Friday, July 30, 2010

MASSACHUSETTS LAWMAKERS AGREE TO VOTE ON GAMBLING BILL ON SATURDAY

Feather News

Members of Massachusetts' two legislative bodies, the Senate and House, said today that they have finally agreed on a gambling bill that includes three casinos and slot parlors at two of the state's racetracks but the governor said he may veto the bill.

Ever since the Senate approved a measure earlier this month that called for casinos and no slots at racetracks, lawmakers have tried to agree on a solution to their differences.

Governor Deval Patrick said that the bill is unacceptable and may veto it. "Although we have not yet seen the details of the Conference Committee report, I am nonetheless disappointed that it includes more than one slot facility and that there is no provision for open, competitive bidding for the slot licenses. I cannot support this bill in its current form," Patrick said in a press release.

"To break the legislative logjam on these measures, I offered to accept one slot facility, competitively and openly bid, as part of an expanded gaming bill. This is a big concession for me in light of my consistent view that slot parlors do not give us the jobs at higher wages and benefits that justify the social costs."

The agreement among the lawmakers calls for one casino in each of three regions of the state - east, southeast and west.

Casino gambling in Massachusetts could be devastating to the two Indian casinos in Connecticut. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of Mohegan Sun's customers come from Massachusetts while about one-third of Foxwoods customers are Massachusetts residents.

Lawmakers plan to vote on a gambling bill tomorrow which is the last day of their two-year legislative session.

Despite the governor's rhetoric tonight our money is on the guv signing the bill.

Connecticut Sun Crushed By Atlanta 94-62; Worst Performance In Franchise History

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Atlanta on Friday night by a score of 94-62, the team's worst game in its history. Many of the 7,003 fans attending the game at the Mohegan Sun Arena left early, some calling for the axe to land on the Connecticut Sun coach.

The Sun's season record is now 13-11 and fell to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings after tonight's loss. Only the top four teams in the Eastern and Western conferences are eligible to make the playoffs.

The New York Liberty, now associated with its Foxwoods sponsor, replaced the Sun in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Although New York has the same season record as the Sun, at 13-11, New York is 8-7 when playing against Eastern Conference teams while Connecticut is 7-9 when playing Eastern Conference teams.

The Sun begins a three-game road trip beginning with a game at New York on Sunday. The Sun's next home game will be on August 8 against Washington.

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

Federal Labor Board Denies Mashantucket Appeal Over Federal Union Vote Supervision

Feather News

Late this afternoon the assistant regional director for the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford, John Cotter, was reported to have received an order from the NLRB in Washington, D.C., denying the Mashantucket Pequot's appeal of a ruling that mandates that tomorrow's Foxwoods beverage server union vote be held under federal labor laws.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe asserts that a union vote should be held under the Tribe's labor law and not federal labor law.

About 375 beverage servers will vote tomorrow on whether or not to join the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union.

Objections to the election and subsequent lawsuits challenging whether union elections must be held under federal labor law are likely to be filed by the Tribe.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Editorial: Local Reporting On Mohegan Sun Finances Misleading

Feather News
Updated 2

If a newspaper had to sum up a company's financial performance in one sentence it would include the company's net income figure. It would also include any extraordinary gains or losses, if applicable, but it will always show the bottom line - the net income.

While The Day and the Hartford Courant are hip to this these days the Norwich Bulletin is still in the dark when it comes to financial reporting. In the Norwich Bulletin's website article on the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's third quarter earnings report today the article omits the earnings figure. Huh?

Is the bottom line figure not important? Does a figure in the middle of an income statement and not the bottom of the income statement seem better? And what accounts for the difference between the bottom line numbers and the number a newspaper, like the Norwich Bulletin, chooses to publish? Is that not significant for your reader to understand?

If distributions to the Tribal government are on pace to average $15 million per quarter for fiscal year 2010 and profits are reported at $11 million for the quarter reported upon today then what happens when you deduct $15 million from $11 million? Does the fact that MTGA has about $800 million in debt coming due in the Spring of 2012 lend any perspective to MTGA's financial picture? Currently, MTGA owes about $1 million in interest expense on their debt every three days. That figure is based on the approximately $125 million annual interest expense. Won't that figure increase by at least $50 million annually when MTGA goes to refinance that $800 million debt ($782 million according to MTGA June 2010 presentation at the Jefferies 2010 Global Consumer Conference) and what effect will that have on the earnings? Or the $250 million that comes due the following year in 2013? None of this is significant to your article on MTGA finances? The Feather News has been covering this for a long time, the local media has ignored it.

Yet the Norwich Bulletin draws a picture of MTGA being on the move? Maybe on the move to avoid the oncoming freight train but certainly not in the sense that the Norwich Bulletin is trying to convey.

