Monday, May 31, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses To Washington 69-65

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Washington on Sunday by a score of 69-65, bringing their season record to 3-2.

Sunday's game was the first game in which the Sun's Asjha Jones played since last August. Jones was previously sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury. This Friday, Sandra Gruda will return to the court for the Sun.

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

The Sun is in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, trailing Atlanta who is undefeated at 6-0.

The Sun's next game is Friday night against New York at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Friday, May 28, 2010

U.S.Department Of Agriculture Announces $54 Million Loan To Mohegans For Government Building

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the Mohegan Tribe will be among the recipients in 37 states receiving a total of $167.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

The Mohegan's share will be a loan in the amount of $54 million to go toward the completion of the stalled government building.

Vilsack said in the press release, "In rural Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians has been selected to receive a loan to complete construction of the Mohegan Tribal Government Center. The Tribe is building a community center; an educational center; a health administration center; an administration building; and a library. Once completed, the new center will provide essential government services and create an estimated 1,279 jobs for this rural community."

"These Recovery Act projects not only provide needed infrastructure in rural communities, they contribute to the Obama administration's continued efforts to turn the economy around and create quality jobs," Vilsack said. President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law in February 2009 as a way to "jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century."

The USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities program helps finance essential community facilities for public use in rural areas and are available to public bodies, non-profit organizations and federally recognized Indian tribes. More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov. More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery and yet more information about the Federal government's efforts on the Recovery Act is available at www.recovery.gov.

Schaghticoke Tribe Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Case

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an Indian Country Today article on the Schaghticoke Tribe's petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case on the denial of their federal recognition.

The Schaghticoke Tribe is one of five Indian tribes recognized by the state of Connecticut.

Schaghticoke files cert on acknowledgment reversal
By Gale Courey Toensing
Indian Country Today
May 26, 2010

WASHINGTON – The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether a lower court should have considered the appearance of undue political influence as well as its actual effect on Interior Department officials, who rescinded the nation’s federal acknowledgment.

The 220-page petition for a writ of certiorari was filed May 24. It presents a single question to the high court: “Whether certiorari should be granted to resolve a conflict among the Courts of Appeals on this question: When reviewing a petition’s due process claim that undue political pressure has actually affected or influenced a federal administrative adjudicative decision, must a federal court also consider the petitioner’s claim that due process was violated by the appearance of bias or impropriety arising from the political pressure?”

The petition is the last judicial stop on the Schaghticoke’s long quest for federal acknowledgment – a journey that began in 1981 with a letter of intent to seek federal status with the BIA.

The nation was federally acknowledged in a Final Determination on Jan. 29, 2004, but within minutes of the BIA announcement Connecticut politicians led by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal vowed to do everything in their power to overturn the decision.

They kept their promise.

Over the next year and a half, Blumenthal, Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, former U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, state and local officials and the White House-connected lobbying firm of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers – hired by residents of Kent, Conn., where the nation has a 400-acre reservation – lobbied former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the White House, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, and even a federal district court judge to overturn the nation’s federal acknowledgment.

In October 2005, the BIA issued a Reconsidered Final Determination reversing the Schaghticoke’s acknowledgment.

The nation appealed the BIA reversal to a federal district court, where Judge Peter Dorsey acknowledged the unprecedented political influence exerted on federal decision makers. But, ultimately, Dorsey threw out the case because, among other things, he believed federal officials who said they weren’t influenced by the enormous political pressure that they acknowledged was brought to bear upon them.

A panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court and denied the nation an en banc hearing.

Schaghticoke attorney Richard Emanuel said the case has far-reaching implications.

“The petitioner’s principal contention is that in the context of a federal administrative adjudicative decision, a litigant’s due process right to a fair hearing may be violated by the ‘appearance of bias’ or impropriety. It is an issue that can affect any litigant in any adjudicative proceeding before any federal agency,” Emanuel wrote.

He said circuit courts are split on the issue.

The Supreme Court will need to decide if there is, indeed, a clear split and whether it’s important enough for them to take it up, said Matthew L.M. Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law Center at Michigan State University. If it does, the court will probably decide whether the federal acknowledgment process is quasi-judicial or quasi-legislative, Fletcher said.

“It’s definitely more the former. So the real question is whether there is a circuit split. The 2nd Circuit apparently has adopted a rule that a petitioner like STN (the Schaghticoke) has to show ‘actual’ prejudice or bias in a political influence case involving a federal agency – as in, members of Congress or others with power actually influenced an agency decision. STN is arguing that in some instances a petitioner should only have to show ‘apparent’ prejudice or bias. As we all know, there is plenty of apparent political influence in this case, but STN was unable to prove actual political influence to the court,” Fletcher said.

