaders met with federal, state and local law enforcement officials last week in hopes of maintaining the peace.

"Everyone's top goal is the public safety of our community and the surrounding communities," Snyder said. "There have been many statements made about the potential for violence tied to the tobacco tax situation, even by New York State's governor. As I have said several times, the Seneca Nation is committed to working through this in an orderly, peaceful process."

Porter said his worry is that some Senecas may disregard the advice of their leaders and engage in destructive protests.

"Our president is doing everything he can to prevent any kind of conflict and disruption, but he doesn't control every Seneca," Porter said. "The shocking thing is that Gov. [David A.] Paterson made a statement last week where he seemed to accept violence and death as a consequence of enforcing this state tax law."

Police told The Buffalo News they are concerned about the possibility of train derailments and forced closings of the Thruway on Seneca land if enforcement of the tax law is not delayed in state or federal court.

"I'm concerned about the violence. There could be people dying on both sides. That's how upset people are," said Sue Lindgren, a Seneca who attended Monday's legal arguments in Siwek's courtroom.

The FBI and the State Police already are investigating the attempted derailment July 5 of a passenger train carrying 354 people on Seneca land in the Town of Irving. The train was moving at 70 mph and took a mile to stop after crashing into railroad ties that were placed on the tracks.

Big money and high emotions are in play. Monday, Andrew D. Bing of the State Attorney General's Office estimated that the state could collect $110 million in cigarette taxes from Native American businesses in the first six months after the law takes effect.

Paterson has vowed to collect $4.35 in state taxes for each pack of cigarettes sold by Indian businesses to non-Native Americans. Traditionally, such sales have not been taxed.

Seneca leaders insist that the taxation would violate Indian treaties dating from 1794, but state lawyers dispute this.

Lawyers for the Senecas and other tribes tried to make their case before Arcara last week. The federal judge reserved judgment Friday but said he would reconsider the matter this week.

During Monday's arguments, a former federal magistrate judge, Carol E. Heckman, represented the Seneca Nation, and a former city judge, Margaret A. Murphy, represented two tobacco businesses that would be affected by the law. Bing argued the state's case.

In addition to the proceedings before Arcara, Murphy said she plans to appeal Siwek's ruling to the state appellate court.

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. confirmed that he and other law enforcement officials -- including representatives of the FBI and the State Police Ñ met with Snyder and other Seneca leaders last week.

"The Senecas told us that their goal is to keep the peace," Hochul said, "and that is our goal, too."

Meanwhile, what the state gains with one hand it might lose in another.

The Seneca vote to withhold future exclusivity payments -- a percentage of slot machine revenue from the Buffalo Creek, Seneca Allegany and Seneca Niagara casinos -- is a reaction to the cigarette tax plan and to continuing state efforts to move into the slot machine game, said Seneca, the Tribal Council co-chairman.

Seneca referred to the Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds, Batavia Downs Casino and Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack as examples of state breaches of the compact.

Seneca Gaming Corp. has paid the state $707.2 million in "slot fees" on its casinos, including $58.2 million in 2009 and $32 million this year through June.

"Timing is everything," Seneca said. "In regards to the gaming issue, we've been pretty outraged for a while now, as far as the way the state has expanded its gaming operations into casinos. The games being played there are mirroring what we do in our casino operations. We've been concerned and outraged about this for a long time and with the recent events, I think everything is coming to a head."

Buffalo News Staff Reporter Charlie Specht contributed to this report.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mohegans In Talks To Purchase Land In Massachusetts

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Paul Brody, the vice president of development for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, told The Republican media outlet last week that the Tribe is in discussions to purchase the 150-acre Palmer, MA., site that it is currently leasing.

According the casino bill that is now on hold in Massachusetts, gaming companies must own the land where they will propose to locate their casinos.

Two years ago, the Mohegan gaming authority entered into a 50-year lease on the site with Northeast Realty, with an option to extend it to 99 years.

"We're in conversations now with (Northeast's manager Leon Dragone) and his group about how we'll address it. It's clear we're going to have to own it. It's clear that unless there's a change of heart in Boston that the operator has to own the property," said Paul I. Brody told The Republican.