I'm sorry that Tribal members who read the Norwich Bulletin are being misinformed by that newspaper.

An Internet gambling bill was approved the U.S. House of Representative's Financial Services Committee on Wednesday and analysts are voicing concerns that, if eventually approved by the full Congress, it would cut into casino revenues. Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said of the pending Internet gambling bill's effect on proposed casinos in that state, "People are going to be left with a terrible hangover at the end of the day because all of the benefits (of Massachusetts casinos) aren’t going to materialize."

Does anybody really think that if Internet gaming is approved by Congress that it will be beneficial to MTGA as the Norwich Bulletin article leads its readers to believe? Instead of coming to spend money at the Mohegan Sun, customers will be playing poker on their laptops, flat on their couches and in their underwear, chain smoking crippy. How is that going to help MTGA? Or does MTGA plan on supplying something else to this customer other than one of what will be thousands of gambling websites available?

It would also be nice if some local newspapers could do some financial analysis instead of just reprinting numbers or press releases. Ask some questions. Do you have any? What is the story? You folks are being paid for reporting, I'm not.

The press release yesterday does not include the complete set of financial statements for the quarter, like the balance sheet and statement of cash flows, so a thorough analysis on the quarter cannot yet be done. It'll take another month or so until these other statements are made public.

And despite a horrendous profit report where MTGA's profits plummeted by just over fifty percent, the Norwich Bulletin's angle is that of the casino being on the move. Hype must be more important than the bottom line.

I hope the reporter at least gets a comped meal out of the deal. And I'm not talking Season's Buffet. Keep him happy.

Nasty earnings reports also bring about hype. After all, the casino wants to add some color to a dark report. The past two earnings report releases have brought on statements by MTGA officials about hotel development, in Pennsylania last quarter and in Connecticut this quarter, but no details or names of developers are released. Hype. Or as Brokenwing says ... smoke and mirrors.

What happened to the mystery developer of the hotel in Pennsylvania that was mentioned on the same day of the last earnings release three months ago? Are your readers entitled to a follow-up? Just bring up a new mystery developer of a new mystery hotel on new mystery land? Are there any other questions about Pennsylvania that you think are significant to an article on MTGA's finances?

After all, if someone asked you to build and own a hotel but give out the rooms to them what would you say? Build your own goddamn hotel. No money? Okay, then you just might build and own the hotel and make the casino pay up the ass for it, for a long, long time. On bad terms for the casino of course.

It would make sense to acquire more hotel rooms so I'm certainly not saying that talks aren't happening somewhere. Quite possibly on the stalled graveyard hotel.

Here's the Norwich Bull article that got me so irked tonight, mostly for leaving out the profit number but, well, one thought leads to another:

Mohegan Sun on the move despite down profits
Partnership forming for tribal land hotel.
Norwich Bulletin
Posted Jul 29, 2010 @ 01:59 PM

Mohegan, Conn. — Mohegan Sun’s latest quarterly profits are down but the casino is charging ahead into new projects including a partnership on a new local hotel.

The casino suspended its building of an on-site hotel tower in September 2008 after the Great Recession hit. That project remains suspended but executives are optimistic about partnering on a new hotel near the casino on land owned by the Mohegan Tribe.

“We are looking into a third-party hotel,” Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Hartmann said during an earnings conference call Thursday.

Hartmann said later “We’re looking for somebody other than the tribe to build and own it. We would manage it.”

Hartmann and others declined to name the partner.

“More details will be coming out later,” Mohegan Sun President and CEO Mitchell Grossinger Etess said.

Executives also expressed optimism about siting a casino in western Massachusetts and helping another tribe in Washington state establish a casino there.

“It’s a tremendous project; very viable,” Hartmann said of the Washington effort. He was more cautious about Massachusetts as negotiations in that state’s legislature about legalizing casino gambling have bogged down in recent days.

“We’re monitoring the process,” Hartmann said.

Wednesday’s passage of a bill out of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee that would enable Mohegan Sun to offer poker through its website was applauded by Tribal Chairwoman Lynn Malerba. Malerba testified before the committee earlier this month.

“We’re very pleased,” Malerba said in response to a question during the conference call. “We’ll see how the full vote in the House goes.”

The introduction of table games at Mohegan Sun’s Pocono Downs casino in Pennsylvania is cheering executives with overall business up about 5 percent since the introduction two weeks ago, Hartmann said.

The glum statements came in reviewing fiscal third-quarter operating results. Income from operations at Mohegan Sun fell 17 percent to $45.2 million while net revenues declined 6.6 percent to $286.8 million. Lower table games “hold,” or the amount the casino keeps after paying off winning customers, “significantly impacted” results, Etess said.

“Disappointed does mean discouraged,” he said. “Our entire team continues to move forward with high energy.”