During the STN appeal, Orangetown v. Ruckelshaus was cited, a case that dealt with political claims arising from a non-adjudicative federal agency issue – disbursing grant money.

“In short, Orangetown represents a ‘one size fits all’ standard that fails to take into consideration the inherent qualitative differences between quasi-judicial (adjudicative) proceedings and quasi-legislative (rule-making) proceedings. Such a distinction has been either expressly or implicitly recognized by every other circuit that has considered a political influence claim,” including the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th circuits and the District of Columbia Circuit Court, Emanuel said.

The 2nd Circuit was unwilling to hold that a federal recognition decision is a judicial/adversarial-style decision, even though “it definitely feels that way to STN, and the politics of federal recognition makes it look like it, but it shouldn’t be. So the court of appeals fudged the question, and just made it easy for themselves by adopting an impossible standard (actual prejudice),” Fletcher said.

The case is further complicated by the fact that federal recognition decisions are tinged with what is known as the political question doctrine – an issue that federal courts refuse to decide because they say it properly belongs to the decision-making authority of elected officials.

“Political questions like these often scare away federal courts,” Fletcher said.

While it’s impossible to predict how the Supreme Court will respond, “the statistics aren’t helpful to STN,” Fletcher said.

In “Factbound and Splitless: The Certiorari Process as Barrier to Justice for Indian Tribes,” Fletcher examines 163 preliminary memoranda between 1986 and 1993 that show “there’s a near zero chance” the Supreme Court will take up a case filed by tribal interests.

“What is clear is that the Supreme Court simply will not accept a case for review when the tribal petitioner is asking for justice, or alleges that tribal sovereignty or Indian rights are being violated, even horrendously. It’s awful but true. So STN is being very smart here in arguing that a circuit split has arisen, rather than squarely argue the merits of their federal recognition petition,” Fletcher said.

STN Chief Richard Velky said he hopes the Supreme Court will take up the case and rule in the tribe’s favor.

“I’m hoping the Supreme Court will be a bit tougher than the 2nd Circuit in addressing what’s in front of them.”

Connecticut Sun Beats Minnesota 105-79

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The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat Minnesota last night by a score of 105-79, bringing their season record to 3-1.

The Sun's 105 points was their highest point total in their brief history, excluding games that went into overtime. The Sun is still playing without two of their starters: Asjha Jones (sidelined since a February operation on her ankle) and Sandra Gruda, who has been practicing with the French national team and expected to return next week.

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

The Sun's next game is Sunday at Washington.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gaming Board Employee Arrested After Allegedly Taking Phony Fall Down Mount Airy Casino Staircase For Money

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Three people falling down a staircase at the Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains netted one of them, an employee that works for the state's gaming oversight board, $4,700 in workers' compensation benefits.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board employee was arrested in April after it was determined that he and one of the two accomplices (a boyfriend and girlfriend tag team who "bumped" into the employee which caused them all to fall), who he claimed he did not know, had spoken by telephone as recently as one hour before the December fall.

After the PGCB employee returned to work later that month, he complained of being in pain and was given an alternative schedule and lighter duties, according to reports. The state gaming board then hired an investigator who said he saw the employee lifting weights.

The PGBC employee was a compliance representative.

Anniversary Of Pequot Massacre Is Today

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On this day, May 26th, back in the year 1637, a few hours before the sun came up, a defining moment in the history of what is now America took place when Puritans and Mohegans marched on a Pequot village overlooking the Mystic River and killed an estimated 500 Pequots.

The Mohegans were fighting for their own survival in those days, not just fighting for power, and allying themselves with the colonists was a political decision that was made in order for the Tribe to survive. Some believe that the Mohegans had no idea of the ferocity of their Puritan allies and were probably shocked at what they saw taking place in the Pequot village.

Indian Casino In Upstate New York Gets Liquor License

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The Oneida Nation's Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., was finally granted a liquor license by the state yesterday after previously being denied a license.

The casino had been circumventing, legally, past denials by allowing a catering company - with a liquor license - to serve liquor to patrons at numerous events in the casino.

The liquor license will allow the casino to offer liquor to patrons, through a vendor, beginning this Thursday without the need for daily licenses.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Aquinnah Tribe Doesn't Gain Traction In Effort To Shove Out Mashpee From New Bedford Casino Site

By Ken Davison
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The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Martha's Vineyard presented a proposal yesterday to a subcommittee of the New Bedford city council even though it was reported last week that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is now working with that city to build a casino there in anticipation of Massachusetts lawmakers approving an expanded gambling law in the next two months.

The Aquinnahs, formally known as the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), didn't seem to gain much traction at yesterday's meeting. While the Tribe announced it has a deal with a property owner in Fall River for 240 acres located off Interstate 195 for a possible casino site, the Mashpees are asking the city to move a planned 300-acre BioPark 300 off Route 24 which would let them build a casino, shopping mall and three hotels.

