Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mohegan Tribe Loses Aqueduct VLT Slot Parlor Bid

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New York Governor David Paterson announced yesterday that Aqueduct Entertainment Group was chosen over five other bidders to build and operate a 4,500 VLT slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetracks in Queens, N.Y.

The selection of AEG is the second time a bidder has been selected for the Aqueduct project. In 2008, Delaware North, who runs Saratoga won the bid but backed out of the deal last year which necessitated a new round of bidding that culminated with yesterday´s selection.

The Mohegan Tribe, through entities, participated in both rounds of bidding. In the first round, the Tribe teamed up with Australian racing executives to form Capital Play.

New York Racing Association runs the racing at state-owned racetracks, including Aqueduct. NYRA president Charles Hayward said in 2008 that Capital Play was the only group he did not want to get the gaming contract.

In the latest round of bidding, the Mohegans were the only group that proposed only to manage an Aqueduct slot parlor and not build it.

New York first approved video lottery terminals, which look like slot machines, at Aqueduct Racetrack in 2001 but delays have since ensured that they were never installed.

The state will apply a sliding scale tax rate of between 60 and 70 percent on revenue generated by the VLT slot machines.

Much could change before an Aqueduct VLT slot parlor is opened. AEG could have difficulties in meeting the contract terms similar to what happened last year when the winning bidder from the first round, Delaware North, was unable to pony up a $370 million up-front payment last year and triggered a new search.

The size of the project could also expand, including the number of VLT slot machines. Last September, Gaming Insider quoted a source saying, "There’s a lot of room for imagination and power politics to roam at Aqueduct, considering the complex has nearly 200 acres.¨

Foxwoods Dealers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ratify Labor Contract

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Dealers at Foxwoods overwhelmingly approved a union labor contract yesterday by a vote of 1,053 to 355, the first agreement of its kind worked out under tribal labor law instead of federal labor law.

The agreement marks a milestone in negotiations between Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers union and the Mashantucket Pequot nation.

Foxwoods officials said the agreement gives management the operational flexibility and cost controls necessary to remain competitive in the current economic climate. The contracts will give dealers an average 6 percent annual increase this year and in 2011, creates a 24-table smoke-free pit and will standardize seniority and tip distribution throughout the casino complex. Foxwoods should see savings in its employee benefit costs and stability in a favorable ¨no strike¨ clause in the contract.

Since an expansion at Foxwoods, called MGM Grand at Foxwoods, opened in May 2007, different tip and seniority policies were applied to the new section. The new contract commingles all tips for distribution to dealers which is a change from the current practice of sharing the tips at MGM Grand with only the dealers at the MGM Grand. The wage increase is based on a dealers base pay, which Foxwoods says is $5.90 per hour.

Dealers get paid more in tips than in wages. The 360 dealers at the MGM Grand section receive about $21 per hour in tips, which is roughly 50 percent more than the tips paid out to other 2,200 dealers throughout Foxwoods. The new contract would eliminate that disparity.

Out of the approximately 2,500 dealers at Foxwoods, over 1,000 did not take part in yesterday´s vote. The outcome of the vote mean that all dealers at Foxwoods will be paying union dues.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mohegan´s Pocono Downs Set To Hire 500 Employees, Vice-Prez Of Table Games Appointed

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Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs issued a press release yesterday outlining its plans to hire an additional 500 employees as a result of this month´s legalization of table games at Pennsylvania slot parlors.

The Tribe´s slot parlor anticipates offering table games by the summer and will start training prospective dealers in about two weeks. About 300 of the 500 new jobs are slated to be in the table games department, according to public statements, and would bring the Pocono Downs total workforce to just over 1,500.

The slot parlor also announced that its new vice president of table games will be Jeff Walker, a day one employee at Mohegan Sun with casino experience in Atlantic City.

Landmark Union Vote Today For Foxwoods Dealers

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Foxwoods casino dealers will vote today on whether to accept the terms of a labor contract worked out by Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers union and Foxwoods casino management.

According to published reports since the deal was announced three days ago, the labor contract would increase dealer wages by an average of 6 percent each year for the next two years. The contract would also make more uniform the seniority and tip distribution policies between dealers at Foxwoods and dealers at the MGM Grand section at Foxwoods that opened in 2008. Less than 15 percent of the 2,500 total dealers at Foxwoods work at the MGM Grand section at Foxwoods.

The labor contract is the result of arbitration talks that began last summer over an impasse reached between the parties.

Should the contract be approved by the dealers, then it would be the first of its kind in the nation negotiated under a tribal government labor laws.

Mashpee Wampanoag Indians Look At Fall River As Possible Massachusetts Casino Site

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in today´s issue of Cape Cod Online about the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians recent casino discussions with the city of Fall River, Ma., as an alternative to the previously proposed Middleboro location.

Tribe eyes Fall River
By George Brennan
Cape Cod Online
January 29, 2010

FALL RIVER — Representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe are hedging their bets that this financially strapped city will be a more welcoming home for a future casino, a move that may jilt residents of the rural town that the tribe has promised to pay millions.

Tribal leaders and Fall River officials met recently to talk about the possibility of relocating the tribe's proposed gambling venture, Mayor William Flanagan said yesterday.

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Ongoing coverage City leaders are looking at gaming as a way to ease a 16-percent unemployment rate and inject new life into the former textile giant. The tribe, on the other hand, which already has a deal in place with the town of Middleboro, may be looking to back off from its promised $250 million in infrastructure improvements.

"Right now, the city of Fall River has the second highest unemployment rate in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," Flanagan said. "So a gaming facility would put people to work of all skills levels and all education levels."

This is not Fall River's first foray into the expanded gambling debate. In 1997, the House overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to build a casino in the city. The Martha's Vineyard-based tribe also made a failed attempt to build a $25-million high-stakes bingo hall. In recent years, Fall River has been mentioned repeatedly as a possible location for a commercial casino.

"It has to be a measured response as to the enthusiasm," said Fernando Garcia, treasurer of the board of directors for the Fall River Office of Economic Development, citing the near-misses of the past.

A casino could be a real boon, as long as it's only a part of the city's economic development plans, he said. State lawmakers are poised to consider expanded gambling within a couple of months.

The Mashpee tribe does have a Fall River site in mind, Garcia said, but he and the mayor declined to identify the location.

Tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell yesterday said the tribe met with Fall River officials on non-gaming issues and there are no plans in place to jump ship on the Middleboro deal.

"Our focus is Middleboro," Cromwell said. "That's where we have an agreement."

Since the 2007 deal was inked, the tribe has elected new leaders and found new investors to back its casino project.

A Fall River casino would put the Mashpee Wampanoag in direct competition with Twin River, a Lincoln, R.I., slot parlor run by their initial investors, Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman. The tribe remains in negotiations to sever ties with the South African casino moguls.

In November, the tribe announced a new partnership with Kien Huat Realty, a subsidiary of the Malaysian casino giant, Genting Group. That group backed Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut.

But earlier last year, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling threw a wrench in the Mashpee tribe's plans. The court decided that the secretary of the Interior cannot take reservation land into federal trust for tribes recognized after 1934. The Mashpee were recognized in 2007.

The deal with Middleboro is contingent on the land being taken into federal trust and the high court's decision puts that arrangement in peril, said Adam Bond, a former Middleboro selectman who helped negotiate the contract. If the Supreme Court ruling stands, it may qualify as an "impossibility of performance" and give the tribe leverage to walk away from the deal, Bond said.

It's leverage that Bond has been urging selectmen to use for months to sweeten the town's deal with the tribe. One of the areas the board could have targeted is easing the $250 million infrastructure improvements, he said. "The tribe has done all its negotiating with everyone else," Bond said. "The board of selectmen has done no negotiating."

But Dennis Whittlesey, the Washington-based attorney who specializes in Indian gaming law and was hired by Middleboro to craft the deal, said the pact is still binding, despite the court decision.

"The town does have a valid and enforceable agreement with the tribe," Whittlesey said yesterday. "If the tribe chooses to go somewhere else, then the town would have to consider its options under the agreement."

Middleboro town leaders did not return requests for comment yesterday.

"All of their assurances of being partners to the town are ringing pretty hollow right now," said Mark Belanger, a Middleboro resident and staunch casino critic.

What Belanger calls a rushed agreement between the town and the tribe set off years of bickering between pro- and anti-casino factions.

The tribe was federally recognized in February 2007 and, in July 2007, Middleboro voters approved a deal that would bring the town $7 million a year plus the revenue from a 4-percent hotel room tax. The tribe also promised to pay pre-planning costs — $750,000 of which have already been paid — and help the town boost its public safety services.

But in a second non-binding question, Middleboro town meeting voters said they didn't want a casino at all.

Flanagan, the Fall River mayor, said he believes there will be more support for a casino in his city. He said Fall River has shown favor in the past through ballot questions.

"What we have here in Fall River is we're located near all the major highways, we're a waterfront community, we have people who want to go to work, who are looking for work," Flanagan said. "The city of Fall River is on the cusp of really taking off right now."

Sarasota Indian Festival Starts Today

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The Sarasota Indian Festival begins today and lasts through Sunday on the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Sarasota, Florida. Hours are Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) Saturday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seneca Indians Capture Mohegan Sun Executive

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Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs vice-president of marketing, Jim Wise, has been hired by Seneca Gaming Corporation as senior vice-president of marketing, leading the marketing strategy for the three Seneca Indian casinos in New York.

Wise, a gaming industry veteran, was the public voice for the Tribe´s slot parlor in Pennsylvania since its opening in 2006 along with CEO Bobby Soper.