The casino and its tribal owner continues the no-layoff policy that has won it praise from many people including Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom. Yet the Sun continues a policy of examining every job after a worker leaves voluntarily. This has enabled the casino reduce its workforce by 1,000 since the recession began.

Distributions to tribal members for the nine months ended June 30 are up $2.1 million to $48.7 million. The payouts will total $59 million for the entire fiscal year, the casino forecast. Those payouts will be reduced next year, Chief Financial Officer Leo Chupaska said.

Foxwoods Resort Casino is ending incentive payments to Mashantucket Pequot tribal members at the end of this year because of financial problems at that casino.

“We expect them to be below $59 million,” Chupaska said of the Mohegan payments.

Flash: Mohegan Gaming Authority Announces About 50% Decline In 3rd Quarter Profits

Feather News
Updated

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported a 50.5 percent decline in profits for the months of April through June compared to the same three-month period last year.

In its third quarter report issued today, MTGA reported profits (net income) of $11.6 million. These profits do not take into account distributions to the Tribal government. While the report does not detail the distributions for the three-month period, the report estimated that distributions to the Tribal government for the 12 months of fiscal year 2010 would be $59 million.

MTGA officials attributed the overall decline in profits in large part to a lower hold percentage in table games. Table game revenue declined 11.2 percent and slot revenues fell 3 percent for a combined gaming revenue decrease of 4.9 percent to $321 million. Non-gaming revenue fell 8.7 percent to $61.1 million.

MTGA's Pocono Downs racino in Pennsylvania continues to generate losses after taking into account interest expense related to that facility. The report states, "The total cost to add table game and poker operations is forecast to be approximately $34.4 million, inclusive of the $16.5 million one-time table games authorization fee, $15.9 million in renovation costs and $2.0 million in pre-opening costs and expenses."

Table games were opened to the public earlier this month, just days after the quarter reported upon had ended.

Keith Foley, a gaming analyst for Moody’s Investor's Service was quoted in a Bloomberg News article today entitled "Casinos Still Facing Default Risk After Restructuring Debts," said that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority "need(s) overall business conditions to improve, not just stabilize to generate sufficient cash flows to refinance debt on less-than-onerous terms."

The weighted average interest rate on MTGA's debt increased slightly from 6.9 percent to 7 percent for the quarter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Connecticut Sun Beats Washington 88-78

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat Washington on Tuesday by a score of 88-78 before an audience of 6,322 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun's next game will be against Atlanta on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, one of only five more home games left in the season. Eleven games in total remain on the Sun's regular season schedule.

The Sun (13-10) remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, three games behind first place Indiana. The teams in the top four spots in each of the Eastern and Western conferences will make the playoffs.

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

Massachusetts Lawmakers Still Not In Agreement On Gambling Bill

Feather News

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert Deleo isn't ready for a compromise with state Senate lawmakers if that compromise means shutting out racetrack owners from installing slot machines in their facilities according to Jessica Van Sack of the Boston Herald.

The Senate passed legislation approving three resort casinos while the House bill calls for two casinos and 750 slot machines at the state's four racetracks. Two of those racetracks are in Deleo's district which could be the major reason why he isn't budging from his position.

The two legislative bodies need to agree on one gambling bill by Saturday before presenting it to Governor Deval Patrick for his signature.

Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Patrick don't want slot machines at the racetracks and say that permitting the racetracks to install slot machines is akin to a no-bid contract for the racetracks.

Casinos in Massachusetts will hurt the two Indian casinos in Connecticut. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of Mohegan Sun's customers come from Massachusetts while one-third of Foxwoods' patrons are residents of Massachusetts.

The Mohegans have so far spent five million dollars on their foothold for what is likely to become a bid for one of the casinos in Massachusetts, which is far from guaranteed in a competitive bidding process for casino licenses, according to a recent published statement made by an official with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (Brody).

Three days and counting. Stay tuned to Sunday's media reports for the outcome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Check Out The Mashpee Wampanoag Blog

Feather News

An independent website on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, maintained by Mashpee tribal members dedicated to educating the membership, is worth checking out for those Indians in Connecticut that want to get another perspective of what is going on:

www.reelwamps.blogspot.com

Mohegans And Mashantucket Pequots On Edge This Week Over Whether Massachusetts Lawmakers Will Agree On Casino Plan

Feather News

The Massachusetts legislative session ends this Saturday and if lawmakers cannot agree by then on a gambling bill acceptable to the governor then any plan for casinos will likely be delayed into next year.

The main crux of the disagreement among lawmakers is not whether they want casinos in Massachusetts - they do - but whether racetracks should be allowed to host slot machines on their property.

The House wants slot machines at the state's four racetracks but the Senate does not. And neither does Governor Deval Patrick.