"We're too far into this," Brody said.

Should Massachusetts ever pass new gaming legislation, the Mohegans intend to propose a $600 million casino resort but that number could change.

A casino bill was expected to be approved in Massachusetts over the summer but got hung up over how many slot parlors should be included in the plan.

The Massachusetts Senate and House agreed on three casinos and two slot parlors but Governor Deval Patrick was not willing to agree to any more than one slot parlor to augment the three casinos. Gov. Patrick refused to sign the bill and asked the two legislative bodies to reconvene and change their proposed plan.

So far there has been no word on whether the Senate and House will take up the issue in a special session. If they do not reconvene then discussions on a revised gambling bill will have to wait until the new legislative session begins in January.

In the meantime, the two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah Wampanoag, are trying to figure out how they can open up casinos under federal Indian gaming laws.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fears Of Death Loom Over Collection Of Cigarette Tax On NY Indian Reservations This Week

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The New York Post ran a story yesterday entitled, "Tribal warfare looms over push for cig tax" and mainly quotes New York Governor David Paterson on a law that takes effect this Wednesday requiring the state to collect taxes on cigarettes that are sold on the Indian reservations in the state.

"This is a very dangerous situation," Gov. Paterson told WOR-AM radio station. "There is a, I think, high alert. The State Police tells us over and over again that there could be violence and death as a result of some of the measures we're taking."

The tribes say that they are not required by treaties to collect sales tax on behalf of the state and any attempt to collect taxes is an affrot to their sovereignty.

The Post says "Gov. Paterson is on the warpath" and says he is committed to collecting the taxes which, technically, are to be collected from the wholesalers except for limited amounts of cigarettes that will continue to remain tax-free for tribal members' personal use.

Some estimates suuggest that 1 in every 3 packs of cigarettes sold in the state of New York are sold on the Indian reservations. The reason for the new law is simple: the state wants the tax dollars to help offset budget shortfalls.

In 1997, when the state tried to collect the taxes, protesters shut down a section of the New York Thruway.

"There will be quite an uprising and protest to this, but I am going to maintain this policy," Gov. Paterson said.

New York City's Mayor Bloomberg said two weeks ago that Paterson should put on a cowboy hat and get a shotgun when they start to collect the taxes. Bloomberg said that would make a great video clip. Paterson responsed last week by saying some people "may just not understand how serious the situation is," and said he is hoping for a peaceful resolution.

"I love the mayor, but this is a very dangerous situation," Paterson said.

According to the Post, "Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser shrugged off Paterson's remarks, saying, 'The governor said the state will start collecting the taxes next week, and we think that's great.'"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pennsylvania Releases Table Game Revenue Figures For First Time

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Pennsylvania's state gaming regulatory body released their first table game report yesterday which shows revenue earned by the nine casinos in their first (partial) month of hosting table games.

The list below is in order of the casino with the highest table game revenues to the lowest. The number of table games at each casino are noted in parentheses after the casino's name. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs was at the bottom of the list, attributed to an "unlucky month" according to an official.

Note that these figures are before deducting the table game tax, which is 16 percent ($202,000 for Mohegan's Pocono Downs casino), and before deducting any casino expenses associated with operating the table games. In other words, these amounts are basically the amounts the customers lost to the casino playing table games.

The Rivers (85) 3,052,531
Parx (57) 2,328,599
Mount Airy (72) 2,028,827
Harrah's (99) 1,972,181
Meadows (62) 1,911,064
Penn National (50) 1,830,558
Sands Bethlehem (89) 1,655,357
Presque Isle (48) 1,499,569
Mohegan Sun (62) 1,260,653

Note: Mohegan Sun began its table games on July 13, 2010.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mashantucket Pequots To Hold Green Corn Festival Friday-Sunday At MGM Grand

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe will hold its Green Corn Powwow this weekend on the Grand Terrace of the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Admission is free.