The Aquinnahs, who have not yet lined up financing except to say that it won't court foreign investors, tried to persuade members of the City Council's Committee on Economic Development and Tourism that its plan would allow the city to go forward with the planned UMass BioPark that would be scuttled under the Mashpee plan.

City attorney Steven Torres and Office of Economic Development Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola told the committee that the Aquinnah’s plan wasn't feasible due to access and permit issues.

“Right now the only viable option, with viable access, financing ability that will get the shovels in the ground is the site we have an agreement on right now,” Torres said.

A spokesman for the Aquinnah Tribe said the Tribe will continue to push their plan despite the reluctance of committee members.

The Fall River Redevelopment Authority could vote on the Mashpee plan at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

The two federally recognized tribes in that state are jockeying for a commercial license because their right to open an Indian casino on tribal land has been put in limbo since last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, a ruling on a Narragansett Tribe case that interpreted a federal land-into-trust law as only allowing land to be taken into trust as reservation land for tribes recognized before 1934.

Officials in the state of Rhode Island are convinced that Massachusetts will have casinos soon and will be proposing that the two licensed slot parlors in that state be allowed to offer table games in order to remain competitive. The larger of the two slot parlors, Twin River in Lincoln, R.I., is about 40 miles from Fall River.

Massachusetts House lawmakers in April approved a bill that would allow two casino resorts and slot machines at the state's four racetracks but the state Senate has not yet taken up the bill. The Senate adjourns at the end of June so if a gambling bill is approved this year for the governor's signature it will likely happen by the end of next month.

Monteau Clarifies Why Tribes Don't Need State Liquor Licenses

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Harold Monteau, the former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission at the time the Mohegans opened their casino, explains why tribes don't need state liquor licenses in order to serve liquor on the reservation as long as they follow state restrictions on what hours liquor is to be served and age requirements.

TRIBES DON’T NEED STATE LIQUOR LICENSE
BY HAROLD A. MONTEAU

I read in a recent news article that a tribe that has been a major fighter for upholding Tribal Sovereignty in many areas of the law had settled its differences with the state regarding liquor sales in its casino/resort and will do so under a state issued license. Several tribes in the State of California have sought and obtained California State Liquor Licenses in the last decade. I’m sure this same scenario has played out with other tribes in many states. Their attorneys may have counseled them that the Supreme Court in Rice v. Rehner opined that tribes must comply with State Liquor Control Laws, including obtaining a State Liquor License. This is an erroneous interpretation of Rice v. Rehner, a U. S. Supreme Court case that addressed the issuance of a Tribal Liquor License to an “individual” rather than to a “tribe”. Unfortunately, this erroneous interpretation is being taught in some law schools. Tribes can, and do, issue their own liquor licenses under Tribal Liquor Control Ordinances. Of course, you should consult your local attorneys, but make them do their homework as to whether the tribe can issue it’s own liquor license.

For decades the Secretary of Interior has had the authority to approve Tribal Liquor Control Ordinances and has done so as recently as April, 2010. The Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma, the Prairie Band of Pottawatomi and the Colville Confederated Tribes have all recently had their Tribal Liquor Control Ordinances approved by the Secretary and printed in the Federal Register. Under these Ordinances the tribe’s can issue liquor licenses, including to themselves. Licensees must comply with state laws pertaining to the age of patrons and the hours of operations. The Ordinances do not deal with taxation issues that may arise and it is expected that each state and tribe will resolve such issues as between two sovereigns. The Federal Statute under which these Ordinances are authorized is 18 USC 1161, “Application of Indian Liquor Laws“. The statute neither requires a State Liquor License nor requires the collection of any tax. It does authorize the Secretary to approve Tribal Liquor Control Laws which include licensing procedures for licenses issued by the tribe. Typically these Ordinances are approved “ in accordance with 18 USC 1161 as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rice v. Rehner”, a phase found in all of the recently printed Federal Register Notices. 18 USC 1161 has “supremacy” over any laws of the state with regard to liquor sales in Indian Country. The statute is neither a wholesale abrogation of tribal sovereign regulatory authority over liquor sales within its borders nor is it a wholesale adoption of state law, dicta in Rice v. Rehner, notwithstanding.