Other legislation, on gun control and a sales tax holiday, is being held up while the two legislative bodies focus their energy on gambling legislation.

Casino gambling in Massachusetts will be a horrendous blow to the two Indian casinos in Connecticut so both tribes are watching closely to see what happens this week.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony For Samuel Huntington









The United States - then a confederation of thirteen states - was first governed by a document called the Articles of Confederation. It was under the Articles of Confederation that this nation was called the United States of America. This document was drafted in 1776 and ratified by the states in 1781. Although this document was replaced by the Constitution in 1778, the Articles of Confederation might be considered the nation's first Constitution.

Under the Articles of Confederation, there were ten presidents of Congress. The first president of Congress was Norwich citizen Samuel Huntington. It is for this reason that many consider Huntington the first president of the United States.

While the U.S. Congress authorizes wreath laying ceremonies on the birthdays of every dead president of the United States it does not lay wreaths for those presidents of Congress that were recognized under the Articles of Confederation.

Local historian Denny Gibbs and Bill Stanley spearheaded efforts to recognize Samuel Huntington. This year a special tribute was also paid to Bill Stanley, who passed away last year. As Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal remarked this afternoon, "Today, we recognize two patriots: Samuel Huntington and Bill Stanley."

Bill Stanley's son, Bill Jr., spoke of his father and quoted former Mohegan Tribal Council chairman Mark Brown who once said that "Bill Stanley was so good that he could convince you that Samuel Huntington was the nation's first president, that Benedict Arnold (also a Norwich native) was a hero and that a tuna fish sandwich was a good lunch."

In addition to Stanley and Blumenthal, former congressman and ex-Army colonel Rob Simmons and Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom also spoke. State senator Edith Prague and various other lawmakers were in attendance.

Connecticut Sun Loses To Los Angeles 89-80

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Los Angeles on Saturday by a score of 89-80 before an audience of 8,097 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (12-10) is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Twelve games remain in the Sun's regular season schedule. The Sun's next game is Tuesday evening against Washington at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Federal Judge Asks Interior Department For Quick Resolution To Shinnecock Recognition Appeal

Feather News

U.S. District Court judge Joseph Bianco doesn't have the authority to rule on appeals to last month's federal recognition of the Shinnecock Indian Tribe but he did give the federal Interior Department ten days to come up with a timeline on when the appeals would be resolved, urging the Interior to expedite the process.

Appeals to the Shinnecock Tribe's federal recognition were filed by a group called the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs and a group of Long Island Indians.

Lacking a court order the Interior Department's Federal Board of Indian Appeals would otherwise have no timetable to rule on the appeals.

Federal Labor Board Schedules Foxwoods Beverage Workers Union Vote For July 31

Feather News
Updated with footnote

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a vote for beverage workers at Foxwoods which will decide if the beverage workers are to represented by a union.

The vote, set for July 31, was scheduled after it was clear that Foxwoods would not appeal a decision made earlier this month by the NLRB that the election would be governed under the federal labor law instead of being governed by tribal labor law.

The deadline for an appeal to the NLRB decision by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians has expired.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe made a significant change to their union voting procedures - specifically that eligible employees not voting in an election for union representation would no longer be counted as "no" votes - in the hope that it would convince the NLRB to permit the Tribe to supervise the election under tribal laws.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371 is seeking to organize about 400 bartenders, bar porters and beverage servers.

Note: The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe filed a request for review of the regional NLRB decision earlier this week to the NLRB's Washington, D.C., office.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fireworks And Rooftop Events At Mohegan Sun Canceled Wednesday; Rain Date Is Thursday

Connecticut Sun Loses To New York In Overtime 82-74

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to the New York Liberty in overtime on Tuesday night by a score of 82-74 before an audience of 6,478 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (12-9) is now in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sun's next game is Saturday night against Los Angeles at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

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

Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Former Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Underway

Feather News

Testimony in a lawsuit brought by Sovereign Bank against former Mashantucket Pequot tribal council chairman Michael Thomas began yesterday in New London Superior Court.

The civil case revolves around an unpaid loan, now totaling $6.5 million according to The Day newspaper, made to Thomas by Sovereign Bank which Thomas claimed was made by the bank in order to "to influence or reward an agent of an Indian tribal government" in violation of federal statutes.

The trial is set to resume today at 10 a.m. at the courthouse.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mohegans Now Facing Competing Proposal For Western Massachusetts Casino

Feather News
Updated with footnote

Should Massachusetts approve a casino in the western part of that state the Mohegans will now have competition in securing a casino license.

The owners of the Wyckoff Country Club in the town of Holyoke, near Springfield, want to turn their 100-acre golf course into a casino resort, according to an AP article in the Boston Globe.