Candidate For R.I. Governor Vows To Back Full--Fledged Casinos In State If Massachusetts Gets Casinos

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Former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said earlier this week that he will run for governor and that he supports turning the state´s two slot parlors into full-fledged casinos with table games should Massachusetts open casinos.

Chafee left the Republican party after he lost a Senate re-election bid in 2007. Chafee´s father, a former governor and also a former U.S. Senator, is known in Indian Country for authoring an amendment to a 1995 federal spending bill that would prohibit the Narragansett Indian Tribe from operating a casino on their tribal land.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 WNBA All-Star Game To Be Played At Mohegan Sun Arena

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The Women´s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is planning to announce later today the location for this year´s WNBA All-Star game which, according to published reports, will take place at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The WNBA all-star game was played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in 2005 and 2009.

Note - Subsequent to this article, it was announced that the WNBA All-Star game will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 10 and will feature the best of the WNBA versus the USA Basketball Women´s National Team that is coached by UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe And UAW Union Reach Historic Labor Deal Under Tribal Law

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Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers union announced yesterday that they reached a tentative labor agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe´s Foxwoods casino for its approximately 2,500 table game dealers.

The landmark deal, when sealed, could avoid what many thought would be an eventual showdown between federal labor law and the Tribe´s right to impose its own labor law on its reservation.

The agreement would, among other things, give the dealers a 12 percent pay increase over two years and a hike in their pay on commingled dealer tips, or tokes.

The union membership has scheduled a ratification vote on the agreement for January 29 at Foxwoods casino.

Brian Hallenback of The Day newspaper reports on the agreement in the following installment of The Tribes In The Media.

Good deal for union workers at Foxwoods
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
January 27, 2010

Mashantucket — Fourteen months after negotiations began, the union for some 2,500 table-games dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods have reached tentative agreement on a historic first-ever contract with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns the casinos.

Members of UAW at Foxwoods - Local 2121 - will vote Friday to ratify the two-year deal that affords them an average wage increase of 12 percent; a more equitable distribution of tips; extended medical leave; a segregated, smoke-free gaming area; greater job security and new procedures for resolving disputes with management. Voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Foxwoods.

The union announced the agreement Tuesday afternoon, calling it a "historic first union contract with Foxwoods" and the first in the country negotiated under tribal law.

"This is a great victory for us," Denise Gladue, a baccarat dealer who's been working at Foxwoods for 15 years, said in the union's statement. "This preserves our basic benefits during a tough economy, provides job security and contract improvements in so many areas. We see this agreement as a win-win for employees and for the future success of the casino."

Contract negotiations began Nov. 25, 2008, soon after the tribe agreed to certify the UAW as the exclusive bargaining unit for Foxwoods dealers. At the time, the sides agreed to negotiate under tribal rather than federal law, ending a yearlong legal dispute. Tribal law prohibits strikes by workers and lockouts by the employer and provides for an arbitration process to settle issues the parties cannot resolve themselves.

"Negotiations began when the union agreed that tribal law would apply rather than the National Labor Relations Act," the tribe said in a statement Tuesday night. "This is the first union contract to acknowledge tribal jurisdiction, which was the basis on which both parties expended extraordinary efforts to reach an agreement."

According to union sources, the contract negotiations had entered an arbitration phase in August over management's refusal to recognize the UAW as the bargaining representative for dealers at MGM Grand, who, sources said, benefited from a more lucrative "toke," or tip, pool than their Foxwoods Resort Casino counterparts.

MGM Grand opened in May 2008, six months after the dealers voted to affiliate with the UAW.

The agreement announced Tuesday covers some 2,200 dealers and so-called "dual-rates" - dealers who at times perform a supervisory function - at Foxwoods as well as about 360 dealers and dual-rates at MGM Grand. The toke pools at the two casinos will be merged, providing for a more fair distribution of tips, the union said.

Foxwoods dealers average about $35,000 a year in wages and tips, with tips accounting for as much as two-thirds of the total, according to the union. Many of the dealers are minorities, including Asian, Haitian and Latino immigrants, the union said.

The contract calls for a 12 percent wage increase over two years and an immediate toke-rate hike of $1.32 an hour. Last year, the Foxwoods toke rate was $14.14 an hour. The current base pay rate for dealers is $5.90 an hour.

Other key provisions of the agreement address health and safety issues, creating "an industry model," the union said. The contract would extend the length of medical leave for seriously ill workers from six months to a year and provide for the establishment of a 24-table "smoke-free pit" separated from other gaming areas for the benefit of dealers susceptible to secondhand smoke. Under the agreement, the tribe and the union would work together on air-testing protocols and ventilation systems. Such steps go beyond those the state called for in an agreement the tribe reached last year with Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the union said.

The dealers also secured job-protection language requiring that layoffs be based on seniority. Opportunities for advancement from "flexible" to part-time to full-time status would be improved. Under a new dispute-resolution procedure, unresolved employee grievances would be settled by a third-party arbitrator.

While new hires will be bound by an appearance policy that prohibits long hair and facial hair, current dealers would not be required to cut their hair or remove facial hair, the union said. Union dues, which will be assessed when the contract takes effect, will be capped at $34 a month.

The UAW said it also represents gaming employees at four casinos in Atlantic City and three in Detroit.

Foxwoods And House Of Blues Team Up Says Globe

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The Boston Globe is reporting today that Foxwoods will become a multi-year, prime sponsor of the House of Blues´ 2,500-seat concert venue across from Fenway Park in Boston.

As a ¨presenting sponsor¨ under the agreement with Live Nation, Foxwoods´logo will be displayed internally throughout the facility and on a turnpike billboard. An announcement by Foxwoods is expected this week, according to the Boston Globe.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will Florida Be The Next East Coast Gambling Mecca?

By Ken Davison
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Some Florida lawmakers are expected to discuss their vision of turning Florida into the next gambling mecca if no deal is reached with the Seminole Indian Tribe in the coming weeks.

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is painting a picture for the Florida legislators that envisions a $3 billion casino resort, providing thousands of jobs and attracting a customer base of nationals and Latin Americans. It would have to be located in South Florida. Tampa Bay or Orlando, he said. And no further than 20 minutes from an international airport.

Adelson owns that casino of his vision but that is only an example of what one of up to seven mega-casino resorts built around the state could look like under a plan that Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is contemplating.

Alternatives to the Seminole gaming compact, such as mega-casinos, will be the topic of a House hearing, said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who heads the Select Committee on Indian Compact Review and who wants the federal government to shut down the blackjack games offered at some of the Seminole Indian casinos.

A Florida House panel voted unanimously about a week ago to reject the gaming compact negotiated last summer between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Indian Tribe. Without a compact, the Tribe can offer gambling games that are already legal in the state.

Slot machines were approved by voters for pari-mutuels in Broward County in 2005 and later in Miami-Dade County in 2008. Pari-mutuels are betting systems commonly used in horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai where the the total paid out is based on the total amount bet less a percentage kept by the house.

The fifth South Florida pari-mutuel since 2006 to offer slot machines ,Calder Race Course & Casino in Broward County, opened last Friday with 1,200 machines.

Blackjack is not legal in Florida but the Seminoles began dealing blackjack at three of its casinos after a compact was reached with the governor.

The Seminoles claim that since some pari-mutuels are offering a computerized, virtual blackjack game, with a monitor that shows the image of a dealer tossing cards at the players seated around the monitor, then they should be allowed to offer live blackjack at their Indian casinos. The National Indian Gaming Commission is investigating the complaint and is expected to issue a decision.

Pari-mutuels have felt the burden of the state´s 50 percent tax but that could be reduced soon to 35 percent.

The Seminole Tribe in Florida opened its bingo hall in 1979 followed by casinos and, in 2006, the Tribe bought the Hard Rock hotel and restaurant chain.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mohegan Sun And Foxwoods About Even On Free Slot Play Promotions For 1st Quarter

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Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun offered about $11 million each in free slot play to select customers during the three months of October through December.

Foxwoods first began offering free slot play in September 2006 and the Mohegan Sun followed suit in November 2007.

The trend of Foxwoods giving its customers more free play than Mohegan Sun has come to an end, at least for now. Mohegan Sun had more free play redeemed at slot machines than Foxwoods for two of the the three months of October through December even though the two casinos ended up spending about $11 million each for the three months.

Foxwoods has significantly reduced its free play when compared to the same three months in 2008. In that 2008 period, Foxwoods had $16 million in free play while the Mohegan Sun recorded $5 million in free play.

Mohegan Sun reported total slot revenue of $180 million during October through December while Foxwoods reported $153 million over these three months.

A Foxwoods Philadelphia Story

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the Mashantucket Pequot´s lobbying activities that resulted in a key extension to build a casino in Philadelphia, Pa.

How Foxwoods got a leg up
Time was not on the casino's side. Access to heavy hitters was.
By Jennifer Lin, Mario F. Cattabiani, and Amy Worden
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 24, 2010

Autumn was make-or-break time for the Foxwoods Casino in Philadelphia.

Opposition in neighborhoods and City Hall had stalled the project. Lenders had grown wary as casinos elsewhere struggled. State regulators set a final deadline: Foxwoods had to open by May 2011, or lose its license.

Foxwoods needed help in Harrisburg.

So its lawyer and lobbyist, Stephen A. Cozen, turned to an old friend whose campaigns he had generously supported: Gov. Rendell.

Then Cozen called on legislative leaders - Democrats Todd Eachus and Dwight Evans in the House, Republican Dominic Pileggi in the Senate. It was as if someone had drawn Cozen a map. Indeed, someone had.