The event begins on Friday when a sunrise ceremony will happen at 6 a.m. Traditional eastern woodland dances will take place on Friday at 11 a.m. A sculpture by Bruce La Fontaine will be dedicated at noon.

Grand entry will be on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. Dance competitions on these days will last until 9 p.m.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses Final Game Of Season To Foxwoods-sponsored New York 88-87

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost the season's last game to the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty by a score of 88-87.

The Sun (17-17) did not make the playoffs, which are set to begin this week. Wednesday's playoff games will feature Atlanta vs. Washington and Los Angeles vs. Seattle. Thursday's games are Indiana vs. New York and San Antonio vs. Phoenix.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mohegan Wigwam Festival This Weekend

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The Mohegan Tribe will hold its wigwam powwow event this weekend - on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Fort Shantok in Uncasville, CT. Admission is free to the public and grand entry is at noon on both days.

This year, the Mohegan Veterans will have an information booth for all veterans and their families to discuss veteran benefits and to collect and archive oral stories from veterans as part of Project Storykeeper. Veterans can stop by the booth or contact Bill Donehey at wdonehey@yahoo.com or (860) 861-6137.

To attend the wigwam festival, the public is asked to park at the Mohegan Sun Casino and take a bus from the casino's bus lobby or the Thamesview garage to Fort Shantok.

Iroqouis Confederacy Meets Before Upcoming September 1 Showdown With State Of New York

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A New York law that takes effect on September 1 will prohibit Indian tribes in New York from selling tax-free cigarettes to the public but the tribes vow not to take this lying down.

In what is called a historic meeting of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois - comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora and Seneca nations - the confederacy issued a statement reaffirming their ancient unity with the goal of defending their sovereign rights against the "foreign nation" of New York.

The leaders assert that the latest infringement on their sovereignty is the imposition of state taxes on cigarettes sold on the reservations and the public statement drafted Wednesday was meant to alert the state and tribal members of their position.

The Seneca Nation filed a suit against Governor Paterson, the acting tax commissioner and state police to stop the collection of state taxes.

The new law will require cigarette wholesalers to have tax stamps on cigarettes delivered to the reservation. In recent decades, the state has announced its intent to collect state taxes on cigarettes sold on the reservations but backed down from that threat.

The Seneca Nation council also authorized the tribe's president to file human rights and hate crimes complaints with local, state and international bodies against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his statement to New York Governor David Paterson on the September 1 deadline, "you know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun" to collect the cigarette taxes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Connecticut Sun Beats Tulsa 90-62

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat Tulsa on Tuesday by a score of 90-62 before a crowd 8,828 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun's next game will be at Chicago this Friday followed by their final game of the season on Sunday against the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty team which will be played at Madison Square Garden.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun team is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reminder: Services For Grant Fox To Be Held At Fort Shantok Tuesday, August 17 At 3:00

Flash: July Slot Revenue At Mohegan Sun Increases 1.8%, Foxwoods Increases 1.3%

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The Mohegan Sun posted a 1.8 percent jump in its July slot revenues compared to the same month last year, the first increase in about two years. Foxwoods slot revenues for July increased 1.3 percent.

Connecticut Sun Will Not Make Playoffs After Loss To Indiana 79-66 On Sunday

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team was eliminated from the WNBA playoffs after losing to Indiana on Sunday by a score of 79-66. Attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena was reported at 7,915. Sunday's loss resulted in the Sun falling below .500 with a season record of 15 wins and 16 losses in the tightly contested Eastern Conference.

Three games remain on the Sun's regular season schedule including one more home game against Tulsa on Tuesday followed by a trip to play Chicago. The final game will be away against the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty. New York (19-11) has clinched a spot in the playoffs.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. MTGA CEO Mitchell Etess could not be reached for comment.

Gaming Summits Post Increase, Next Summit At Mohegan Sun September 20-21

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The first New England Gaming Summit will be held at the Mohegan Sun on September 20-21. Speakers will include gambling officials, problem gambling officials and the managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities Andrew Zarnett - who may or may not gamble during his visit. Clyde Barrow, the director of the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass Dartmouth, is scheduled to attend but is not expected to discuss why he has the same name as the Clyde Barrow of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde team.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Connecticut Sun Wins Key Game Tonight Against Seattle 88-68

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat the WNBA's dominant team, Seattle, tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena by a score of 88-68. Attendance was reported at 9,197.