Rice v. Rehner is restricted to its facts. It did NOT involve a tribe selling liquor in a tribally owned business licensed by the tribe under a Secretarial Approved Tribal Liquor Control Ordinance. Such a case has never come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rice v. Rehner involved the sale of liquor by an “individual tribal member under a Federal Indian Trader’s License”. Although, in her long drawn-out opinion Justice O’Connor goes way beyond the facts in the case, any language in the opinion that might be interpreted as to require a Tribal Government owned business on the reservation to secure a State Liquor License is dicta and it has been regarded as dicta by the Federal Administrative Branch (Department of Interior/BIA) of the U.S. Government. The Administrative Branch continues to approve Tribal Liquor Control Ordinances that include the issuance of Tribal Liquor Control Licenses as long as the sales comply with state law regarding such sales. Compliance with state law has been interpreted by the Feds to mean compliance with state law as regards age and hour limitations. The Department of Interior clearly is keeping step with the legal analysis of tribal regulatory authority over matters also regulated by the state. Only the U.S. Congress may make state law applicable to “Indian Country” and did so with regard to liquor sales in a very limited manner. The Secretary and Solicitors, in determining the power of tribes to pass their own Tribal Liquor Control Laws, have properly applied the “prohibitory versus regulatory” analysis that has been used in Federal Cases interpreting the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Consequently, the BIA does not discourage tribes from obtaining state issued licenses and neither does it encourage it. A State Liquor License can be a valuable asset but, in most cases, it is unnecessary.

A careful reading of Rehner and its discussion of “substantive” state law versus “regulatory” state law is informative as to how the Federal Courts should resolve the issue not involved in Rehner. That is; Is a tribe that is engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages under a tribally issued liquor license authorized under a Federally Approved Tribal Liquor Control Ordinance, required to obtain a State License under State Liquor Control Laws? The answer, is NO. The analysis of “substantive” versus “regulatory” law in Rice v. Rehner has gone through a major evolution and is now an analysis that differentiates between whether state law, as made applicable by Federal Law, is prohibitory or regulatory. Under that analysis state control of liquor is clearly not prohibitory because the state does not prohibit, but rather it regulates such sales. Tribes are free to issue themselves a Tribal Liquor License and regulate liquor sales under the Tribal Liquor Control Ordinances approved by the Secretary of Interior as long as the sales are in compliance with state law regarding age and hour limits. Compliance with state law does not mean a state issued liquor licensed in required. The “compliance with state law” language of 18 USC 1161 has not been interpreted by the Administrative Branch of the U.S. Government to require a state license. The Department of Interior’s interpretation is entitled to deference under the canons of statutory interpretation.

While I recognize that with some tribes, obtaining a State Liquor License may be the path of least resistance, consideration has to be given to dilution of tribal sovereign authority, especially when no Federal Law has taken it away. The tribe, itself, must give away this sovereign authority to regulate liquor sales and does so when unnecessarily seeking a State Liquor License. Federal Law no more requires a tribe to secure a state license for liquor sales than it requires a state license for gambling within Indian Country.

I am not an advocate of tribal liquor sales. I am an advocate of Tribal Sovereignty. I personally made the decision not to use alcohol about a decade ago. I also realize the struggles that tribes have with liquor control, especially as it pertains to the so-called “border towns” and non-Indian owned bars on some reservations. However, as an advocate for Tribal Sovereignty, I would encourage Tribal Attorneys to do the proper research before advising your tribal client to obtain a State Liquor License. Give the state an inch and it’ll take a mile.

Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree lawyer and former Chairman of The National Indian Gaming Commission. He resides on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation and can be reached at hamlaw@live.com or Facebook.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Wolf

Connecticut Sun Beat Washington 80-65

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The Connecticut Sun beat Washington on Sunday by a score of 80-65, bringing their season record to 2-1.

Five Sun players scored in the double digits: Tan White (15 points), Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (14 points), Kelsey Griffin (11 points), Kara Lawson (11 points) and Tina Charles (10 points).

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

Attendance at the arena was 7,614. The Sun's next game is Thursday night against Minnesota at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses To Atlanta 97-82

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The Connecticut Sun lost to Atlanta last night by a score of 97-82, bringing their season record to 1-1.

Atlanta made about 62 percent of its baskets in the first half, leading by a score of 51-32 at halftime. The Sun's Tina Charles led the team with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

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

The Sun's next game is against Washington on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No Vote Taken At Rhode Island Statehouse On Table Games

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Rhode Island's House Finance Committee held a hearing yesterday on a bill that seeks a referendum to amend the state's constitution in order to allow table games at the two licensed slot parlors in that state but no vote was taken on that bill.

Supporters of the bill say that table games are needed to make the slot parlors more competitive with the tribal casinos in Connecticut and the casinos that are likely to spring up in Massachusetts.

Twin River, one of the two slot parlors, filed for bankruptcy protection last year to rid the entity of hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. Nonetheless, the two slot parlors pay the state a hefty 61 percent of their slot revenue which restults in about $300 million in annual revenue for the state.

George Papanier, president and chief operating officer of UTGR which owns Twin River, told lawmakers at the hearing that that expanding gambling at Twin River would not need a constitutional amendement because the slot parlors are effectively run by the state.