"I advised him to talk to everyone in leadership, on both sides of the aisle," Rendell remembered.

By December, a 42-word sentence appeared on Page 55 of the 230-page bill to legalize poker and other table games at Pennsylvania casinos.

It said the state Gaming Control Board could extend a casino's license for "36 months . . . or December 31, 2012."

Those words spelled hope for Foxwoods' future.

Who put them in the bill?

The answer isn't simple or clear. It's behind the scenes, in the tortuous, often murky process of building a major piece of legislation - the "melting pot of ideas," as a Senate aide said.

But the idea of giving Foxwoods more time did not rise from the grass roots; it drifted down from the top. Casino foes learned of it too late to get it undone.

When General Assembly leaders met behind closed doors to work out a final version of the table-games bill, they kept the sentence in.

The story behind those words shows how, even in an era of greater government transparency and right-to-know laws, a well-connected private interest successfully pressed its cause in Harrisburg in ways invisible to the public.

Invisible, as well, to many of the public's representatives. Rep. Michael Vereb (R., Montgomery), who is on the House Gaming Oversight Committee, said Foxwoods lobbyists hadn't buttonholed rank-and-file legislators in Capitol hallways. They didn't have to.

"This," Vereb said, "was done in leaders' offices."


Critical meeting

By the time Cozen arrived at Rendell's satellite office in Philadelphia, on the 11th floor of the Bellevue in Center City, the governor was focusing on table games.

The budget impasse had ended after 101 days, but the final piece - the table-games bill, with its promise of hundreds of millions in state revenue - was not yet in place.

Cozen needed no introduction that day. He said he and Rendell went back 35 years - "when he was D.A., when he was mayor, and when he became the governor."

Since 2000, records show, Cozen has given $143,029 to Rendell's campaigns. The political action committee at the law firm Cozen founded, Cozen O'Connor, gave an additional $66,204. In September, Rendell's son, Jesse, 29, joined the 550-lawyer firm.

The governor bristled at the suggestion that he's too close to Cozen or other big donors. "If you are going to go with that conspiracy theory," Rendell said, "Cozen was a big contributor, so it didn't take Jesse to have 'suck' with me."

The main local partners in Foxwoods are charitable trusts for the families of New Jersey Nets part-owner Lewis Katz, developer Ron Rubin, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. Rendell is friends with all three. In 1999, he called Katz his "single biggest" political fund-raiser.

Cozen said Katz, Rubin, and Snider would have no comment except through him.

At the Bellevue, Cozen made his pitch: Without an extension, Foxwoods would have to put up a temporary structure, spending as much as $40 million for the sole purpose of beating the gaming board's 2011 deadline.

That wouldn't be good for anyone, Cozen said, including any potential new investors. Rendell, in a separate interview, remembered Cozen's dropping a big Las Vegas name - Steve Wynn. Cozen said he didn't remember saying that name to Rendell.

"I explained the situation to him," Cozen said, "and he said he would think about it, and he understood."

Rendell said that he believed Katz, too, had spoken with him once about a Foxwoods extension, and that his response had been essentially the same as what he told Cozen.

The governor handed Cozen off to his point man in the table-games negotiations - his chief of staff, Steve Crawford.

The governor's aide and the Foxwoods lawyer "discussed what kind of extension would be acceptable," Cozen said. Crawford confirmed this, describing his role as "minimal."

Cozen said Crawford had asked him for wording: "What kind of language did I think would do the job? . . . I think I gave him a couple of sentences that could be added to any new gaming bill."

The lawyer told Crawford that his first choice was an automatic extension until Dec. 31, 2012, without requiring the gaming board's say-so. "It's easier to sell to investors," Cozen said.

He said Crawford, too, had advised him not to stop there but to talk it through with legislative leaders.

Cozen started making calls.


Professor Cozen

Cozen began lobbying for Foxwoods on Oct. 30, according to records he filed with the state. He said his role had been less a lobbyist and more an "educator."

"I was giving them the information and explaining to them why this makes sense for the state and the city."

He went to leaders of the Senate's GOP majority and its minority Democrats. In the city, where Foxwoods faced the stiffest opposition, Cozen called Evans, Appropriations chairman in the Democratic-ruled House.

Evans, in turn, sent him to Sens. Shirley Kitchen and Anthony Williams, both Philadelphia Democrats.

"I didn't get any promises," Cozen said, "but I did get, 'I understand,' 'It makes sense,' 'Let's see what we can do.' "

In the suburbs, Cozen called Rep. Michael Gerber (D., Montgomery), who runs the House Democrats' campaign fund. Cozen said this call was his idea. Rendell and Gerber, family friends for years, said it was Rendell's.

In any event, the call set the stage for Cozen to make another pitch.

As Gerber remembered it, Cozen said extra time would help Foxwoods recruit "an international gaming operation" - the better to build a bigger casino that would generate more jobs and tax revenue.

Cozen said Gerber had suggested he talk to the House majority leader, Eachus (D., Luzerne). Later, Gerber began checking in with negotiators about the Foxwoods extension - not to lobby, Gerber said, but just to get progress reports.

It wasn't his top priority, Gerber said, but "I believed the extension made sense, and tried to stay informed about it."


'A good idea'

By November, the pressure on the negotiators was intense. Rendell was holding hostage hundreds of millions in funding for state-supported universities until the table-games bill, with its promise of fresh revenue, was on his desk. Pennsylvania State, Lincoln, and Temple Universities and the University of Pittsburgh were pleading for their money.

In the midst of that public fray, the negotiators were hearing privately from Foxwoods people.

"The folks at Foxwoods contacted anybody they could think of who had a role in developing this legislation to push for whatever they could get," said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Pileggi (R., Delaware), the Senate majority leader.

Michael Schwoyer, a lawyer for the House Democrats and a specialist on gaming law, said Foxwoods had shopped several drafts to see what would fly with negotiators.

The answer was an extension to Dec. 31, 2012, he said. But negotiators took pains to leave it up to the gaming board. Foxwoods would get its extension only if the board found "good cause" to grant one.

"As long as the board had discretion, it wasn't something we particularly cared about one way or another," Arneson said.

Along the way, Rendell offered his views of the Foxwoods extension - gently, by his account: "When I was asked by legislators if it was a good idea, I said yes."

Schwoyer ran the wording past Evans' aides and Senate negotiators. No one objected.

"No one person carried the water on this," Arneson said. "The question was asked in negotiations, 'Does anyone have a problem with this?' And no one did."

Negotiators inserted the paragraph and moved on.


'Oh, my God'

Late on Friday, Nov. 13, Rep. Michael O'Brien, a Democrat whose district is near Foxwoods' South Philadelphia site, was back from two days of hearings on blight in Pittsburgh. He asked his chief aide, Mary Isaacson, to "stick your nose in the Capitol to see if anything's going down."

Isaacson checked an internal network that posts drafts of bills and amendments. "Oh, my God," she said.

She called O'Brien to say a new draft of an "omnibus amendment" included wording for Foxwoods.

There had been talk of a Foxwoods extension, but this was the first time legislators outside the bubble of negotiations were seeing it in print.

O'Brien opposed Foxwoods' latest site, just 400 feet from some of his constituents' homes. He said Foxwoods investors should face the music and lose their license if they couldn't open on time.

Casino foes learned of the Foxwoods wording from a newspaper article. Mary O. Reinhart, a retired park ranger who lives across from the site, e-mailed her legislators to say she was "appalled." She said in an interview, "We're pawns."

At Casino-Free Philadelphia's urging, 137 people e-mailed legislators to ask who inserted the wording. "Those questions were ignored," said Paul Boni, the group's lawyer.

The omnibus amendment replaced 186 amendments that rank-and-file House members with concerns ranging from fire-hall raffles to property-tax relief had batted around in weeks of floor debate.

O'Brien felt betrayed. The debate had been "an open and transparent process," he said. "Then late on a Friday night, it's bam!"


Standing in the rain

On Dec. 2, four legislators, including O'Brien and Sen. Larry Farnese, a South Philadelphia Democrat, stood in the rain at the casino site to protest its new lease on life. "The time is right for the gaming board to get us out of business with Foxwoods," Farnese declared.

An anxious Cozen phoned the House majority leader.

Eachus said Cozen had voiced concern about rising resistance from local lawmakers. (In a recent interview, Eachus defended the bill, saying casinos unbuilt meant state revenue uncollected. "It's a balance-sheet issue.")

He assured Cozen the Foxwoods language would stay.

A few days later, Farnese got a chance to question Foxwoods' people - albeit behind closed doors. Kitchen, who heads the city's Senate delegation, set up a meeting in the Capitol to air questions from legislators in districts most affected by the project.

"The state is losing revenue on a yearly basis from your not being in a position to build. And you want an extension?" Farnese said he had told F. Warren Jacoby, a Foxwoods lawyer and Cozen partner. "This sounds like a bad deal all the way around."

But by then, the deal was as good as done.

On Dec. 14, a last-minute bid by several Philadelphia legislators to pry open the omnibus amendment and vote on scrapping the Foxwoods wording fell short.

Cozen was still anxious. "I bit my nails up until the end," he said.

On Jan. 6, the bill got its final vote, passing the House, 103-89. The next day, Rendell signed it without a ceremony, noting "misgivings" about some parts of the bill.