Tonight's win moves the Sun (15-15) closer to a possible spot in the playoffs but the team cannot afford to lose any of its remaining four games. The Sun remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two-and-a-half games behind fourth place Atlanta (18-13). Only the top four spots in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference will make the playoffs. The Sun's last regular season game is on Sunday, August 22 against the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty who have beaten the Sun in their last three matches.

The Sun's next game is Sunday against Eastern Conference leader Indiana at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Sunday's game begins at 5 p.m.

Indiana (20-10) is the only team in the Eastern Conference that has so far clinched a playoff spot. In second place is the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty (18-11), followed by third place Washington (18-12). In the Western Conference, only Seattle and Phoenix have clinched playoff spots.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun team is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New York City's First Slot Parlor Could Open In 6 Months

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More competition for Connecticut's two Indian casinos is coming down the pike with plans to open within six months the first phase of what will be a 4,500-VLT slot machine parlor at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y., according to Genting New York, the winning franchise bidder.

The selection for an operator of a slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack began earlier this decade and had four separate rounds of bidding, with other winning bidders thrown out, but this time its looking like the slot parlor will become a reality.

Genting received the final approval yesterday from New York's Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of three state officials who must agree to Genting's selection by the state Lottery Commission. Genting has already paid the state $380 million as an up-front fee, more than the $300 million fee required, and is expecting to ink a memorandum of understanding on the terms soon.

Genting announced that they could install all 4,500 video lottery terminal slot machines within one year. Genting is a subsidiary of the Malaysian outfit that financed Foxwoods' in the nineties and is wielding G. Michael "Mickey" Brown, the casino executive who along with former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman Skip Hayward became legends over the meteoric rise of what was then the largest casino in the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

National Parks Free This Weekend

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The U.S. National Park Service will be waiving fees at more than 100 national parks on August 14-15. For more information check the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov.

Gary Baker Passes On; Services At Fort Shantok Thursday 11 a.m.

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Gary Baker, 53, died unexpectedly Monday morning at his home.

Family and friends are invited to a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cummings-Gagne Funeral Home, 82 Cliff St., Norwich. The funeral will assemble at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the funeral home and proceed to an 11 a.m. burial at Fort Shantok.

Our condolences go out to the family.

Connecticut Sun Playoff Chances Dim After Tuesday Loss To Washington 84-74

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The Connecticut Sun's chances to make the playoffs got slimmer after Tuesday night's loss to Washington by a score of 84-74.

Five games remain in the regular season and the Sun (14-15) are now three full games behind fourth place Washington (17-12) in the Eastern Conference. Only the top four spots in the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference will go to the playoffs. There are six teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

Out of the Sun's remaining five games the team has winning records against two of the five teams. The Sun won two of its three games played this season against Eastern Conference leader Indiana (19-10) and its only game played against Tulsa. Three of the remaining games are against teams that the Sun have a losing record: The Sun lost its only game played against the WNBA's most dominant team and Western Conference leader Seattle (25-4), lost 2 of the 3 games it has played against Chicago and lost 3 of the 4 games it has played against Foxwoods-sponsored New York.

At least the Sun will have home court advantage for three of the next five games, beginning with its game against Seattle this Friday the 13th.

Since the Feather News' last posting on the Connecticut Sun - made last week - the team lost its game against Seattle by a score of 83-82 (last Thursday) and beat Washington on Sunday by a score of 76-67.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mohegans Agree To Sell Waterfront Property In Stonington For $2.8 Million According To The Day

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The Day newspaper reported today that the Mohegan Tribe has agreed to sell three buildings and a dock at 70-72 Water Street to the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Sailing Foundation for $2.8 million. The Foundation said it will embark on a capital campaign in an attempt to raise the money for the purchase.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Photo: Grant Morgan Fox

Reminder: Services At Shantok Tomorrow For Olive Coderre-Picozzi

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Relatives and friends are invited to attend Olive Coderre-Picozzi's burial at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, in Fort Shantok Park. Wear regalia if you can.