Residents of Holyoke have previously approved ballot questions supporting a casino in the town.

The fate of casino gambling in Massachusetts is now in the hands of a committee comprosed of Senate and House lawmakers who are charged with agreeing on a gambling bill for the governor's signature.

Note: According to an article that appeared on Tuesday, July 20, on Masslive.com, the group seeking to develop the Wyckoff country club resort is called Paper City Development. The key partner is "Joseph A. Lashinger Jr. of Palm Beach Gardens Fla., a former Pennsylvania lawmaker who has been involved with the Harrah’s and Bally’s Entertainment casino companies" and locals are Holyoke attorney Aaron W. Wilson and former Springfield City Councilor Anthony Ravosa Jr.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Connecticut Sun Beats Atlanta 96-80

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team beat Atlanta on Saturday by a score of 96-80 before an audience of 7,378 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (12-8) will play its next four games at home beginning with a game on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. against New York which will be televised on ESPN2.

The WNBA Connecticut Sun team, now in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, is owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flash: June Slot Revenue Shows Continuing Declines; Mohegan Down 3.6%, Foxwoods Down 11.7%

Feather News

Slot revenues continue to slide at both of Connecticut's Indian casinos. Mohegan Sun reported a 3.6 percent decline in its June slot revenues compared to the same month last year while Foxwoods recorded a decline of 11.7 percent.

In dollar amounts, Mohegan Sun had $59.6 million in slot revenue and Foxwoods recorded $51 million in slot revenue.

Mohegan Sun's slot revenue in June was about 20 percent below its highest June slot revenue on record, which was in June 2007 ($74.5 million) before the declines began to set in, and is the lowest June slot performance since the casino's Sunburst expansion opened in 2001 when about 2,500 additional slot machines were added to the casino's gaming floor.

Foxwoods' slot revenue in June was about 27 percent below its highest June slot revenue on record, also in June 2007 ($69.8 million).

Casino slot revenues are typically compared to the same month in prior years due to the seasonal nature of the casino business in Connecticut. Revenues are higher in summer months and lower during the winter months.

The amount of free slot play redeemed by customers during the month of June, as an enticement to play, has not yet been published on the state's Department of Revenue website.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Connecticut Sun Beats Indiana 77-68

Tonights Fireworks and Wild Wednesday Events At Mohegan Sun Are Canceled

Feather News
July 14, 2010

Mohegan Sun's "Wild Wednesday" events, including the fireworks, are canceled tonight due to inclement weather. The events will instead be held tomorrow.

Connecticut Political Operatives Fight Shinnecock Recognition

Feather News

Matthew Hennessey, former chief of staff to disgraced Hartford mayor Eddie Perez, said a group he represents is appealing the Shinnecock Tribe's federal recognition decision.

The Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs has not disclosed who is financially supporting the group. The group claims to be comprised of "small businesses, employees, employers, corporations, individual and taxpayers advocating for the retention and growth of gaming jobs in Connecticut."

The Shinnecock Tribe of Long Island has made it clear that it wants to open a casino in New York which is the reason why the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs is fighting their recognition, according to an article in today's Hartford Courant.

In an indication of how the culture of gambling has resulted in pitched battles with legitimate Indian tribes, the group is calling on the federal government to reverse the Tribe's federal recognition alleging that it failed to meet the all the criterion for federal recognition.

The Shinnecock's federal recognition decision was announced on June 15 and allows for a 30-day comment period that will expire this week.

Note: Subsequent to this article spokespersons for both the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe have publicly denied any involvement with this group.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Real July Fireworks For Connecticut Indians

By Ken Davison
Feather News
Updated

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe faces a deadline today that calls for the Tribe to pay about $700 million to its bankers while the Mohegan Tribe officially opens its table games today at its Pennsylvania casino.

Meanwhile, members of the Massachusetts legislature are still in meetings to negotiate the final details of how to legalize casino gambling in that state which is expected to significantly siphon off revenues that would otherwise go to the two Connecticut Indian casinos.

The banking syndicate led by Bank of America will likely give the Mashantuckets another extension on solving the $700 million credit line problem and not agree to forgiving debt yet because more is at stake for the banks in these negotiations than just the $700 million credit line at Mashantucket. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority faces a 2012 deadline for the repayment of a $800 million credit line - about half of its total debt - to a banking syndicate led by the same Bank of America so what takes place at Mashantucket will set a precedent for what could happen with their money lent to the Mohegan's gaming arm.

What is clear is that neither Indian casino can come up with that kind of cash on their own without taking on new debt.

While the Mashantucket's financial statements are not public, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority already is paying about $125 million each year in interest expense on their debt, leaving little for lump sum principle payments to reduce their debt.