Indeed, the "melting pot of ideas," as Arneson had described it, had come to look more like the marketplace in Casablanca. Investor groups had wrestled over access to casino licenses. Someone added words exempting Foxwoods and the SugarHouse Casino, being built on the Northern Liberties-Fishtown border, from Philadelphia's indoor-smoking ban. Legislators earmarked slices of gaming revenue for pet projects.

As the governor put it, the bill was laden with pork when it reached his desk. "That's not a good way to run a railroad," Rendell said.

He did not mention the Foxwoods extension language.

Cozen said the final wording was "nothing like" what he had first suggested to Rendell's aide, Crawford.

Nonetheless, Cozen said, "I was very pleased with it."


'A fair hearing'

Time and again, Republicans and anti-casino forces have wagged a finger at what Rep. Curt Schroder (R., Chester), top Republican on the House Gaming Oversight Committee, calls "a cozy relationship between the governor and the web of gaming interests."

Rendell rejected such suggestions, saying even his biggest donors get no governmental favors from him. "Having 'suck' with me doesn't mean I will do stuff for you," he said.

"It means that I go to bar mitzvahs and to weddings and I stop by tables and say hello. I am the best at it. . . . That's what I do for contributors. I make them feel like a big deal. And I also give them a fair hearing."

Rendell said he favored giving Foxwoods time because casino revenue helps the state balance its books and offer property-tax relief. He said that was why "I want Foxwoods up and running as fast as possible."

"I don't do things for contributors," Rendell repeated. "I do them because they are the right things to do."

Who was most responsible for the Foxwoods language in the bill? "Cozen," the governor replied. "He did a great job. He is a great lawyer."

Mohegan Sun Arena Goes To Pennsylvania

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The Luzerne County Convention Center Authority voted on November 11 to extend the naming rights to a 10,000-seat concert hall near the Mohegan´s Pennsylvania casino for $2,375,000 over the ten-year contract period. The ten-year old arena, which previously bore the Wachovia name, will be known as the Mohegan Sun Arena. Total costs associated with the name change, including signage and advertising, was reported to be $184,000 in Pennsylvania´s Citizen´s Voice newspaper.

http://citizensvoice.com/news/business/mohegan-sun-arena-at-casey-plaza-becomes-official-1.565199

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mohegan Tribal Court Dismisses Petitioning Rights Case

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Tribal members learned more about their petitioning rights in a decision handed down by the Mohegan Tribal Court late last year.

Judge Jane Freeman ruled not to go forward with a case brought by Tribal member Mike Bartha who asserted that the Tribe´s rejection of a petition he co-sponsored violated his petioning rights under the Mohegan Constitution.

Bartha claimed that Article XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution allows a petition of 35 Tribal members to trigger a referendum vote by tribal members to enact a law put forward by the petitioners. In Bartha´s case, the petition sought to hold a referendum on a Freedom of Information law that differed from the law enacted by the Tribal Council.

Although the Tribal government´s motion to dismiss was granted in October, the Tribal government conceded during a hearing that if the Tribal Council rescinds a law then Tribal members could re-enact that law by a referendum vote if a petition with 35 signatures is delivered within seven days of the Tribal council´s action.

¨The Constitution says Tribal members can enact laws. The Constitution says enact and not re-enact,¨ Bartha said during his hearing in obecting to the Tribal government´s interpretation that the Constitution means re-enacting canceled laws.

That was the Tribal government´s interpretation of the section of the Tribe´s Constitution at issue. Article XII, Section 1 on petitioning says, ¨The members of The Tribe reserve to themselves the power to propose ordinances and resolutions and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Tribal Council upon petition of thirty-five (35) of the registered voters within seven (7) days of such action."

A separate section of the Cnstitution says that signatures of 40 percent of the voters must sign a petition in order to enact laws, also the requirement provided for in the election ordinance.

The Tribal government´s interpretation of the section of the Mohegan Constitution at issue in the case was not based on any source and is not provided for or even mentioned anywhere in the election ordinance, Bartha said in his memorandum for the hearing.

The judge´s ruling said, in part, that the case should not go forward because the election ordinance does not provide for petitions of 35 signatures to enact ordinances, therefore no relief can be granted.

Barha, a former chairman of the now-defunct Constitution Revision Commission, could not be reached for comment.

Connecticut Indian Casino´s Competitors Report Increase In Revenue Last Year

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media is an article in yesterday´s edition of The Day newspaper reporting that both of the two slot parlors on the flanks of the Connecticut Indian casinos showed increases in revenue last year.

Slots healthy at 'convenience' casinos
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
January 21, 2010

Recession may be factor as Empire City, Twin River post year-over-year revenue gains

For many a slot player, convenience trumps the amenities that make up the gaming "experience." Especially, it seems, during a recession.

How else to explain the relatively robust revenues at the slot-machine parlors that flank Connecticut's destination resort casinos?

While the 2009 slot "win" at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun was off by 6 and 9.4 percent, respectively, compared to 2008, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, just north of New York City, reported that its slot win was up 11 percent last year, according to figures posted by the New York Lottery. In December, Empire City's win was up 14 percent over the previous December, climbing from $35 million to nearly $40 million.

On Connecticut's eastern front, Twin River, in Lincoln, R.I., reported its slot win for December 2009 was 8.3 percent greater than the previous December, reaching $30.3 million. It was Twin River's fourth straight month of year-over-year increases, data on the Rhode Island Lottery's Web site shows. For the year, Twin River's slot revenue was down a modest 1.9 percent.

Both Empire City and Twin River credit their recent success to marketing campaigns that have enabled them to solidify their shares of the regional slot market - and even expand the market. And, Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun's president and chief executive officer, said, "What's been going on has not gone unnoticed."

Mohegan Sun, in fact, has been offering $100 in free slots play to Empire City card holders who visit Mohegan Sun and sign up for a Mohegan Sun Player's Club membership. The promotion, begun in November, is scheduled to continue through March. Mohegan Sun is about to introduce a similar promotion targeting Twin River patrons, Etess said.

While no Foxwoods executive was available this week, Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, last week noted Twin River's uptick in its slots win in December, the first full month of around-the-clock operation at the Rhode Island facility. Speller said the Foxwoods casinos were mindful of the additional competition posed by Twin River.

Empire City, which offers wagering on live harness racing and simulcast races in addition to some 5,300 video lottery terminals, retooled its player's club program last April in connection with a new advertising campaign designed to raise its profile, according to Ryan Murphy, Empire City's marketing director. Empire City tracks the slot play of card holders who sign up for the free program and who earn points redeemable for merchandise and meals.

"If Mohegan Sun's giving $100 in free play to everyone with an Empire City card, that adds value to the Empire City card," Murphy said. "We've had a handful of people ask, 'How do I get the $100 in free play?' We tell them they have to sign up with us first. 'We'll give you a little free play, then by all means drive two hours to Mohegan Sun and check it out. We'll see you when you get back.'"

Empire City, which is also a two- to three-hour drive from Atlantic City's resort casinos, highlights its location and "the convenience factor" in advertising that reaches New York City, southern Connecticut and northern New Jersey, Murphy said.

Twin River's marketing pitch is summed up in its slogan: "So Much. So Close!" The racetrack casino, which is hoping to emerge from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization by late spring or early summer, has refined its operations and advertising in recent months, said Patti Doyle, a spokeswoman for the facility. It is still uncertain whether the Rhode Island legislature will require Twin River to resume greyhound racing, which the facility's management has sought to eliminate. Twin River still offers wagering on simulcast racing.

In addition to extending its hours of operation, Twin River has added virtual blackjack and virtual roulette games to its mix of more than 4,700 video lottery terminals and has upgraded its free-play program for card holders, Doyle said. Improvements in the food-and-beverage offerings include this month's opening of the Wicked Good Pub and Grill, which features "affordable comfort food" and 17 beers on tap.

"Affordability and value are the keys," Doyle said. "We're responding to the economy by giving the guests more for less."

And, as is typical of convenience casinos, they don't have to go far to get it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mashantucket Tribe Announces Debt Restructuring Extension With Creditors

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe announced that is has reached an agreement in principle with a majority of their senior lenders to extend until April 30 the sovereign Indian nation´s efforts to restructure its debt.

The proposed forebearance agreement was announced by the Tribe´s public relations firm yesterday, the original date by which the Mashantuckets were to have restructured their debt as agreed to in November when the Tribe missed a scheduled interest payment.

The creditors agreed not to pursue default rights against the Tribe for missed loan payments during the restructuring-forebearance period. The missed interest payment last November was on a $500 million bond package, only one piece of the Tribe´s total debt load of about $2.5 billion.

A $700 million revolving loan that is due this summer will likely be restructured.

The Tribe´s then-chairman Michael Thomas anticipated a likely default when he wrote to the Tribe´s members promising to pay them before the creditors in any debt restructuring, a move that led to Thomas being placed on administrative leave. Thomas did not seek re-election in the Fall.

The Tribe has since hired a public relations firm, Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, and has said that it would pursue a mutually beneficial resolution with its banks and bondholders.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Norwich Mayor Acknowledges Mohegan Tribe In State Of The City Address

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In yesterday´s State of the City address, incoming Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom pledged to strengthen the citý´s future, praised the city´s high credit rating and wants the city to be a leader in green technologies. Nystrom also said he looked forward to working with the Mohegan Tribe as he thanked the Tribe for its participation in the Sachem Fund and in last year´s deed-signing re-enactment which was part of the city´s 350th anniversary celebration.

Nystrom´s predecessor, former mayor Benjamin Lathrop, spoke in Mohegan at last summer´s re-enactment of Mohegan Chief Uncas signing over the 9 square miles of land that would include what is now the city of Norwich.