Connecticut Sun Loses To Minnesota 111-103

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost on Tuesday to Minnesota in overtime by a score of 111-103, bringing the Sun's season record to 13 wins and 13 losses.

The Sun remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sun's next game is at Seattle on Thursday before returning to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday to play Washington at 5 p.m.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Massachusetts House Speaker Doubtful Over Gambling Bill This Year

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Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said today that he is "doubtful" a gambling bill will be approved this year, an act that would require the state legislature to reconvene in a special session to either pass an amendment acceptable to the governor or to get two-thirds of the legislators to vote to overide the governor's veto.

Deleo blames Governor Deval Patrick for an unwillingess to compromise and Gov. Patrick blames Deleo and the legislature for passing a gambling bill that allows no-bid slot parlors at two of the state's racetracks. Gov. Patrick said yesterday that he would sign a gambling bill if it slot parlors at the racetracks was removed.

In a meeting with Boston Globe reporters Deleo said, "I like to keep out hope, but at this point, I can't say I'm optimistic."

The state Senate and House approved a bill on Saturday - the last day of their two-year legislative session - that calls for three resort casinos and slot parlors at two of the state's racetracks but the governor refused to sign the bill into law.

The longer the dispute over new gambling legislation lingers the better the chance that an Indian casino could be the first casino to open in Massachusetts. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe - the two federally recognized tribes located within the borders of Massachusetts could build casinos under federal Indian law even if the state doesn't legalize casino gambling. But the tribes would need to overcome various hurdles.

One hurdle common to both tribes is last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision that seemingly prevents, under most circumstances, the U.S. Interior Department from taking land into trust as reservation land. The court decision would be a non-factor if the tribes just started building casinos on their existing reservations now. Other legal hurdles would spring up, especially for the Aquinnahs, but it Indian casinos in Massachusetts in the near future is a possibilty.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe To Challenge Union Vote Conducted Outside Tribal Labor Law

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe announced today that it will challenge a vote conducted on Saturday in which beverage servers voted 190-145 to affiliate with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. According to the Tribe, the election should have been conducted under tribal labor law and not tribal labor law as was mandated by the National Labor Relations Board.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Editorial: Follow Up On Local Coverage Of Mohegan's Earnings Report - Part II

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All of the local newspapers wrote an article for their websites the day the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued its earnings report last Thursday. We previously reported on those website articles.

One day after the earnings report these newspapers published new articles. The Norwich Bulletin's article on the earnings report failed to mention the earnings (net income or profit) just as they did on their website article the day the earnings report was issued.

The Day updated its website article entitled, "Mohegans report rough quarter as profits plunge" the day of the earnings release by taking out some figures related to the Tribe's Pennsylvania facility (but not noted as Pa. figures in the article) and, according to the paper, "Editor's note: This version corrects total handle for the quarter was $2.33 billion."

The day after the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued its third quarter earnings report, the Hartford Courant reported that "the Mohegans are trying to refinance about $775 million debt that comes due in 2012," becoming the first newspaper in Connecticut to report on that debt deadline.

Reporting on the finances of the Mohegan gaming arm without mentioning that approximately $800 million debt deadline is like reporting on the finances of Foxwoods these days without mentioning their $700 million debt deadlines.

To put the Mohegan gaming arm's financial picture into even more perspective, one year after the approximately $800 million comes due there is a bond package borrowed in 2001 in the amount of $250 million that needs to be paid. That's about a billion dollars and the interest rates on what will have to be refinancings will probably be at least double the rate they are now paying. The Feather News believes that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will pay at least $50 million more than they are now paying annually in interest expense and that is just on these two borrowings.