The Mashantucket Pequots seem to be intent on eliminating payments, which at one time were in the six figures, made to its tribal members while the Mohegan Tribe's payments of (under tribal law it is believed to be a violation for a tribal member to state these payments but tribal officials seem to be permitted) could also be in jeopardy at some point.

In a conference call with analysts earlier this year, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority said it hopes to have a plan in place by this September. The gaming authority's next conference call with financial analysts is scheduled for June 29 when it is expected to release its operating results for the quarter of April through June.

The bankers are keenly aware of two scenarios that would threaten the repayment of their loans over time: the emergence of casinos in Massachusetts and increased interest rates on future casino borrowings which would require significant more cash outlays by the Tribes just for interest payments alone. So for the banks it is a race against time as the repayment picture is not likely to improve in the future.

Today's opening of table games in Pennsylvania should lessen the Mohegan Tribe's casino's losses in that state but the net result is not yet clear. The Mohegans have also spent about $50 million on casino partnerships with a tribe in Washington and a tribe in Wisconsin but neither have yet panned out.

Pennsylvania has been a mixed blessing for the Mashantuckets. A group that the Mashantuckets are involved with was awarded a license to open a slot parlor in the coveted city of Philadelphia but have not yet been able to capitalize on that venture. The Mashantuckets are in need of money to build the slot parlor - which would be a casino since the state legalized table games since the award of the slot license - and could see their license stripped if they cannot show an ability to build a casino soon.

Prospects for the Mashantuckets in Philadelphia may be looking up since it was reported on Sunday that Harrah's Entertainment may step in to finance the project.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Harrah's is owed $67.3 million for the land where the Foxwoods Philadelphia casino is to be located which gives Harrah's an added incentive to close a deal with the Foxwoods group.

Since Harrah's already runs one of the casinos in Pennsylvania, the high-grossing casino in Chester which the company opted for instead of one in Philadelphia where they owned land, the company cannot exceed a 33 ownership percent stake in the Foxwoods project according to state law.

Last month the Foxwoods group, fighting an action by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to revoke their casino license, said they were talking to five potential investors. Talks between the Foxwoods Philadelphia group and casino magnate Steve Wynn broke down earlier this year forcing the group to look elswhere for a white knight.

Other scenarios could emerge that would be bad news for the two Indian casinos in Connecticut. Although the governor of Rhode Island vetoed a table games bill last month for the state's two slot parlors it is likely that another attempt will be made in the near future. The Shinnecock Tribe of Long Island, N.Y., which received federal recognition last month, is looking to open a casino in New York and plans for a long-awaited slot parlor at New York City's Aqueduct Racetrack could be finalized in the next few weeks.

While competition to Connecticut's Indian casinos in neighboring states has long been expected to ramp up, the economic situation and the diversification efforts of the two tribes have served as an unexpected drag on their casino's earnings. These issues have only been magnified by the assumption of significant debt for casino expansions that have either had dissapointing results or been halted altogether.

Note: An article in today's The Day newspaper entitled "End of payments likely to hearten tribe's lenders" by Brian Hallenbeck says, "While certain to fan discontent among tribal members, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council's elimination of members' per capita payments is likely to sit well with the tribe's lenders, according to financial sources. The council has informed members that their monthly distributions - said to range, on average, between $7,500 and $10,000 as recently as a year ago - will cease Dec. 31."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mohegan's Pocono Downs Casino To Begin Dealing Cards Tomorrow

Feather News
Updated

The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, in Wilkes-Barre, PA, will have their test run at table games tomorrow, Sunday, July 11, and if that eight-hour test run passes muster with state regulators then the Pennsylvania casino will begin offering table games on Tuesday.

Up until now the Mohegan's Pocono Downs has only offered slot machines and virtual blackjack (and horse races) but with the legalization of table games the casino will offer games like live blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, pai gow and mini-baccarat. The Mohegans will begin with 62 table games and may add another 21 table games later in the summer.

The Mohegan's Pocono Downs casino's closest competitor, the Mount Airy casino, will also have their table game test run on Sunday, July 11, and similarly will officially begin table games on Tuesday if that test run is successful.

Both casinos have scheduled official grand openings on Tuesday at 10 a.m., according to Pennsylvania's Times Leader newspaper.

Three casinos in western Pennsylvania began table games last week.

Tomorrow's test run at the Mohegan's Pocono Downs casino will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Mount Airy's test run will be from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Proceeds of the Mohegan's test run will go to charity. The public is invited to both casinos for its test runs on Sunday.

Tribal Payments To Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Members To End In Six Months

Feather News

The approximately $100,000 that each Mashantucket Pequot adult receives each year will be ending in six months, according to a letter by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council which was obtained by The Day newspaper.