Nystrom said at one point in his speech, ¨We continue to enjoy a strong relationship with our neighbors of The Mohegan Nation. During the recent 350 anniversary celebration they assisted us in the re-enactment of the deed signing ceremony of the City of Norwich. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Mohegan Nation through the Sachem Fund. I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not acknowledge and give thanks to the Leaders of the Mohegan Nation and former Mayor Benjamin Lathrop who together made this event possible. I look forward to establishing a strong personal friendship with the members of the Mohegan Tribal Council as well.¨

The Norwich city council also voted yesterday not to buy from the state for $1 their 61 acres of the Norwich Hospital property, located on the opposing bank of the Thames River from the Mohegan Reservation. The environmental cleanup costs were estimated at $5 million and cited as a chief factor in the the city council´s decision not to purchase the land. The town of Preston owns the remaining 390 acres of the Norwich Hospital property.

Florida House Of Reps Committee Rejects Seminole Indian Compact

By Ken Davison
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A Florida House panel voted unanimously last Thursday to reject the gaming compact negotiated last summer between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Indian Tribe.

The 17-0 gambling committee vote reflects opposition to terms in the compact that allows the Seminoles to operate banked games, such as blackjack, at their casinos. In return, the Tribe would have shared casino revenue with the state. The Tribe began dealing blackjack at three of its south Florida casinos in 2008.

That first compact was later voided by the state Supreme Court which concluded that the governor exceeded his authority and that a compact would need approval by the state legislature. That voided compact would have yielded the state $100 million over 25 years in casino revenue sharing. It was the second compact negotiated between the governor and the Tribe that was voted down last week.

State lawmakers have asked the federal government to shut down the Seminole´s blackjack games, saying they are illegal. The Seminoles claim they should be allowed to have blackjack because pari-mutuels are offering a virtual blackjack game in which there is no live dealer.

The Seminole Tribe has the right to operate any gambling games that are already permitted in the state without a compact. Slot machines were approved by voters for pari-mutuels in Broward County in 2005 and later in Miami-Dade County in 2008. Pari-mutuels are betting systems commonly used in horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai where the the total paid out is based on the total amount bet less a percentage kept by the house.

The Seminole Tribe in Florida opened its bingo hall in 1979 followed by casinos and in 2006 the Tribe bought the Hard Rock hotel and restaurant chain. Seminole Tribal members receive an estimated $120,000 per year in distributions from casino profits.

Seminole Tribe attorney Barry Richard said the Tribe made a vigorous effort to work out an agreement. ¨It's disappointing — the tribe can't continue to wait forever," Richard said.

Representative Bill Galvano, chairman of the House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review, told the committee that the rejection of the compact was not a line in the sand and that lawmakers are willing to negotatiate with the Tribe.

After learning of the compact´s demise last week, Gov. Crist said in a statement, “While today’s vote is disappointing, I agree with Rep. Galvano that the decision does not represent a line in the sand. We obviously have a long way to go before the end of session, so there is plenty of time for the Florida Legislature to approve a plan that would direct billions of dollars to Florida schools for years to come.”

Showdown Looming Between New York State And Indian Nations Over Tobacco Sales

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Post-Journal article on the looming showdown between the state of New York and one of the Indian nations within its borders.

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

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

State, Senecas Set Six-Month Deadlines
By Sharon Turano
Post-Journal
January 20, 2010

Seneca Indians have been put on notice that the state will have rules and regulations in place to begin tax collections on sales made on their land in about six months. In turn, at least one Seneca is thinking about giving notice to the state about what could be done in the same six-month time period.

During his Tuesday budget presentation, state Gov. David Paterson said the state's Taxation and Finance Department will "withdraw its advisory opinion regarding forbearance" of the sales.

This means the department will put in place a tax-exempt coupon system so Native Americans purchasing cigarettes can do so tax-free while others visiting tribal stores will pay the tax. The move is expected to satisfy an injunction issued previously by State Supreme Court Judge Rose Sconiers, who said the state could not collect the tax until such a system was put in place to allow Native Americans to remain exempt from the taxes.

"Local businesses need parity," said Paterson during the budget address portion relating to the tax collections. Currently tribes, including the Seneca Nation of Indians and its individual entrepreneurs, can sell cigarettes tax-free on their land, which has raised the ire of nearby businesses that charge an increasing tax on the same product.

Paterson called his plan "an opportunity to survive" for those neighboring businesses. He said the measure means "no disrespect to Indian Nations," but, rather, "equality of opportunity."

"Our businesses are suffering and closing," he said, adding there is "an unfair standard" regarding the tax-free status.

"No one can question Gov. Paterson's sincerity in wanting to resolve this long-standing dilemma. We applaud his commitment to fully and fairly enforcing the tax collection law, and our stores are eager to help New York State collect all the tax revenue it is entitled to," said James Calvin, executive director of the state Association of Convenience Stores, which has supported the tax collection. He said, however, the association has dealt with 15 years of delay of collections, leaving its members skeptical.

Calvin also questioned another Paterson initiative mentioned Tuesday, to increase state taxes on cigarette sales.

"It would be a mistake, however, to further increase the cigarette tax rate prior to the enforcement initiative, because it would only make the current tax-evasion epidemic worse. First things first - recapture the hundreds of millions of dollars in cigarette tax revenue that is escaping at the current rate, then examine whether any change in the rate is really necessary," he said.

Although Calvin questioned what will be done before the tax collections, Senecas have some ideas of their own.

The six-month time frame could give the Seneca Nation, along with individual merchants selling the cigarettes, time to mount their own opposition to the Paterson plan. Senecas have previously voiced concern that state attempts to collect the tax violate treaties the tribe has with the United States.

"It's no big surprise," said J.C. Seneca, chair of the nation's foreign relations committee. "Anytime the governor proposes a budget it seems to include revenues from taxation of our sales.

"Certainly in these times ... it's disheartening," he said, adding the state had two paths, one of dialogue and working together with the nation or one of conflict. He said dialogue that could have been productive, but positive was not the direction the state has chosen.

"The governor has failed to provide that," said Seneca. "So far he is taking the path of controversy," said Seneca, adding that needs to change. Therefore, he said, the nation has to do what it needs to survive. Seneca said the nation employs more than 6,000 people through smoke shops and gaming enterprises.

"That's a lot of families," he said, adding the nation will "look out for their best interests."

Although its next course of action must be determined by the nation's governing body - the Tribal Council - Seneca said maybe he should propose giving the state a similar six-month notice about whether it can continue to use Seneca territory such as is done for the New York State Thruway, which passes through Seneca land. There are other long-standing issues, he said, such as promises by the state the nation does not feel have been kept pertaining to Interstate 86 going through the land.

"They're initiating a law to destroy our economy," said Seneca, adding the nation has to hold the state to its agreements.

Seneca opposition to state tax collection attempts previously resulted in protests, which Seneca said happens when people feel backed into a corner. He said the nation is not backed into a corner yet, but, he said, there may be a time in the future when its people feel that way. Although he said the nation does not condone such behavior, he said it "won't be predicated by Indian people," but, rather the state's refusal to recognize treaties and contributions of Senecas.

"They are the ones that would be responsible," he said about the state's officials.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mohegan Gaming Authority Slot Revenue Falls About 5% In First Quarter

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority´s combined slot machine revenue at its Pennsylvania facility and the Mohegan Sun fell by about 5 percent for the three months of October through December, the first quarter of MTGA´s fiscal year 2010.

MTGA´s slot revenue at the Mohegan Sun dropped 8 percent during these three months compared to the same period last year while slot revenue at its Pennsylvania facility increased by about 6 percent.

Last Friday Mohegan Sun reported that the last month of the quarter, December 2009, saw close to a 10 percent decline in slot revenues compared to December 2008 while Foxwoods reported less than a 1 percent decrease in its December slot revenue.

Total slot machine revenue, MTGA´s largest source of revenue, was $232 million for the first quarter which consisted of $180 million generated at Mohegan Sun and $52 million in Pennsylvania.

Foxwoods casino, about ten miles away from Mohegan Sun, reported $153 million in slot revenue for the months of October through December, a 2.2 percent decline from the same period in the prior year.

Slot machine revenue is the total amount lost by customers and before any expenses are deducted. MTGA pays the state of Connecticut 25 percent of its slot revenues and pays about 60 percent of slot revenue in taxes and fees at the Pennsylvania facility.

MTGA is expected to release its first quarter earnings, which will include the quarterly slot revenue figures here, on February 5.

Mohegans Increase Investment In Proposed Casino In Washington State

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The following installment of The Tribe In The Media is a Longview Daily News article on the Cowlitz Tribe´s proposed casino in Washington State which is being backed by the Mohegans. The article refers to a $10 million loan made by the Mohegans toward the project in September 2009.

Here´s what the most recent Mohegan gaming authority filing with the feds says about that loan, "In September 2009, the Tribe loaned Salishan-Mohegan, LLC $10.0 million, which was used to repay revolving loans under the Salishan bank credit facility in connection with the September 30, 2009 amendment to the Salishan bank credit facility. The promissory note executed by Salishan-Mohegan, LLC in favor of the Tribe, or the Mohegan Tribe promissory note, provides for the accrual of interest at an annual rate of 15% and matures on October 1, 2010.¨

Cowlitz Indian Tribe's casino project has turned into a waiting game
By Greg Garrison
The Daily News
January 16, 2010

Financing for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe's proposed La Center-area casino appears to be on shaky ground as the tribe awaits a key federal decision, and experts say it could be at least four more years before the project gets final approval.