Narragansett Tribe Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas was in attendance but did not speak. In 2006, a referendum for a Tribal casino in West Warwick that would have been managed by Harrahs was voted down. The proposed constitutional amendement this year does not include the Narragansett Tribe, only the two licensed slot parlors.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mohegan Sun Reports Decline In April Slot Revenue Of About 1%

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Updated

The Mohegan Sun today reported slot machine revenue of $63.7 million during the month of April, a decline of 0.9 percent when compared to the same month last year.

On Friday, Foxwoods reported April slot revenue of $52.3 million, a decline of 9.1 percent when compared to April 2009.

To attract customers, Mohegan Sun has substantially increased the free play promotions sent to customers. Patrons redeemed $5.4 million in free play at Mohegan Sun during the month of April, almost three times the amount redeemed in April 2009, while $6.2 million was redeemed at Foxwoods compared to $3.9 million redeemed at Foxwoods in April 2009.

Twenty-five percent of the casinos' slot revenue is paid to the State of Connecticut.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Connecticut Sun Beats Chicago 74-61 In Team's WNBA Season Opener

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The Connecticut Sun beat Chicago yesterday in their first game of the WNBA regular season by a score of 74-61.

Attendance was reported to be 8,072 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Connecticut Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, announced last week that it signed coach Mike Thibault to a two-year contract extension through the 2012 season with a team option for a third year. Thibault is the only coach in the team's history, beginning in 2003 when the franchise relocated from Orlando. The terms of Thibault's contract were not released.

The Sun's next game is at Atlanta on Friday followed by a home game against Washington on Sunday, May 23.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Foxwoods' April Slot Revenue Down 9.1%

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Updated

Foxwoods reported today that its April slot machine revenue declined 9.1 percent when compared to the same month last year.

Free slot play in the amount of $6.2 million was redeemed at Foxwoods during the month of April.

Mohegan Sun is expected to report its slot machine revenue on Monday.

Rhode Island Lawmakers To Consider Casino Referendum Bill Next Week

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The Indian casinos in Connecticut just may be competing for customers with casinos in Rhode Island before the likely casinos spring up in Massachusetts.

Rhode Island lawmakers will hold a hearing next Thursday on whether to hold a referendum that would allow table games at the state's two VLT slot parlors.

The House Finance Committee hearing will focus on a proposed constitutional amendment that would turn the two licensed slot parlors, Twin River and Newport Grand, into full-fledged casinos.

In 2006, residents rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Narragansett Indians to build a casino in West Warwick. The bill to be considered at next week's hearing does not include the Narragansett Tribe.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

N.Y. Issues Bid Package For Aqueduct Slot Parlor

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The New York state Lottery Division announced on Tuesday that is accepted bids for the franchise to operate a 4,500 VLT slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

The new round of bidding, there have been four rounds since 2001, comes after a deal was rescinded with winning bidder Aqueduct Entertainment Group, a bidding process that has triggered investigations by the federal authorities and the state's inspector general's office.

The state lottery agency said it could select a winning bidder in as little as 12 weeks. The governor and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly must approved the deal. Once selected, the bidder would have to pony up a minimum of $300 million as a franchise fee.

Bids must be submitted by June 29 and the lottery agency said it could make a decision by August 3.

The Mohegan Tribe participated in earlier bidding rounds but was not selected.

Mashantucket Chairman Wants State To Lower Gambling Age And Expand Drinking Hours

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Hartford Courant article in which Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler said the Tribe is considering asking the state to lower the legal gambling age and expand the hours of alcohol sales.

Foxwoods Official Says State Should Consider Lowering Gambling Age
By Eric Gershon
The Hartford Courant
May 13, 2010

MASHANTUCKET — Connecticut should consider lowering its legal gambling age from 21, perhaps to 18, and consider allowing alcohol sales until 4 a.m., the leader of the Indian tribe that owns Foxwoods Resort Casino said Wednesday.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, said these changes and others might help Foxwoods (and presumably rival Mohegan Sun) better compete with gambling operations in more permissive states.

"That's something we need to sit down with the governor and the legislature about," he said after a ceremony highlighting the sum, now $3 billion, that the casino has paid the state from its slot machine revenue over the past 18 years.

The payments, 25 percent of the casino's slot revenues, are in made in place of taxes.

The Pequots have not formally proposed lowering the gambling age, and Butler did not say when it would do so. He made the suggestion after being asked to detail his ideas for improving the relationship between the tribe and the state.

Alcohol sales have been a frequent topic of debate in Connecticut.

The recession has seriously diminished revenue for both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. But the financial condition of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe has been especially destabilized because of an ill-timed expansion just as the economy contracted and unemployment began its dramatic increase.