The Feather News has heard rumors to this effect for the past two months (from the flying man and the mystical artist) but it has not been reported publicly until today.

The Mashantucket Pequots have a $700 million credit line coming due next week and the Tribe is negotiating with their creditors over their inability to pay that off which seems to be the main reason why the Tribe has announced the end of tribal payments to its members.

Today's front-page article in The Day newspaper, written by Brian Hallenbeck who covers the local Indian tribes, reports, "The payments, which are made to adult tribal members, have been significantly reduced in recent years but ranged last summer between $90,000 and $120,000 a year, on average, a tribal source said at the time."

Although the Tribe owes more than $2 billion, the $700 million line of credit that is coming due next week was loaned to the Tribe by a banking syndicate led by the Bank of America.

The Mohegan Tribe, meanwhile, has a credit line of $800 million that was loaned to its gaming arm and which comes due in two years. According to Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority conference calls with analysts, the Tribe hopes to have negotiated a plan with its creditors by the end of September. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's total debt is about $1.6 billion.

Were two of the principle partners for Trading Cove Associates, the Mohegan Sun's former casino management company that is currently receiving five percent of the casino's revenues as a result of a buyout agreement that ends in four-and-a-half years, demanding to be seen at the tribal government building this week?

Both tribes hold a casino monopoly in Connecticut and generate between $2 billion to $3 billion in revenues from the casinos on the two reservations.

Note: I read through a few dozen of the reader's comments on the article in Saturday's online edition of The Day newspaper. All of the comments had been removed by the following day when I checked the article again. In its place was the following statement from The Day, "Editor's note: The comment function has been disabled because a high number of the comments violated the policy."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Concert At Mashantucket Pequot Museum Saturday, July 10

Feather News

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is holding a concert on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. which offers a broad array of music. The concert is free to museum members, otherwise you need to pay the admission for the museum which is $15 for adult non-members, $13 for senior non-members, $10 for kids age 6-15 and free for children under 6 years of age. The address is 110 Pequot Trail on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation. The museum's toll-free phone number is 1-800-411-9671.

The concert, called Sizzling Summer Sounds, features the following Indian musicians: Jana Mashonee (Lumbee), award-winning R&B; Tara-Louise Montour (Mohawk), classical violinist; Tru Rez Crew, hip-hop group; Laughing Woman (Mashantucket Pequot) and Eagle’s Wings (Ojibwe), traditional music; and the Pappy Johns Band, blues.

Performance Schedule, 11 am-12:30 pm:
Traditional Music
Laughing Woman (Mashantucket Pequot) & Eagle's Wings (Ojibwe)
Nominated for Best Folk/Country Artist at the 5th Annual Native American Music Awards.
Rhythm & Blues
Jana Mashonee (Lumbee)
Grammy-nominated, 8-time Native American Music award winner.

Performance Schedule, 1-4 pm:
Classical Violinist
Tara-Louise Montour (Mohawk)
Ms. Montour won the 2008 Sunburst Artist of the Year Award.
Hip-Hop
Tru Rez Crew (Six Nations of the Grand River Territory)
Honored with the Best Rap or Hip-Hop Album award from the Canadian Aboriginal Awards.

Old-Fashioned Blues
Pappy John's Band (Canadian Mohawk and Oneida)
This band has performed internationally at venues including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Blues sur Seine in France, and the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Saturday's Sailfest Fireworks Rain Date Set For Sunday

Feather News

The Mashantucket Pequot-sponsored fireworks scheduled for Saturday night in the New London harbor will be held on Sunday in the event of rain tomorrow night.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WNBA All-Star Team Practice Open And Free To The Public At Mohegan Sun Arena On Friday Afternoon

Feather News

The public can attend without charge the practices of both the WNBA All-Star Team and the USA National Team on Friday afternoon. The USA National Team's practice will begin at 2:45 and the WNBA All-Star Team's practice will begin at 4 p.m.

Both teams will face each other in a game this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Connecticut Sun Loses To Atlanta 108-103

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball lost to Atlanta in overtime on Wednesday night by a score of 108-103.

Wednesday's loss to Eastern Conference leader Atlanta (14-5) is the Sun's third consecutive loss and brings the Sun's season record to 10-8. The Sun is now in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sun's next game is next Wednesday, July 14, at Indiana. That game will be the Sun's last game on the road before playing five consecutive games at the Mohegan Sun Arena starting with a game against Atlanta on Saturday, July 17.

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

Flash: Malaysian Subisidiary Is Last Group Standing For Aqueduct Slots After NY Regulators Disqualify Other Two Bidders

Feather News

A subsidiary of the Malaysian investors that financed Foxwoods remains the only eligible bid thus far submitted to the state's lottery board to build and operate a 4,500 video lottery terminal slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Two other bidders, Penn National and another group that includes SL Green and the Seminole Indian's Hard Rock International, are reportedly disqualified after a review of their documents showed they did not conform to the requirements established by the New York Lottery Division which is in charge of the bidding process.