The recession has taken a toll on the project's main financial backer, the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut, which saw operating profits from its gambling interests fall 8 percent in 2009, according to the Hartford Courant newspaper.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority recently reported that November slot revenues were down 11 percent from a year earlier.

Cowlitz tribe spokesman Phil Harju said finances are tight for most businesses right now and he doesn't expect money to be a problem if and when the time comes to start building.

"There's concern all over the country," Harju said. "By the time we're ready to break ground, my guess is the financing will be available."

But tricky hurdles remain for the Cowlitz tribe and its two partners, the Mohegans and another tribe from Northern California, in the push to build a $510 million casino and resort.

The Mohegans are owed $28.7 million for their investment in the Cowlitz project to date, and this year they wrote off $8.6 million of that debt, assuming they may never get it back. (The tribe itself is not in debt. It's owed by David Barnett, a Seattle developer, tribal member and key figure the behind casino plan, and his partner in the project, the Paskenta Band of the Nomlaki Indians, which own a casino north of Sacramento.)

In their annual report to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority says the tribe continues to support the Cowlitz project, but it's uncertain it will move forward.

"While certain events ... are generally positive steps in the furtherance of the project, other events ... may ultimately delay or prevent the completion of the project," the report reads.

The Mohegans did, though, make the Cowlitz project a one-year, $10 million loan at 15 percent interest on Sept. 30, according to the Mohegans' SEC filing.

Specifically, the Mohegans cite a February U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the Carcieri decision. It blocked the U.S. Department of the Interior from placing new lands under Indian jurisdiction for tribes that gained federal recognition after 1934. The Cowlitz waited until 2000 for such recognition.

A bill in Congress that would overturn the decision passed the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee last month. A similar bill on the House side is stalled, and its ultimate fate is unknown.

While a "Carcieri fix" would probably improve their chances of moving their project forward, Cowlitz tribe officials argue the ruling shouldn't even apply to them. Since that court ruling, the tribe has spent time and money to prove that while it wasn't federally-recognized, it did fall under federal jurisdiction in 1934. The Cowlitz is a landless tribe and never has had a reservation.

The waiting game

Once the topic of heated debate, the casino project has fallen into a bit of a lull as interested parties await the Interior Department's decision on putting the 152-acre La Center site under Cowlitz jurisdiction, a designation called "trust" status. The Cowlitz had hoped to break ground this year, but that appears highly unlikely.

Officials in the Interior Department's Office of Indian Gaming still are reviewing the project's final environmental impact study, according to Stanley Speaks, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. That document was completed in May 2008. Speaks said he hasn't been given a schedule as to when Department of Interior higher-ups will make a decision.

"We have no idea when that all is going to be taken care of," said Speaks, who is based in Portland.

The Supreme Court decision, as well as the change in White House administrations, have contributed to the length of the review, said Nedra Darling, the Interior Department's spokesperson for Indian affairs.

"The (Cowlitz) review is a broader review than normal," Darling said.

The Interior Department's application-review process has had a tendency to drag out for a long time - years in many cases - even before the Carcieri ruling. The waiting can be maddening for both tribes and casino opposition groups, and it isn't always clear why it takes so long, according to a law professor who follows tribal gaming cases.

"Nobody really knows what happens," said Matthew L.M. Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University. "It will sit on somebody's desk for many years at a time before somebody touches it."

Fletcher said the feeling among tribes is that the Obama administration will be more accommodating on indian land trust applications than the Bush administration.

The Cowlitz tribe has tried to remain patient, said Harju. It took the tribe decades to win federal recognition. So time is relative, he said.

But more than a year and a half has passed since the Bureau of Indian Affairs published the casino environmental study, and the tribe still has not learned whether their project will be approved.

"It's frustrating that it's taken us this long," Harju said.

Fletcher said when an application is reviewed for a long period of time, it indicates to him that officials are being cautious because of the potential for lawsuits. Even if the tribe's application gets approved, lawsuits from opponents may mean years of legal battles and delays still lie ahead, he said.

"I would say three to four years minimum, but more likely it'll be longer than that," Fletcher said.

Lawsuits may follow decision

There's no shortage of opposition groups that could line up to contest an approval.

La Center's four non-tribal cardrooms, a Portland-area tribe with casino operations and a Clark County group called Citizens Against Reservation Shopping (CARS) all could potentially file lawsuits.

Fletcher said most tribal casino proposals spawn opposition groups, and those groups typically take legal action. That strategy can be very effective in bleeding money from tribes, he said.

"They're incredibly good at suing and losing," Fletcher said. "But every lawsuit takes time. It's a fantastic delay tactic."

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which operate a casino about 70 miles southwest of Portland, have been among the most vocal groups to oppose the Cowlitz project, which would be a major competitor to the Grand Ronde casino.

Grand Ronde tribal attorney Rob Greene questions whether the Cowlitz tribe has any historical ties to the north Clark County area. Others opposed to the project have made similar arguments, saying the Cowlitz' historical center of activity was in the Cowlitz River Valley.

Greene also said the Cowlitz tribe's failure to work out agreements with Clark County and La Center for utilities, other services and revenue sharing probably is causing federal officials to hesitate. Greene said any decision concerning appeals or lawsuits would be made by the Grand Ronde's tribal council. But he said he wouldn't be surprised if it took legal action, contending the Cowlitz project is "bad for everyone."

Harju, the Cowlitz spokesman, said if the project gets approved, the tribe would not waste anymore time.

"There's a lot of pressure and momentum to get this thing going as soon as possible."

Former Mohegan Sun Dealer Pleads Guilty To Cheating

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This installment of the Tribe In The Media is an article in The Day about a former Mohegan Sun dealer that pleaded guilty to participating in a scam that bilked casinos across the United States and Indian Country.

Ex-Sun dealer performed 'false shuffles' in conspiracy
By Karen Florin
The Day
January 16,2010

A former Mohegan Sun dealer has pleaded guilty to helping a criminal organization steal more than $100,000 in a card cheating scam.

Jesus Rodriguez, 40, of Grove Avenue, Groton, faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced April 7 in U.S. District Court in New Haven. He pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Rodriguez performed "false shuffles" in blackjack and mini-baccarat games in 2005 at the casino in conspiracy with members of the San Diego, Calif.-based "Tran organization." The organization victimized numerous North American casinos.

Through the false shuffle scheme, a co-conspirator tracked the order of cards as they were legitimately played and then Rodriguez, who was bribed or had been promised a bribe, performed a false shuffle. After the false shuffle created a "slug" of un-shuffled cards, a co-conspirator tracked the order of cards until the slug reappeared in the cards as they were being dealt. A co-conspirator then signaled to other co-conspirators as to how to bet on the subsequent hands in order to cheat the casino out of its funds.

More than 30 individuals, including Rodriguez, were charged in the Southern District of California as a result of this investigation, which was led by the 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.

The parties agreed to transfer the Rodriguez case to the District of Connecticut for further prosecution.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mohegan Gaming Authority Sets Feb. 5 For 1st Quarter Earnings Conference Call

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority scheduled its regular conference call regarding its first quarter earnings with analysts for February 5 at 3 p.m.

MTGA typically releases their quarterly operating results on the day of the conference call. The three months that will be reported upon that day are October through December, which are the first three months of MTGA´s fiscal year 2010 that begins in October and ends in September.

Last year MTGA had a loss of $3.8 million for the three months of the first quarter.

MTGA has already reported that its largest source of revenue, slot revenue at Mohegan Sun, fell by about 8 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same period last year.

A transcript of the conference call will be accesible on MTGA´s website for 90 days after the conference call.

More details at -
http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/g89598/mohegan-tribal-gaming-authority-invites-you-to-join-its-first-quarter-fiscal-20

Flash - Mohegan Sun Reports About 10% Decline In December Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Reports Less Than 1% Decline

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Mohegan Sun reported today that its December slot revenue fell by 9.6 percent to $57.1 million while Foxwoods reported $44.6 million, a decline of less than 1 percent compared to the previous December.

Slot revenue is the amount lost by customers at the slot machines, or the amount won by the casino, before deducting any expenses.

Both tribes pay the state of Connecticut 25 percent of their slot revenues.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Casinos On The Las Vegas Strip Report 8% Increase in November Gaming Revenue

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Las Vegas Strip casinos reported an 8 percent increase in their gambling win during November, according to figures released this week. An increase in table game revenue offset a 3.8 percent decline in slot revenue in November.

Nevada overall experienced a 4.4 percent increase in their gaming revenue (win) during November, their first monthly increase in gaming revenue in almost two years.

Nevada´s monthly gaming statistics are reported about a month later than Atlantic City.

Florida Lawmakers Ask Feds To Shut Down Seminole Indian´s Blackjack Games, Controversy Over Definition Of Blackjack

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Florida´s House of Representatives have asked the federal government to shut down blackjack games they say are being run illegaly at Seminole Indian casinos in Florida but the Seminoles claim that the live blackjack they offer is no different than the virtual blackjack already allowed by the state at non-Indian pari-mutuel facilities.

Federally recognized Indian tribes are allowed to offer any type of gambling that is permitted by the state, except for the Narragansett Indians in Rhode Island who were specifically excluded from gaming.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is expected make a deterination on the Seminole blackjack controversy. Should the NIGC rule that the virtual blackjack game operates on the same principle as a slot machine then the Seminoles could be dealt a setback in their compact and revenue sharing negotiations with the state.