The Day's article the day after the earnings release didn't mention the debt deadlines. The headline is, "Casino marks 'disappointing' quarter; Mohegan Sun's declining profits cast shadow over tribal members' payments." The reporter assumes that if the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reduces its distributions to the Tribal government that payments to tribal members will be threatened, which is not necessarily the case. The article is interesting and gives some good detail on the earnings report. The big picture, of course, is simply not there.

Below are the Hartford Courant and The Day articles in their entirety:

Mohegan Sun Has Cut Workforce By 1,000 Since Early '09
By Eric Gershon
The Hartford Courant
July 29, 2010

The owners of Mohegan Sun casino have eliminated about 1,000 jobs since early 2009, mostly at the flagship operation in Connecticut, executives disclosed Thursday during a conference call about dismal third-quarter earnings.

It's widely known that employment is down at Mohegan Sun and its neighbor and chief competitior, Foxwoods Resort Casino. But while Foxwoods has made headlines with layoffs, labor union fights and a huge debt default, Mohegan Sun has quietly reduced staff — almost entirely through attrition.

The job cuts, which leave Mohegan Sun's Connecticut workforce at about 7,700, underscore that the recent recession has taken a significant toll on the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which, along with Foxwoods had been a growth engine before the downturn. At its peak three years ago, Mohegan Sun had about 10,000 employees in the state.

On Thursday, the tribal authority reported an eye-popping 51 percent decline in third-quarter profits, citing weak consumer spending on gambling, price pressure on non-gambling entertainment and better luck for table games players.

Net income for the quarter ended June 30 fell to $11.6 million compared with $22.9 million a year earlier, on a revenue decline of six percent, to $354 million, the authority said. Financial results include the tribe's flagship casino in Uncasville as well the tribe's Pennsylvania casino in the Poconos.

Total gambling revenues fell 5 percent, to $321 million. Within that category, table games revenues fell 11 percent, to $71 million. Non-gaming revenues fell 9 percent, to $61 million.

"We are certainly disappointed with our results for the quarter," Mohegan Sun chief executive Mitchell Etess said.

Meanwhile, the Mohegans are trying to refinance about $775 million debt that comes due in 2012. The tribe has $1.64 billion in total debt. Chief financial officer Leo M. Chupaska said the refinancing could happen by the end of the year. At the same time, the Mohegans are trying to raise capital for a new hotel in Connecticut, having suspended construction of a 922-room hotel tower in September 2008 after pouring the foundation.

At Mohegan's Connecticut casino, operating income fell 17 percent, to $45 million, on a net revenue decline of 7 percent, to $288 million. At Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs, which introduced table games on July 13, operating income fell 30 percent, to $3.6 million.

Casino marks 'disappointing' quarter
Mohegan Sun's declining profits cast shadow over tribal members' payments
By Lee Howard
The Day
July 30, 2010

An increasingly competitive gaming environment put the crunch on profits last quarter at the Mohegan Sun casino and likely will reduce payments to tribal members in the next fiscal year, officials said Thursday.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported Thursday that profits plunged by more than half in the third quarter of its fiscal year compared with the same period last year. Profits for the latest quarter amounted to $11.6 million for the months of April, May and June, said the gaming authority. This compares to profits of about $20 million in the previous reporting period and $23 million in the third quarter of last year.

Another common way of measuring casino performance - earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization - showed a 13.6 percent decrease in the quarter compared with the previous year.

Most of the numbers reflect activity at Mohegan Sun, but the gaming authority also operates a casino at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

"The quarter was disappointing," Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the gaming authority and Mohegan Sun, said in a conference call Thursday. In a later interview, he added: "It really is a lack of consumer confidence and a change in people's spending habits."

The gaming authority reported that it had distributed $48.7 million to the Mohegan Indian Tribe during the first three quarters of its fiscal year - a $2.1 million increase from the same time last year - and that another $10 million payment would be forthcoming in the final quarter.

But Leo Chupaska, chief financial officer of the gaming authority, said next year's payments to the tribe - still not finalized - will likely not reach the $59 million expected this year. "I think I can safely say it will be less than the current year," he said in a conference call.

