Friday, December 24, 2010

Feds Agree To Establishment Of Cowlitz Tribe's Modern-Day "Initial Reservation"

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The federal Department of the Interior agreed to take a 152-acre parcel of land into trust as reservation land for the Cowlitz Tribe in the State of Washington. The tribe plans to build a casino on the land with the backing of the Mohegan Tribe.

Casino opponents are likely to challenge the federal government's decision, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Carcieri v. Salazar case does not allow the feds to take land into trust for the Cowlitz Tribe because the Tribe was federally recognized in 2000.

In a February 24, 2009 Feather News article, we wrote, "The ruling may not affect the Cowlitz Tribe's ability to have land taken into trust for its initial reservation" while the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority noted in its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing following the 2009 court decision that "The Cowlitz Tribe did not receive federal recognition until 2000, so the tribe must establish that it was under federal jurisdiction in 1934 by separate means."

The next challenge will be to line up the financing for a casino. A $510 million casino was orignially planned but that figure could change based on the current economy and the inherent risk to investors and bankers of financing casinos on Indian lands.

The Feather News estimates that the Mohegan Tribe has invested at least $30 million in the project since a casino development and management agreement was made with the Cowlitz Tribe in September 2004.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 To End Without Congressional Approval To Fix Tribes' Ability To Add To Reservation Land

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Almost two years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can no longer increase the size of Indian reservations for tribes "not under federal jurisdiction" after 1934 and all congressional attempts to fix that court ruling by re-writing the law have failed.

The authority of the federal Department of the Interior to take land into trust as reservation land on behalf of tribes was turned on its head in 2009 when the State of Rhode Island argued that the 1934 law that authorized the federal government to take land into trust for tribes should only apply to tribes under federal jurisdiction as of the date that 1934 law was enacted. Since the Narragansett Tribe was not recognized by the federal government until 1983 and it was not shown that the Tribe was otherwise under federal jurisdiction before the 1934 law was enacted, the State of Rhode Island claimed the Secretary of Interior had no authority to add a parcel of land in Charlestown, R.I., to the Narragansett's reservation. The Supreme Court agreed.

Since the ruling in that case, Carcieri v. Salazar (Carcieri is the governor of Rhode Island and Salazar is the Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department), tribes have advocated a simple change to the law that would allow all federally recognized tribes to increase their land bases.

President Obama publicly supports such a 'fix' but Congress would not take up the amendment this week. Many in Congress are concerned that a simple 'fix' does not address what some legislators see as a troubling problem: tribes that seek to add land that is not close to their reservations for the purpose of building casinos in strategic locations. For that reason, a simple fix will likely not be so simple.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Photos: UConn Women's Basketball Team Sets National Winning Streak Record

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team set a new record for the longest college basketball winning streak after posting their 89th consecutive game last night. UConn surpassed the record of 88 consecutive wins set by the UCLA men's basketball team in the early 1970's. The UConn women, coached by Geno Auriemma, beat their 89 opponents by an average of 33 points per game.

The Mohegan Tribe's WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, draws a host of its players from former UConn teams.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Aaron Athey To MC At Rock, Rattle And Drum Powwow On New Year's Eve Weekend

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Aaron Athey (Mohegan) will be the Master of Ceremonies at the Rock, Rattle and Drum Powwow that begins on New Year's Eve in Albany, N.Y., and lasts through January 2.

"Come stomp, dance, sing and shake your 'tail feathers' as we honor and recognize the original people of this land by celebrating New Year’s Eve at an American Indian Pow Wow with family and friends," the poster reads.

The event will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Albany City Center, State and Lodge Streets, Albany, N.Y.

On New Years Eve, (that's Friday, December 31 for those of you who switched to the Mayan calendar) the doors open at 6 p.m. and the grand entry is at 8 p.m. On Saturday, January 1, the powwow will last from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. and the grand entry is at noon and 7 p.m. On Sunday, January 2, the powwow will be from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and the grand entry will be at 1 p.m.

In addition to dancing, drumming, arts and crafts, a special performace will feature Grammy & Nammy Award Winning Flute Player Joseph FireCrow.

For more information, contact Healing Winds at 413-443-2481 or
For special overnight rates for dancers, drum groups and vendors (and presumably anybody else who can pass themselves off as dancers, drum groups and vendors) call the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 518-427-3018. Use the Reservation Group Code: CPB at

Mashantucket's Circle Of Care To Sponsor Intertribal Youth Skating Party On Dec. 30 In Groton

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The Mashantucket Pequot's Circle of Care, which assists tribal youths and families in New London County to live healthier, is sponsoring an intertribal skating party on Thursday, Dec. 30 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Galaxy Roller Rink, 210 Bridge St., Groton, CT. Tribal youths living in New London County age 12-22 are invited. For more information, call 860-396-6248.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Spirit Lake Indian Social Saturday Dec 18 In Groton

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The Spirit Lake Foundation is holding a social on Saturday, Dec. 18, in Groton from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m.