The Pequots are still trying to restructure roughly $2 billion in debt.

In a brief interview covering many topics, Butler declined to offer any details about the tribe's negotiations with creditors. Once the tribe strikes a deal, or deals, it will be made public, he said, but he said he does not expect an announcement before the end of the year.

"My preference would be sooner than later," he said after addressing tribe members, state and local officials and other guests at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center.

Butler, 33, a former University of Connecticut football player, became chairman of the tribal council in January, after his predecessor was forced out. Butler previously served as treasurer.

New York, which has been cultivating slot machine venues to compete with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, allows gambling at 18, though some casinos in the Empire State require gamblers to be 21. Rhode Island also has slot machines and Massachusetts is considering them.

"That takes away from us," Butler said.

Neither Butler nor Michael Speller, Foxwoods' president, would speculate about whether the casino would someday exceed its current peak annual contribution to Connecticut of $205 million, made in 2005. Both men used variations of the word challenging to describe that prospect.

In public remarks and interviews, the men expressed interest in strengthening the relationship between the Pequots and the state, and also expressed hope that Connecticut would do more to promote mutual interests.

"The tribe looks forward to that continuing relationship with the state and how we can enhance that," Butler said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Las Vegas Strip Casinos Post 2.4% Increase In March, Atlantic City Casino Revenue Off Less Than 1% In April

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Even more startling than Las Vegas Strip casinos' fourth increase over the past five months of reported gaming revenue is Atlantic City's comeback: registering less than a one percent decline in casino revenue during the month of April.

The small decline in revenues for the 11 casinos in Atlantic City, a .7 percent decline when compared to the same month last year, was their best month since August 2008 when the casinos reported a .7 percent increase in revenues.

The revenue reported by the casinos in Nevada (the most recent report is for the month of March) trail those of New Jersey by one month.

Last month, we reported that the Las Vegas Strip casinos posted a whopping 33 percent increase in its February gaming revenues, the largest monthly increase in over 10 years which was driven in large part by a 255 percent increase in baccarat.

Slot machine win on the Las Vegas Strip increased by slightly less than one percent (0.09%)in March, breaking a 20-month streak of consecutive monthly declines. The last monthly slot machine revenue increase was reported in August 2008. Penny slots on the Strip were up 10.3 percent for the month.

While the Las Vegas Strip casinos are posting gains, casinos statewide in Nevada posted a .66 percent decline in March compared to the same month last year. Las Vegas Strip casinos generate over 50 percent of the total casino gaming revenues in Nevada.

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are expected to report their April slot revenue figures on Friday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

President Obama Nominates Elena Kagan To Supreme Court

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President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court today.

Kagan, 50 years old and a former dean of Harvard Law School, would replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens if she is confirmed by the Senate.

President Obama said, "Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost legal minds. She's an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide, with a life-long commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government."

Kagan previously served in the Clinton White House and, along with Obama, taught at the University of Chicago Law School.

In her current role as Solicitor General, Kagan represents the U.S. government before the Supreme Court and decides when to appeal lower court rulings. Kagan's nomination to the Solicitor General position required Senate confirmation, which took place last year.

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kagan would become the only current Supreme Court Justice without prior experience as a judge, making it difficult to understand her views as opposed to those who have made judicial decisions and written opinions as judges.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Correction

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In a May 6 article on changes to the Oneida's Turning Stone casino, the headline for the article incorrectly said the casino belonged to the Seneca Nation and not the Oneida Indians. The headline has since been changed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oneida Nation Plans Massive Changes To N.Y. Resort-Casino In Order To Serve Liquor

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Syracuse Post Standard article on the Seneca Indian Tribe's plans to lease out their upstate New York Turning Stone resort, except for retail space and the gaming floor, to an outside company so that a state-imposed liquor ban can be circumvented.

How Turning Stone plans to get around its lack of a liquor license
By Glenn Coin
The Post-Standard
May 06, 2010

Verona, NY - The Oneida Indian Nation has tried and failed for more than a decade to get a liquor license at Turning Stone Resort and Casino.

Frustrated by the state’s refusal to grant a license, the nation worked a deal with Beeches Restaurant, of Rome, to serve alcohol at the resort in Verona. Since 2007, Beeches has obtained about 6,000 one-time-only permits from the state to serve alcohol at the resort’s restaurants, ballrooms and nightclub.

Today, a Beeches spinoff will ask the state to approve a new plan: Let the family-owned restaurant take over nearly the entire resort — including golf courses, hotels and more than 1,200 employees — and serve food and alcohol under a standard license.

In the long, tortured saga of alcohol at Turning Stone, the new Beeches proposal would be the most radical.