Lynn Malerba, chief of the Mohegans, defended the tribe's expenditures, saying tribal government has reduced its budget over the past few years by about 30 percent and has not raised payments to individual tribal members since the year 2000. The tribe traditionally has kept members' distribution amounts private, but Malerba asserted in the conference call that "it's a fraction of what the Mashantucket Pequot (tribe) has distributed to their tribal members."

The Mashantuckets, who reportedly have been paying tribal members $90,000 to $120,000 a year, changed their distribution policy earlier this month, apparently responding to pressure from financial backers, according to analysts. The Mashantuckets as of December will discontinue payments to members as they try to dig out of about $2 billion in debt, much of which was amassed in its MGM Grand expansion two years ago.

Malerba said the Mohegan tribe is trying to think long term and be fiscally responsible in keeping down payments to tribal members, which she said would not increase.

"We think we have been extremely judicious in that number and in managing that number," she said.

An expected reduction in payments from the gaming authority to the tribe comes as Mohegan Sun faces both a down economy and the possibility of increasing competition on several fronts, including Massachusetts, which has been embroiled for months in a casino debate.

The Sun said it had increased its share of the slot market in Connecticut from 52.5 percent in third quarter of last year to 54.1 percent in the same period this year. At the same time, Etess said the net slot revenue in the most recent period was the lowest Mohegan Sun had recorded in the third quarter since 2002.

"That tells me the market is not strong," he said.

Etess, who had hoped a stabilizing market last quarter would translate into an upswing in Connecticut's casino industry sometime this year, said profits have been hit particularly hard because of higher marketing and promotional expenses. Mohegan Sun had to match free-play giveaways and other special promotions forced by similar perks offered by Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Atlantic City market, he said.

"You have to market harder to get less revenue," he said.

Etess said it is reviewing options for reducing expenses but plans no layoffs.

The gaming authority also noted that Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., only 70 miles away from Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, opened in May 2009, so this was the first quarter reflecting the year-over-year differences resulting from increased competition in that market.

The authority said gaming revenues totaled $321.1 million for the quarter, a decline of 4.9 percent from a year ago. Total Mohegan Sun revenues for the quarter were $286.8 million, down 6.6 percent.

Revenues from table games showed the biggest losses, with an 11.2 percent decline, on a total take of $70.6 million. Slot revenues were down only 3 percent, to $246.2 million, and nongaming revenues hit $61.1 million, off 8.7 percent.

The gaming authority said fewer headliner shows held at the Mohegan Sun Arena reduced costs during the quarter, helping offset lost revenue in other areas.

One area of weakness last quarter was in what is known as "table hold," the percentage of money bet that remains with the casino. Last quarter, the table hold was 14.5 percent, which Etess said is a cyclical downside beyond the casino's control and which translated into a nearly $10 million loss in revenues from the same period last year.

Some people, he said, think the gaming authority's results "weren't so horrible" when considering the effect of lower table hold.

Total handle for the quarter was $2.33 billion, just a fraction off from the same period last year.

The gaming authority said its outstanding debt totaled $1.67 billion at the end of the last quarter, just a hair over what it had been a year earlier.

Massachusetts Governor Wants Legislators To Return To Work For Amended Gambling Bill

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said today that he will only sign a gambling bill that allows resort casinos and not a bill that permits slot parlors at racetracks without competitive bidding. Patrick said "he is not going to be a party to no-bid contracts."

Should Patrick follow through on his threat, which is expected to take place later today, that would mean both the Senate and House would need to reconvene to pass an amendment to their bill approved Saturday which calls for three resort casinos and slot parlors at two of the state's racetracks.

House Speaker Robert Deleo said last week that he would not take out racetrack slot parlors from the bill and Senate President Therese Murray last week that she would not call the Senate back into session. Both would need to reverse their positions gambling legislation to pass unless both houses can overide a veto by the governor which is possible in the House but doubtful in the Senate.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 115-36 yesterday followed by the Senate's vote of 25-15 in the afternoon of the last day of its two-year legislative session.