The theme for the social is “Come Round Dance With Me” and will be held at at the City of Groton's City Municipal Building, 295 Meridian Street, Groton, CT.

Kenny Merrick says of the event: "Mr. Sheldon Sundown of the Seneca Nation will be the master of ceremonies for the evening. To all the children, Santa Claus will be there to take your Christmas list back to the North Pole and even take a picture with you. So tell mom and dad to bring you out for a fun evening. There will be Native American vendors from through out the New England area selling their arts and crafts, for the last minute Christmas shoppers. Dana Rondel, author of children’s books, novels, short stories, anthologies, essays and poetry. Will be signing and selling her new children book, The Sunflower and Rose, a hardcover with audio CD of music done by Kenny Merrick Jr. with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Spirit Lake Foundation. We hope you can bring the whole family out for a great night of Native American Round Dancing, Singing, Food, Fun and Intertribal culture. Hope to see you all there. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flash: ABC News Reports That PA.Gaming Board Revokes Foxwoods Philly Casino License

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ABC News just reported that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked the Foxwoods Philly group's casino license.

According to the media outlet, "The [state gaming] board seemed to focus on three reasons in questioning the investors today: They submitted incomplete documents on the deal going forward, they changed the way charities would benefit from casino profits and the project as designed today is notably different than the project approved in December 2006." The gaming board voted 6-1 for the license revocation.

In other news, shares of Wynn stock rose over 5 percent by early afternoon.


Editorial: Pennsylvania Should Allow A Re-Worked Foxwoods Philly Casino To Become A Reality

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Conrol Board has the opportunity today to assure that a second Philadelphia casino will soon become a reality. The gaming board will consider a petition to revoke the license awarded to Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners. The state's best bet is to go forward with the new plans presented by the group, which includes a gaming arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and some prominent Philadelphians who have given much to the community.

The casino group contends that an agreement with Harrah's, which changed their name to Caesar's in recent days, will secure the needed changes to make the casino a reality. What more assurances are needed? To delay a decision will be yet another uneccessary roadblock that could doom the project, partly because of new state gaming board appointments in the coming year.

What's the alternative? Revoke the license and tack on several more years until a second Philadelphia casino is built?

Not all of the misteps were made by the casino group. The state should lay the blame where it belongs. Philadelphia city officials threw as many roadblocks as they could in the path of the proposed casino investors in defiance of the state gaming board that awarded the license. In defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling too, if I remember the events correctly. These early stumbling blocks were done intentionally by city officials and, what's worse - maliciously, at a critical time for the casino investment group. At a time when the group could have gone forward with building the casino. Since then, the group fell on difficult economic times.

The investment group never guaranteed they could build a casino over an indefinite time period. The gaming board awarded the casino license based, in part, on its review of the casino group's finances at the time the license was issued. So the gaming board agreed then that the casino could have been built early in the process. But for the malicious tactics of city officials that strung out that process, to the point where it was no longer feasible, the casino would be open by now.

If a lack of good faith is to be laid at anyone's door, it belongs at the door of city hall, not at the casino investors' door.

I don't criticize the mayor's office lightly. I've walked through the city hall's doors many times, albeit under the administration of the previous mayor and current governor while I worked at the city government's former 1600 Arch Street office.

So why blame the casino investment group? Earlier this year, the group relied on what seemed to have been a deal in the making with Steve Wynn. It fell through. Stuff happens but the investment group has consistently acted in good faith throughout the ordeal. Perhaps the same cannot be said for other parties involved throughout the entire process.

The petition to revoke the group's license should be denied. Nobody loses. If it later becomes apparent that the casino group can't follow through, then another petition can always be submitted. But not denying the petition today will be a tremendous injustice not just to the casino group but to the charitable groups that will get a cut of the profits, and to the integrity of gaming board's licensing process.

Let Gov. Rendell check off one last item on his list before he steps down from office next month.

Mohegan Sun And Foxwoods Report A Decline Of About 4 Million Bucks In November Slots

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Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods reported yesterday that their November slot machine revenues, or the casino's win, fell by about $4 million at each casino compared to November 2009.