It would end the cumbersome, expensive process of filing thousands of one-time permits that critics say is simply a way to circumvent the law. It would also, for the first time, put alcohol in the hands of gamblers and on the room service menu of the hotel’s 648 rooms.

The new plan would on paper cede control of most of New York’s first Indian-run casino resort to a family-run business that has operated an inn and restaurant for decades, but nothing on the scale of a resort with annual revenues of more than $300 million.

And it would instantly turn 1,260 Turning Stone workers — including 226 chefs — into employees of CD, while doing the jobs they did before when their checks came from the Oneida nation. CD, a company formed four months ago, would instantly have about as many employees as Welch Allyn or L.&J.G. Stickley.

The permit system and the new Beeches agreement illustrate how important alcohol is to the growth and profitability of Turning Stone, and the measures the Oneidas will go to serve it.

The old way

In 2003, the Oneidas began working with Beeches, whose co-owner, Chris Destito, was the husband of state Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito. (Chris Destito died of cancer earlier this year, but his family continues to run Beeches.)

Beeches used the liquor authority’s off-site catering permit system, intended to allow caterers to provide food and alcohol at weddings and other one-time events, to start serving alcohol at Turning Stone on a regular basis.

The use of the permits grew steadily and then, last year, exponentially. Beeches began serving alcohol every night of the week at the resort’s five fine-dining restaurants, nightclub, lounges and private clubs. The liquor authority granted 941 permits to Beeches for Turning Stone in 2007, and 2,410 last year.

Since 2007, the state has issued a total of 5,953 caterer permits to Beeches. That’s about 19 percent of all such permits issued in the entire state, and far more than any other single business, said Kerri O’Brien, deputy commissioner of licensing at the liquor authority.

While applicants can file electronically, O’Brien said, Beeches chooses to send paper copies of the seven-page application for each permit. That’s generated nearly 42,000 pages since 2007 and has taken about 1,000 person-hours of authority staff time to review. In return, Beeches has paid the authority $48 for each permit — a total of nearly $286,000.

Caterer permits are granted for one particular bar in one particular part of the resort for one particular day. If Beeches is serving alcohol at a wedding, several restaurants, the night club and the showroom at Turning Stone all on the same night, each of those requires at least one permit.

Critics say Beeches and Turning Stone have abused the intent of the permits.

“It’s just an end-around the law,” said Brad Dixon, president of the Madison County chapter of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association. The Madison, Oneida and Herkimer chapters sued the state in November to stop the authority from granting permits. A hearing is scheduled for May 13; the groups’ attorney has amended the lawsuit to try to stop the new CD application, too.

The new way

In January, 10 days before Chris Destito died, Beeches formed CD Food & Beverage. The owners are two of Destito’s brothers, Frank and Orlando, and a cousin, Dominick; they also own Beeches.

Under the new plan to be reviewed today by the state liquor authority board, CD will lease the entire casino except gambling areas and retail spaces. Under a pair of agreements not yet submitted to the liquor authority but outlined in a letter from the Oneida nation, Turning Stone will essentially turn over the entire resort to CD.

“Basically speaking, CD will lease from Turning Stone virtually all of the premises that Turning Stone Resort and Casino occupies in both Verona and Vernon,” CD’s lawyer, Mitchell Katz, told the liquor authority board last week.

The exceptions, he said, are retail areas such as the souvenir shop and “a very narrow bandwidth that concerns itself with gaming operations. All other spaces and places within the resort complex will be leased to CD. CD will control all of those premises and will control the sales of alcohol on all aspects of the leased premises.”

CD would stock and serve 44 bars in the main resort, and several roaming golf carts at the resort’s three main golf courses. The Oneida nation would set the menus and prices, provide food and lease employees to CD, according to a letter filed with the liquor authority by nation lawyer Peter Carmen. CD would pay 10 percent of gross sales as rent and also pay a variety of charges for maintenance and administration.

CD’s operations will generate about $4 million in sales taxes, Katz told the authority. At the sales tax rate of 8.25 percent, that means CD expects to do about $50 million worth of business a year.

Oneida nation spokesman Mark Emery declined comment. The Destitos could not be reached.

Gambling and hospitality experts say alcohol brings more people to the resort and entices gamblers to spend more once they get there.

“It’s important — there’s no question about that,” said Rupert Spies, a professor of hospitality management at Cornell University. “If you’re going to have a nice meal, if you’re going to have a relaxing weekend, if you’re going to go on a getaway, and someone tells you that you can’t have an alcoholic beverage, you’re going to say thanks but no thanks.”

“Gamblers like to drink and it lowers their inhibitions so they gamble more,” said William Thompson, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor who has studied the social costs of gambling. “Our casinos give away alcohol not to be nice guys, but because gamblers will gamble more if they get a good feeling from alcohol.”