The Aqueduct Racetrack is located about 125 miles from the Mohegan Sun.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses To San Antonio 79-66

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to San Antonio on Tuesday night by a score of 79-66.

Tuesday's loss to San Antonio brings the Sun's season record to 10-7. The Sun's next game is Wednesday at Atlanta.

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

Three Groups Bid On NYC Aqueduct Slot Parlor

Feather News

Only three groups submitted bids before last week's deadline to build and operate a 4,500 VLT slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y., according to the state's lottery division which is in charge of the bidding process.

The three groups are Penn National which is the company that sold the Pocono Downs racetrack in Pennsylvania to the Mohegans, Genting New York, LLC which is a subsidiery of the Malaysian gaming group that financed Foxwoods, and the third group is comprised of SL Green, Clairvest Group Inc. and Hard Rock International.

The Mohegan Tribe declined to participate in this latest round of bidding.

Details of the bids have not been disclosed but the New York Lottery Division is expected to select the winning bidder by August 3. The winning bidder must commit to an up-front payment of $300 million.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

MASSACHUSETTS SENATE APPROVES CASINOS

By Ken Davison
Feather News
Updated

The Massachusetts Senate approved a gaming bill by a vote of 25-15 late last week that calls for three casino resorts in the state but before any plan is finalized the Senate and the House, which approved a bill in April for two casinos and slot machines at the state's four racetracks, will have to work out their differences to arrive at a common bill to give the governor for his signature.

A conference committee of the two legislative bodies - the Senate and the House - will meet next week to work out their differences. Among the differences are that the Senate bill has a casino smoking ban while the House bill permits smoking in 25 percent of the casinos. While the Senate bill includes three casinos in three distinct geographic zone (one in Western Massachusetts where a group that includes the Mohegan Tribe would like to bid on a casino license), the House version only calls for two casinos in the state. The Senate bill does not inlcude slot machines at racetracks while the House bill allows for up to 750 slot machines at the state's four racetracks.

Both bills agree on a 25 percent tax rate but differ on the amount to be invested on building the casino resorts and up-front fees for the casino licenses. The House bill calls for an up-front fee of $100 million for each casino license, the Senate bill has lower license fees of $75 million per casino.

The Senate bill also mandates a minimum investment of $600 million for each casino but prospective casino bidders would likely promise to spend far more than that because of the nature of a competitive bidding process.

In addition to the number of casinos that are finally agreed upon by the legislature and governor, the two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts still have the right to open casinos on reservation land.

The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are already feeling the impact their debt loads without casinos looming over their northern border with Massachusetts. Once casinos in Massachusetts open, both Indian casinos in Connecticut will see sharp revenue declines. It is estimated that about 20 percent of Mohegan Sun's customers are from Massachusetts while about a third of all Foxwoods customers are from Massachusetts.

According to a July 2 Wall Street Journal article, "The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn., wants bondholders to wipe out a significant portion of its roughly $1.3 billion in bond debt, in some cases paring the tribe's obligations by at least half, people familiar with the matter said."

In addition to the approximately $1.3 billion in bond debt, about $700 million in bank debt is reportedly due for repayment on July 13. The Mohegan Sun faces about $800 million in bank debt (about half of the Mohegan Sun's total debt) that comes due in 2012.

A final casino bill is expected sometime before the legislative session closes at the end of July.

Note: In a July 2 edition of The Republican, Mohegan officials try to allay the concerns of Palmer residents that cutting its original $1 billion casino plan by about half won't affect the quality of the proposed resort. "Paul I. Brody, Mohegan Sun's vice president of development, said the project includes a 600-room hotel, 3,000 slot machines and 100 table games, an entertainment venue with up to 2,500 seats, and other amenities. Previously, 4,000 slot machines and 150 table games were announced. Brody said they have spent $5 million on Palmer to date, and are still committed to opening a casino here."

Mohegan Tribe's Pennsylvania Racino To Have Table Game Test Run On July 11

Feather News

The Mohegan Tribe's racetrack-casino in Pennsylvania will begin an eight-hour table game test run on July 11 to satisfy a state gaming board requirement to make sure things run smoothly before officially opening table games to the public on the scheduled date of July 13.

The eight-hour test run on July 11 is open to the public and proceeds of the charity event will go to the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Connecticut Sun Loses To Chicago 92-80

Feather News

The Connecticut Sun basketball team lost to Chicago on Thursday by a score of 92-80, bringing their season record to 10-6 but maintaining their third place spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sun's next game is Thursday at San Antonio. The game begins at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.

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