Mohegan Sun reported November slot machine revenue of $55.6 million, a decline of 6.7 percent compared to the same month last year, while Foxwoods reported slot revenue of $49.5 million, a decline of 7.8 percent. One year ago, in November 2009, Mohegan Sun posted $59.6 million in slot machine revenue while Foxwoods reported $53.7 million in that same month last year.

Over the past twelve months through November, Mohegan Sun's slot machine revenue is down 3.9 percent compared to the prior 12-month period. Foxwoods slot machine revenue has fallen by 5.3 percent in the most recent 12-month period compared to the prior 12 months. Over the three-month period of September through November, Mohegan Sun's slot revenue is down 5.6 percent while Foxwoods slot revenue is down 3 percent. Foxwoods redeemed about $7 million more than Mohegan Sun in slot machine "free play" promotions, given to attract customers to the casinos, over that three month period.

Both casinos redeemed more in slot machine free play promotions given out to customers this November than last year. Foxwoods has historically given out more free play to its customers on a monthly basis than Mohegan Sun and this November was no different. Foxwoods redeemed $5.5 million in free play during the month of November, about $1.2 million more than last November. Mohegan Sun redeemed $4.3 million in slot machine free play in November, about $800,000 more than November 2009.

Mohegan Sun's most profitable November monthly win at the slot machines was in 2006, when the casino recorded $73.3 million in revenue, about $18 million more than this past November's amount. Foxwoods' most profitable November at the slot machines was in November 2003, when the casino recorded almost $65 million in slot revenue, or about $15 million than the most recent November.

Foxwoods no longer overwhelmingly outguns the Mohegan Sun casino in the number of slot machines on its gaming floor. While Foxwoods had about 750 more slot machines than Mohegan Sun a year ago, Foxwoods reported only 200 more slot machines than did Mohegan Sun in figures reported yesterday to the state Division of Special Revenue. Foxwoods reported that 6,605 slot machines were in use during November and Mohegan Sun reported 6,405 machines.

Both casinos paid out to customers about 92 percent of the amount played at the slot machines (Mohegan Sun 91.96%, Foxwoods 91.82%).

Both casinos pay the state 25 percent of their net slot revenues to the state in addition to a fraction of their free play promotions. Combined, both casinos will pay the state about $27 million out of November's slot revenues.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feather News Stock Picks

Feather News

Since its inception, the Feather News has only overtly proclaimed one buy/sell recommendation on a stock. That stock was Empire Resorts. Last February we said in a Feather News article, "If you buy it, cash out fast because Empire is a dog based on its financial statements ...." On that day, Empire Resorts was $2.26 per share. Today, the share price is $1.01, less than half its value since the day we recommended to dump it.

For some this was, and for some still is, a play on the Catskills casino dream. Empire Resorts runs the Monticello Raceway in the Catskills. Kien Huat Realty III, LTD, became the company's largest shareholder last year and is not to be underestimated. A related company of Kien Huat, the Malaysians that financed Foxwoods, won the bid to build and operate a slot parlor and other amenities at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

We're not in the business of making stock picks but, just for the record, we withdraw any recommendation from earlier in the year. We're not saying that it won't go lower, we're just saying that we withdraw any suggestion on this stock.

No Empire Resorts stock has been purchased by an insider since last May. One director of Empire Resorts has been selling shares consistently since last Spring. While sales of a stock by an insider (a director or large shareholder) can mean anything, there's usually only one reason stock purchases are made - to make money.

It should be noted that over the period of the last 11 months, when Empire Resorts took a nosedive, other gaming companies skyrocketed.

So what stocks should we buy? There are plenty of good companies out there, some that pay better dividends than the interest rates you're getting at the bank and that also give you an upside potential on the stock price itself. Of course, there's always that downside potential too. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Foxwoods Lands Exclusive Advertising For Last Five Minutes Of Games At Madison Square Garden And MSG Televised Games

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Viewers watching the last five minutes of New York Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils games on the MSG network will soon see the Foxwoods logo on their television screen.

Inside Madison Square Garden, the Foxwoods name and logo will appear on the scoreboard for the last five minutes of Knicks and Ranger games. The name and logo will also be superimposed on the glass behind the goals during the last five minutes of hockey games.

The announcers will also mention Foxwoods during the five-minute sponsorship intervals.

The 'Final Five' sponsorship deal is the first deal of its kind for the Madison Square Garden sports conglomerate and was estimated to be worth a million bucks for, you guessed it, Five Years, according to an industry analyst who spoke to the New York Times. Five attempts to contact Brokenwing to confirm this amount were not successful.

Foxwoods inked a sponsorship last year with the WNBA New York Liberty team, which resulted in the placement of the Foxwoods logo on the players' jerseys. The Liberty advanced to the Western Conference finals last season.