The legislation passed on Saturday, the last day of the two-year legislative session, calls for three casinos - one resort casino in eastern, southeastern and western Massachusetts and all three competitively bid - while also providing for 1,000-1,250 slot machines at two racetracks. Each of the casino licenses would be sold for $85 million while the racetrack slot parlor licenses would go for $20-25 million each.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses To New York 71-67

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to the Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty on Sunday by a score of 71-67.

The Sun (13-12) remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a full game behind fourth place New York and four games behind first place Atlanta. The top four teams in each conference will make the playoffs. Nine games remain on the Sun's regular season schedule, beginning with the Sun's next game at Minnesota on Tuesday.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Photo: Olive Coderre-Picozzi

Services At Shantok For Olive Coderre-Picozzi On Wednesday

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Olive "Holly" May (Harris) Coderre-Picozzi, 98, "passed over to a new and brighter life" on July 29, surrounded by her loving family.

Olive, also known as Evening Star, was the oldest Mohegan and was a respected Nonner of the Tribe.

An except of her obituary is as follows: "In the 1960s, she served on the board of directors when the Mohegan Tribe was seeking to gain federal recognition. Olive took great delight in participating in all tribal functions and activities. She especially loved singing the "Rock-a-Bye Baby" song when she helped with storytelling. To dance at Wigwams, socials, and the Mohegan Sun pre-firework entertainment filled her heart with joy. Each week she looked forward to visiting her friends at the Seasons Buffet and partaking in a delicious meal there. She also enjoyed sitting in the planetarium at the Mohegan Sun where she could gaze at the stars. She simply enjoyed laughing and being with other people. Olive had a beautiful singing voice and was very happy to share this gift with others. She was surely the life of any party. On a few occasions, she sang at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret with her dear friend, Tony Orlando. She and Tony received a long standing ovation when they sang "Danny Boy" together."

Her funeral will be held at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday from the R.A. Iannotti Funeral Home, 415 Washington St., Coventry, R.I., with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in Our Lady of Czenstochowa Church, Coventry, R.I. Visiting hours are from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the funeral home.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend Olive's burial at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, in Fort Shantok Park, Fort Shantok Road, Uncasville, where she often enjoyed going to visit, to walk, and to sing and dance. Wear regalia if you can.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Pass Gambling Bill

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The Massachusetts Senate and House voted on Saturday to approve a gambling bill that would result in three resort casinos and slot machines at two of the state's racetracks.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 115-36 yesterday followed by the Senate's vote of 25-15 in the afternoon of the last day of its two-year legislative session.

The legislation calls for three casinos - one resort casino in eastern, southeastern and western Massachusetts and all three competitively bid - while also providing for 1,000-1,250 slot machines at two racetracks. Each of the casino licenses would be sold for $85 million while the racetrack slot parlor licenses would go for $20-25 million each.

Everyone is now looking for what Governor Deval Patrick will do. Patrick's signature on the bill is required for it to become law. Patrick issued a statement on Friday that he was disappointed with the bill because it calls for slot machines at more than one racetrack.

If Patrick vetoes the bill, the legislature could reconvene to try to overide his veto or to pass amendments that would change bill enough for Patrick to sign it.

Foxwoods Beverage Servers Vote 190-145 For Union Representation

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Foxwoods beverage servers voted yesterday by an unofficial margin of 190-145 to affiliate with Local 371 of the United Foods and Commercial Workers Union. Yesterday's vote came after the National Labor Relations Board mandated that the election be conducted under federal labor law and not tribal labor law.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, owners of Foxwoods, may further challenge the right of the NLRB's supervision of a union election on the reservation using federal labor law.

The 391 bar servers, bartenders and bar porters were eligible to vote in the election. The president Local 371 of the UFCW, Brian Petronella, said the group would organize under tribal law as did the United Auto Workers which represents table game dealers at Foxwoods.

The Tribe issued a statement that said, in part, "It is the policy of the United States to encourage and support tribal self-government. Mashantucket Pequot laws provide a fair process for employees to select union representation and pursue collective-bargaining if they so desire. We continue to believe that tribal law should apply in these matters and will continue to pursue that challenge through all appropriate legal channels."