The Seminoles introduced blackjack into three of their casinos in 2008 after a compact was negotiated with the governor in 2007. That compact was later struck down by the Florida Supreme Court because it allowed the Seminoles to operate games that were not legal in the state, such as blackjack.

The Seminole Tribe has seven casinos in southern Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe operates one casino in Miami.

Governor Charlie Crist´s former chief of staff George LeMieux, who has represented the governor in the talks, raised concerns last summer that if a deal wasn´t reached with the Seminoles, the federal government could give the Seminoles everything they want and the state would not share in the revenue generated by the Seminole casinos.

LeMieux also told the Herald Times then, "What's at stake here is whether we are going to have limited gaming in Florida," he said. "If we do not approve a compact, I'm concerned the future of Florida is casinos in every part of our state."

"There's a chance we're going to be back in the wild, wild West," if the feds agree to the games already being run by the Seminoles Lemieux added.

Mashpee And Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribes Oppose Nantucket Wind Project

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Boston Globe article concerning the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag´s opposition to a wind project in the Nantucket Sound claiming it will disturb ancestral grounds.

Aquinnah Wampanoag upset at Cape Wind process
By Alan Wirzbicki
The Boston Globe
January 14, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe said today that Native Americans were being shut out of a key meeting in Washington deciding the fate of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm.

“It was insulting,” Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the council chair of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, said in a Globe interview on the steps outside the Interior Department. “I’ll be frank, it was disrespectful - there seems to be no real reason.”

The Aquinnah tribe is one of two Wampanoag tribes that say the 130-turbine wind farm would destroy spiritual sun greetings and disturb ancestral grounds that lie on Nantucket Sound’s seabed. Their five-year complaint recently gained traction when the National Park Service determined the 560-square-mile body of water was eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, affording it more protection from development.

While both Wampanoag tribes were present at two meetings earlier today with US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the issue, they were not allowed into a final one that involved groups that would ultimately sign off on the process, including the developers, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a federal agency.

Andrews-Maltais said the Wampanoag should have been present because the Nantucket Sound historical issue involved them. She said she is considering issuing a formal complaint.

Maltais said President Barack Obama “promised a change” in dealing with Native American groups yet “there is political pressure to see this go through.”

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said the Wampanoag tribes were excluded from the third meeting because they are not legally able to sign the final agreement.

Yet, "(Andrews-Maltais's) concerns and thoughts were heard by Secretary Salazar today in the two meetings,'' said Kendra Barkoff, the spokeswoman. Salazar reiterated that same point in a press conference shortly after.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell also issued a statement about the meeting, saying he invited Salazar to visit the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

“Today we had a very productive discussion about the significant archeological, historical, and cultural impact of the proposed Cape Wind Development.

“Nantucket Sound is a place of great religious and cultural importance to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The determination by the National Parks Service means that the historical and cultural impact of the Cape Wind Project must be considered, and the affected tribes must be consulted with. Today’s meeting was the first step in what we hope will be a thorough and comprehensive consultation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sun Basketball Team Trades Whalen To Minnesota For Ex-UConn Star Renee Montgomery

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The Mohegan Tribe´s WNBA Connecticut Sun basketball team traded all-star player Lindsay Whalen and a draft pick to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for former University of Connecticut star Renee Montgomery and a subsequent first-round pick in the WNBA´s draft in April.

Whalen and Montgomery are both point guards and the trade is a homecoming of sorts for both players as each will be returning to the states where they played college basketball.

Renee Montgomery was a star at the University of Connecticut (UConn), helping the team to go undefeated one season, while Lindsay Whalen holds the University of Minnesota´s record for most points scored and helped that team reach the Final Four in the three NCAA college tournaments during her college tenure.

The trade also includes the Sun giving up its second-round draft pick in exchange for getting the first round pick which could be used to add another UConn star, Tina Charles, to their roster.

Whalen has played for the Sun since 2004 and helped the Sun to reach two WNBA finals in 2004 and 2005. Whalen will likely earn $101,500, the maximum salary paid for players in the WNBA.

Mohegan Sun And Foxwoods Slot Revenue Report For December Due This Week

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Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are due to release their December slot revenue figures for the month of December later this week.

Two new events will surely have had some effect on the December numbers that will be reported by the two Indian casinos. A snowstorm dumped close to two feet of snow in southeastern Connecticut during one weekend in the middle of the month and December marked the first full month of round-the-clock slot machine play at the Twin Rivers gaming facility in neighboring Rhode Island.

Twin Rivers, one of two racetrack-slot parlors in Rhode Island, was approved to remain open 24 hours a day since mid-November whereas previously it could only operate round-the-clock on weekends and holidays.

Atlantic City´s casinos reported a 12.5 percent decline in December slot revenue when compared to December 2008. Atlantic City experienced the same snowstorm that hit Connecticut during December. For the entire year, slot revenue at Atlantic City´s 11 casinos declined 13.1 percent. Last year was Atlantic City´s worst year and the first time that revenue declines were in the double digits in year-over-year comparisons.

Atlantic City´s casinos have been hit hard by expanded gambling in neighboring states, the latest bullet being the legalization of table games in Pennsylvania. Two casinos have also yet to open in Philadelphia, Pa., about an hour drive from Atlantic City.

In the slot revenue reports for November that were issued last month, Mohegan Sun reported a 10.8 percent decrease in November slot revenue while Foxwoods reported a 1.4 percent decline.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mashantucket Pequots Respond To Foxwoods Philadelphia Attorney´s Comments

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Norwich Bulletin article in which the president of the Mashantucket Pequots´gaming development arm responds to statements made by an attorney for the Foxwoods Philadelphia investment group about replacing Foxwoods as developer and operator of the future Pennsylvania casino.

Foxwoods: Pa. casino partnership still solid
Newspaper article implies tribe's ouster sought
By William Sokolic
The Norwich Bulletin
January 11, 2010

If the endless delays weren’t enough, a story in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer implied that the partnership putting together the Foxwoods casino in Philadelphia seeks to replace the Mashantucket Pequot tribe as developer and operator.

The story quotes Philadelphia attorney Stephan A. Cozen, who says the Mashantucket Pequots do “not have the wherewithal to carry forward this kind of venture.”

Cozen, an attorney for Foxwoods representing the Philadelphia project, did not return a call for comment.

Foxwoods Development Co. called the article misleading.

“Absolutely untrue,” said Gary D. Armentrout, president of the Foxwoods Development Co. Still he acknowledged that under certain circumstances, Foxwoods would negotiate out of its management role to move the project forward.

Such a move got a big boost last week when Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell signed into a law a bill approving table games at the state’s casinos. The bill included a provision granting the Foxwoods partnership an extension until December 2012 to have a casino in operation.

Since receiving state approval in 2006, the Foxwoods project has been marred by obstacles.

The company ran into neighborhood opposition that led to expensive lawsuits, forcing changes in location from the riverfront site to midtown and back to the river again. On top of that, the recession made it more difficult to find financing, and the gaming board put deadline pressure to have something up by May 2011.

With the location resolved and the extension granted, the thrust now is to find an investor with deep enough pockets to put the development into gear or at least provide enough collateral to acquire final financing.

“No one had the wherewithal to finance new construction in this climate we find ourselves in,” said Joseph Colebut, chairman of the Foxwoods Development Co. board.

$30 million

Foxwoods invested $30 million in the project toward its share of the casino development.

“We’re all pleased that Pennsylvania passed the law to permit table games. That makes it all that more valuable because we can have a full-blown casino operation,” Armentrout said. “At the time we made the equity investment we thought it would be sufficient to go to a third party to finance the project. But in the new world, we require a larger percentage of equity.”

Neither Foxwoods Development nor the local Philadelphia group can put any more capital into the project, he said. If funding comes along, Foxwoods’ share of the development would be reduced.

“The world is a different place,” Colebut said.

Said Armentrout: “When this was conceived, it was anticipated that the Foxwoods Development Co. would be developer and operator. But both of those are now subject to negotiation, depending on who the investor is and how much they put in.”

If the investor antes up a significant amount with the stipulation they would develop and operate the casino, Foxwoods would step aside if the terms were satisfying.

“If it were a bank or equity fund with no gaming expertise we will stay in with a management contract and the investor would own passive equity. But if it’s a gaming company, we would consider giving up the contract,” Colebut said.

The cost to relinquish the contract remains in play as does the name of the casino, Armentrout said.

The partnership is talking with several potential investors. But nothing definitive has come to the table, Colebut said.

“I doubt many gaming companies will jump into this, although the table games bill would encourage them,” said gaming analyst, Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business. “You’re probably looking at a private investor or banking company,” he said.

Armentrout remains upbeat. “We’re confident going forward,” he said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Photo - Uncasville At Wintertime


Seneca Tribe´s Loss Due To Halting Of Expansion

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The Seneca Indian Nation, operators of three casinos in upstate New York, reported in December that it lost $19.3 million in the last fiscal year.

Various newspapers noted that the Seneca Gaming Corporation reported a loss but what hadn´t been reported in those articles is that the Seneca Gaming Corporation included a $108 million expense related to its halting of expansion projects. Had the Seneca Gaming Corporation not booked that $108 million impairment charge then the Seneca Gaming Corporation would have reported a profit of about $87 million.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has yet to record any impairment charge related to its halting of the construction on a high-rise hotel, a decision that was announced over a year ago.

The Seneca Gaming Corporation, like MTGA, must file their financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission due to both entities borrowing money through public bond markets.

Foxwoods Philadelphia Project Looking To Replace Foxwoods Team As Developer And Operator Says Lawyer

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Yesterday´s edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story that said the investors in the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project are looking to replace the Foxwoods team as the casino´s developers and operators. This article is a Tribes In The Media installment.