Rob Victoria, Foxwoods' chief marketing officer, said that number of visitors from the New York area who visited the casino increased by three percent since the casino's sponsorship deal began with the Liberty.

The new MSG sponsorship deal is expected to be announced today by MSG and Foxwoods.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tribal Social To Be Held Sunday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

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This Sunday the Mohegan Tribe will host an intertribal social event at the Mohegan Sun Casino from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The social will include dancing, singing, giveaways, crafts, storytelling and refreshments. Guests are welcome to donate non-perishable food items that will be go to a local food bank.

The event will take place in the Mohegan Sun Casino's convention center. Call 1-860-862-6277 for directions. Invited drums only.

Mohegan Gaming Authority Credit Rating Slashed

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media series is an article in The Day newspaper yesterday on the downgrading of the Mohegan Gaming Authority's credit rating.

Mohegan Sun credit ratings lowered over financial woes
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
December 1, 2010

Moody's Investors Service downgraded its bond ratings Tuesday on the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and raised doubt about whether the authority can avoid a financial restructuring.

The agency lowered its corporate and probability-of-default ratings on the authority from "B3" to "Caa2," a designation reserved for high-risk debt.

The Moody's downgrade followed similar action last week by Standard & Poor's, another credit-rating agency, which lowered its rating on the authority from "B" to "CCC."

The gaming authority operates the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Leo Chupaska, the authority's chief financial officer, said the downgrades were not unexpected.

"We thought it would happen," he said. "Since we announced we're working with Blackstone (a major corporate advisory firm), there's been a lot of speculation about how we're going to deal with our (debt) maturities. Right now, we're in a refinancing mode. We haven't talked about restructuring. We really haven't said anything. We're still talking about refinancing."

In a refinancing, a debtor typically negotiates better loan terms, including extending maturity dates, while a restructuring often involves a creditor receiving less money than it is owed.

In a Nov. 12 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the authority announced that Blackstone Advisory Partners LP was providing help with "strategic planning and analysis in connection with its business and financial goals, including operational improvements, contemplated hotel projects and … bank and bond maturities."

Authority executives declined to elaborate on Blackstone's involvement during a Nov. 23 conference call with investors and gaming industry analysts.

During the call, Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the authority and of Mohegan Sun, announced that as of Jan. 1 he will turn over responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the casino to Jeffrey Hartmann, executive vice president and chief operating officer, who will succeed him as CEO of the casino. Etess said he will concentrate on developing new business opportunities as CEO of the authority.

MTGA executives also discussed the authority's financial results for the quarter and fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, reporting a net loss of $26.3 million for the quarter and a profit of $9.7 million for the fiscal year.

Standard & Poor's, which announced its ratings downgrade the day after the call, noted that the gaming authority also reported a 6.5 percent decline in adjusted EBITDA - earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization - for the fiscal year.

"We had previously cited our expectation that EBITDA would be relatively flat in fiscal 2010," Standard & Poor's said. The agency also placed the gaming authority on "CreditWatch" with negative implications.

"The ratings downgrade and CreditWatch listing reflect weaker-than-expected operating performance in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2010, in addition to substantial refinancing needs beginning in 2012, when MTGA's $675 million bank credit facility and $250 million senior subordinated notes mature," Melissa Long, a Standard & Poor's credit analyst, said in a statement.

Moody's lowered its rating on each of six layers of the authority's outstanding bonds. In announcing the downgrades late Tuesday afternoon, it said the authority could have trouble refinancing upcoming maturities "without some impairment to bondholders given its high leverage … limited near-term growth prospects for Mohegan Sun Casino, the likely continuation of weak consumer gaming demand trends in the Northeastern U.S., and the strong possibility of gaming in Massachusetts."

Moody's said its "negative ratings outlook" for the authority reflects the short time frame in which MTGA has to address "a significant capital structure issue." If the authority is unable to refinance by March 2011, its $675 million revolving bank loan will become due, Moody's said. The same holds true for the authority's $250 million senior subordinated notes if they are not refinanced by April 2011.

Moody's had placed the authority on review for a possible downgrade in September, after layoffs of hundreds of Mohegan Sun employees. Both rating agencies warned that they could lower their ratings further if the authority proceeds with a restructuring plan that results in bondholders being offered less than they are owed.

Mohegan Sun's neighboring competitor, Foxwoods Resort Casino, has been seeking to restructure more than $2 billion in debt for more than a year. It has defaulted on a $700 million revolving bank loan and a series of bond interest payments.

Casinos across the country have faced financial difficulties brought on by the recession, which has curtailed gamblers' spending and, consequently, casino revenues.