When Turning Stone opened in 1993, Oneida nation leader Ray Halbritter said he would put “principles above profits” and not serve alcohol.

Within a few years, however, the nation started the first in a series of plans to bring alcohol to the growing resort. The nation tried setting up an independent company owned by resort employees and even, in 2007, applied for a liquor license outright. The state Liquor Authority board said no. The state and the Oneidas have longstanding unresolved issues over land claims and taxation.

While the Oneida nation is generally immune from state controls, liquor is a different story. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can control how alcohol is served and distributed on Indian lands.

Driver Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter And Other Charges In Crash After Leaving Casino

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Daniel E. Musser pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree manslaughter and other charges stemming from a car accident last March that killed Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante after he left the Mohegan Sun casino and drove into oncoming traffic on I-395.

Musser, a Navy sailor at the time of the crash, could be facing up to 8 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 30 in Norwich Superior Court. In addition to the second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle charge, Musser also pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, two counts of second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and driving a motor vehicle without insurance.

Musser, who is 25, was drinking at the Ultra 88 nightclub inside the casino before the March 2009 accident. State prosecutor Thomas DeLillo said Musser sat in his car for an hour and a half before leaving the casino although two tests showed Musser’s blood alcohol level was 0.136 and 0.127. The legal blood alchohol limit is 0.08.

Durante's family has filed suits in state and tribal courts. The lawsuit in state court against the bar owners is asking for damages under the state’s Dram Shop Law, which permits up to $250,000 in penalties against an establishment proven to have served alcohol to an intoxicated person who later causes a death. The lawsuit filed recently in the Mohegan gaming court is seeking $15 million in damages, claiming the casino was negligent.

Following the accident, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell withdrew her proposal to allow alcohol to be served 24 hours a day at the state's two Indian casinos.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Connecticut Sun Basketball Team Beats Atlanta In First Pre-Season Game

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Updated

The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat Atlanta today by a score of 86-79 in the first game of the Sun's WNBA preseason. The game was played at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun will play the Polish national team in the next preseason game, at the Mohegan Sun Arena this Friday at 7:30 p.m., while the first game of the regular season is May 15 against Chicago which will also be at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Negotiating For Another Extension With Bankers

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article by Brian Hallenbeck in The Day newspaper on the Mashantucket Pequots debt situation. In our view, the Mashantuckets should tell their bankers that they will get paid out of future profits from the proposed Foxwoods Philadelphia casino project. The Tribe's bankers helped get them into the mess yet they seem to not want to help the Tribe succeed with the Philadelphia project.

Mashantuckets, lenders discuss loan extensions
By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day
May 1, 2010

Mashantucket - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, is negotiating an extension of its forbearance agreement with senior lenders, the tribe said Friday, the day the agreement was set to expire.

"While discussions are ongoing," the tribe said in a statement, "… the tribe will be operating as usual."

The Mashantuckets, who are restructuring more than $2 billion in debt, have been negotiating for months with a banking syndicate that extended a $700 million line of credit, which comes due in July. The tribe first announced that it had reached a forbearance agreement late last October. The agreement stretched through Jan. 20, at which time the tribe announced it would be extended through April 30.

During forbearance, a lender agrees not to take action against a borrower who defaults on the terms of a loan agreement.

Since entering into forbearance with the banks, the tribe has defaulted on interest payments owed to bondholders. In November, the tribe paid about two-thirds of a $21.25 million interest payment due on $500 million worth of 8.5 percent notes. The tribe's failure to pay the full amount prompted Standard & Poor's, the credit-rating agency, to assign the tribe and the bonds "D" ratings, the lowest possible.

Standard & Poor's has also assigned "D" ratings to three series of special revenue bonds on which the tribe failed to make interest payments due March 1. Under the terms of the forbearance agreement, Standard & Poor's said at the time, "the administrative agent (for the senior lenders) has exercised its right to prevent the transfer of free cash flow into trustee accounts that collect funds for the required principal and interest payments for the Tribe's junior creditors."

The tribe's financial woes stem largely from the effects of the recession and increasing competition, forces that have wreaked havoc on the balance sheets of many gaming operators.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jamaican Lawmakers Approve Casinos; Joint Partnerships Envisioned

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Both Houses of Jamaica's Parliament approved the Casino Act of 2010 and the Governor General is expected to sign the bill within the next few days.

The new casino law calls for resort developments of which no more than 20 percent of the total resort investment will be for gaming while the balance of the investment will be used toward other resort components such as hotels, retail outlets, restaurants and sporting facilities.

The Finance Ministry estimates that the resort casinos would generate 8,000 direct jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs and a boost in tourism.

A timetable has not yet been set for a selection process or for the establishment of a gaming oversight commission.