One of the disclosures in the article - The Mashantucket Pequots do not have the wherewithal to carry forward this kind of venture, according to Foxwoods attorney Stephen A. Cozen. The Mashantucket Pequots invested $30 million in exchange for the one third of the future profits.

Cozen also said the Foxwoods Philadelphia group are close to adding a new investor, which could be a major international gaming company. In addition to the Mashantucket Pequots, the other principal investors are the charitable trusts of three Philadelphia regional icons.

S. Phila. casino confronts next step
The table-games law gives Foxwoods 19 more months to open, but partners still need to find a developer.
By Jennifer Lin
The Philadelphia Inquirer
January 10, 2010

Pennsylvania's new table-games law has given investors in the Foxwoods Casino project breathing room they need - up to 19 more months - to open a 1,500-slot waterfront casino in South Philadelphia.
Now the question looms: Who will build and run it?

Since the fall, the partners have made no secret of their search for a gaming company to replace the Mashantucket Pequot tribe of Connecticut as the casino's developer and operator.

Gov. Rendell signed the bill Thursday to allow table games in casinos, and the investors can move quickly to line up a successor, said Stephen A. Cozen, a lawyer for Foxwoods.

The partners are focusing on a sole investor and could have an announcement "by the end of the month," Cozen said. He declined to identify the potential new operator, saying only that it was a gaming company "with operations internationally."

In 2006, the local Foxwoods investors chose a subsidiary of the Mashantucket Pequots to design, finance, and run the casino. The tribe put up $30 million for one-third of the profits. Since then, it has developed serious money problems stemming from a drop in revenue at its flagship casino in Ledyard, Conn.

Cozen said the local investors "hope and assume" the tribe's subsidiary will remain an investor. But, he added, the Mashantucket Pequots do "not have the wherewithal to carry forward this kind of venture."

The main local partners in Foxwoods are charitable trusts for the families of three entrepreneurs: New Jersey businessman Lewis Katz, Center City developer Ron Rubin, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider.

Over the summer their project was in jeopardy.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board forced them to abandon the idea of putting the casino in Center City. They were ordered back to the waterfront in South Philadelphia, the original plan in 2006 when they won one of the two coveted licenses for slots in the city.

But the clock was ticking faster than the investors could line up financing to build on 16 vacant acres on Columbus Boulevard.

They warned state regulators that they were so pressed for time that they might have to hastily erect a temporary structure first. Its license required Foxwoods to have 1,500 slot machines operating by May 29, 2011.

Relief came from the General Assembly.

Under orders from Rendell to generate new revenue from gaming to fill budget holes, legislators produced a bill to add table games such as poker and blackjack at casinos.

A paragraph tucked into the 230-page bill gives operators such as Foxwoods until Dec. 31, 2012, to be up and running.

Many Philadelphia-area lawmakers objected to an extension for the long-delayed project, saying Foxwoods already had three years to produce a slots parlor.

But Cozen called passage of the table-games bill "a boon" for the project, city, and state.

"Instead of throwing up a temporary facility with very few jobs and taxes," he said, "we have the ability to do something more consistent with our original plan."

Though the casino's design has yet to take shape, Cozen predicted it would be "more grandiose and appropriate" for the site than a temporary structure.

Legislators said Foxwoods representatives had lobbied hard for the extension. Cozen would not name the lawmaker who added the language to the bill.

"I can't and won't," he said.

Cozen said the Foxwoods group must settle on a new investor-operator before determining whether to ask regulators for the additional time now available.

Gaming experts say the lending environment for casino projects, especially new construction, remains difficult. Craig Parmelee, a credit analyst for Standard & Poor's debt-rating agency, said lenders demanded "a large equity cushion" from casino developers, who have to put up more of their own money.

Five years ago, those developers might have had to raise 10 to 30 percent of the equity, he said. Today, they must produce 40 to 60 percent.

The investor group in the SugarHouse casino project in Fishtown-Northern Liberties raised 45 percent of the equity - or $160 million - and borrowed $195 million, said Leigh Whitaker, a spokeswoman for SugarHouse.

Doug Harbach, spokesman for the state Gaming Control Board, said that if Foxwoods brought a new investor-operator aboard, the replacement would be treated like a new applicant and subject to "in-depth vetting."

The project, he said, would go through the same board review it did in 2006.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Correction

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Today´s article entitled ¨Pa. Governor Signs Table Bill ...¨ said that the Mohegan´s slot parlor in Pennsylvania had 2,466 machines in operation at the end of 2008. We meant the end of 2009. The article has been revised to reflect that change. All figures on the number of slot machines in use at the Mohegan´s Pocono Downs and at the Tribe´s two closest competitors are based on the state gaming board´s figures for the month of December 2009.

So now that Pennsylania´s slot parlors will be allowed to offer table games you might be glad to know that we can soon stop using the descriptive but wretched terms for these facilities like ´slot parlor´ and ´racetrack-slot parlor´ and start calling them casinos and racinos.

Photo Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs

Pa. Governor Signs Table Games Bill, Mohegans Receive Contingent Approval For Developing 9-Story Hotel

By Ken Davison
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Updated 2


Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, as expected, signed into law yesterday a 230-page bill that, among other things, permits the state´s slot parlors to offer table games.

The president for the Mohegan Tribe´s slot parlor-racetrack in Pennsylvania, Robert Soper, said yesterday in a Scranton Times Tribune article that they intend to add 60 table games not including tables in a planned poker room, all of which would require 400 more employees. Today´s edition of The Day newspaper wrote that Mr. Soper said that ¨the state´s larger casinos, of which Pocono Downs is one, will probably introduce about 100 table games.¨

The Mohegan´s slot parlor in Pennsylvania had 2,466 machines in operation at the end of 2009, roughly double the number of machines prior to the opening of the July 2008 expansion. The additional money spent by customers on table games at the Mohegan facility could help stem the accumulated losses generated by the Tribe´s Pennsylvania facility since it opened in 2006, losses largely attributable to the interest expense burden resulting from debt incurred to buy and expand the property.

The Mohegans also received conditional approval yesterday in a Plains Township Planning meeting to continue with its development plans for a 9-story, 300-room hotel-conference center at the site of its Pennsylvania slot parlor, coningent on the issuance of a new highway occupancy permit by the state Department of Transportation and on the implications of a traffic impact study.

Operators of slot parlors had been planning on the likely legalization of table games for the past year. In response to yesterday´s news, a spokesperson for the closest competitor to the Mohegan´s Pocono Downs slot parlor, Mount Airy Casino Resort, said they plan to install 73 table games, including 15 tables for poker. Mount Airy plans to hire between 250 and 350 employees, according to various reports over the past few days. Officials at Mohegan´s second closest competitor at 70 miles away, Sands Bethlehem, said they will probably start off with 80-100 table games.

Mount Airy Casino and Resort reported 2,501 machines in operation at the end of December 2008 and Sands Bethlehem reported 3,252 machines. Mount Airy Resort, about 15 miles away as the crow flies from the Tribe´s slot parlor, also owns a 188-room hotel.

A multitude of steps need to be taken before the slot parlors can open table games to the public. First and foremost is the establishment of a regulatory process that implements the new table games law, a process which Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Chairman Gregory C. Fajt said will take six to nine months.

Among the steps needed to be taken by the PGCB, charged with overseeing the slot parlors, are the drafting of regulations for each type of table game to be offered, background checks on the additional vendors and prospective employees needed by the slot parlors in order to add table games, inspect and approve the various floor plans submitted by the slot parlors and ensure that adequate surveillance systems are in place so the various facilities can monitor table game play.

The PGCB will also have a public comment period and hold hearings for each applicant´s table game plan in the municipality in which the casino is located.

Table games will be taxed at 16 percent, much lower than the existing taxes and fees that amount to about 60 percent of slot revenues at the Mohegan´s Pocono Downs´operation. The Mohegans will also have to pay a table games license fee to the state in the amount of $16.5 million.

The disagreemnents over what rate to tax the table games were an obstacle that had earlier held up the passage of the bill. Some lawmakers proposed a tax rate of about 30 percent but slot parlor operators lobbied heavily for a lower rate. One study presented to the Pennsylvania legislature last year said that an average of between 7 and 8 employees are needed for each table game, justifying a much lower tax rate because of the intensive labor needed to run table games as opposed to the lower labor cost associated with operating slot machines.

Based on yesterday´s hiring projection of between 250 and 350 employees made by a Mount Airy Casino and Resort spokesperson, the facility would hire about 4 to 5 new employees for each of the 73 planned table games.

Slot parlors were legalized in Pennsylvania in 2004. Since then, nine slot parlors have opened and more are on the horizon. The city of Philadelphia is the location for two more slot parlors that have yet to open. A development arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is a partner in a group that is to develop one of the Philadelphia slot parlors. The project has been plagued by delays in the face of neighborhood opposition over the various proposed locations and by city officials but when it eventually opens, it will be in a lucrative location and it will likely be a full-fledged casino. The delays and extensions have upset some lawmakers anxious to collect the additional taxes but yesterday´s bill extends the Mashantucket group deadline to open a temporary facility to December 2012. The other slot parlor, Sugar House Casino, is expected to open this year.

In other business at yesterday´s meeting of the Plains Township Planning Board, board members approved a subdivision of the Mohegan property in Pennsylvania that will allow the Mohegans to donate a piece of its land to the Luzerne County SPCA for the expansion of its pet cemetary.