Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mashpee Wampanoag Linguist Is Recipient Of $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Prize

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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal member Jessie Little Doe Baird was one of 23 recipients to receive $500,000 from the MacArthur Foundation, awarded for her dedication toward reviving the Wampanoag language.

Recipients can do what they want with the money but Little Doe said she has a number of possible uses in mind, including donating some to the Mashpee's language department, creating software to teach the language and starting a language school devoted to the Mashpee language.

Little Doe, the program director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, said that her 6-year-old daughter is the only child since the 1800's raised to speak the language since birth.

The language reclamation project is a collaborative effort that includes the Assonet, Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Herring Pond Wampanoag communities. Little Doe is also one of the principle authors of a 10,000-word Wampanoag-English dictionary.

Little Doe said, “The opportunity to hear what my fifth great-grandfather had to say, even though he’s gone, because he wrote it down, really is a powerful motivation."


See article by Laura Collins-Hughes "‘Genius grant’ a boost to linguist as she revives a native language," The Boston Globe, (Sept. 27, 20101), http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2010/09/28/reviving_wampanoag_earns_linguist_a_genius_grant/

Friday, September 24, 2010

Union Takes Issue With Mashantucket Pequot's Tribal Member Hiring Preference

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The incompatibility of federal labor oversight at the Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods Casino might become apparent if the Tribe's federally-authorized Indian hiring preferences are questioned by the National Labor Relations Board.

The federal labor board held a hearing yesterday after the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe claimed that Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union disrupted a July union vote by Foxwoods beverage servers by "making inflammatory appeals to voters' racial and ethnic prejudice," according to an article in The Day newspaper.

Beverage servers, porters, lounge hosts and bartenders voted 190-145 to join the union. The Tribe asserts that the election was not a fair election.

Public reports of the Tribe's plans to halt stipend payments caused one Foxwoods employee to worry whether the Tribe's hiring preferences would mean that more tribal members will be hired at Foxwoods. That's the short version.

The union requested four years' worth of information on the amounts paid to Mashantucket tribal members but when labor board Judge Raymond Green said it was enough for him just to know that halting the payments could mean more members would apply for jobs at Foxwoods, the union withdrew the request.

"The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal and Native American Preference Law states that the tribe must provide preference first to tribal members, then to spouses of tribal members and then to other Native Americans," the article states.

The Tribe's attorney, Elizabeth Conway, said the federal labor board's exercise of jurisdiction on labor issues intrudes on the Tribe's sovereignty.

See article by Brian Hallenbeck, Foxwoods promotion preferences at issue, The Day, (Sept. 24, 2010), http://www.theday.com/article/20100924/BIZ02/309249831/1044

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mohegan Debt Placed On Review By Credit Agency

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has been place under review by Moody's Investors Service for a possible credit downgrade "due to its inability to reduce its debt."

Yesterday's announcement by Moody's came on the same day that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported the first full month of table game revenues for casinos in that state.

The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs' table games revenue for the month of August was about $3.5 million before taking out Pennsylvania state taxes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Editorial: New England Gaming Summit At Mohegan Sun Begins Today, I Think

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The New England Gaming Summit kicks off today at Mohegan Sun even though keynote addresses will be given tomorrow by Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman Rodney Butler and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO Mitchell Etess.

What is the purpose of the summit?

How did Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods end up in their current situation given their casino monopoly in Connecticut? Did the two Indian casinos overextend themselves? Those topics are not likely to be on the agenda.

It will be interesting to see if anything new comes out of the gaming summit that we don't already know. That's unlikely in my view.

Maybe the gaming commission could spice up the event and raid the summit, you know ... like that famous Appalachian summit of mob bosses in the 1950's, and we can hear about gaming executives fleeing the scene, running into slot machines, hiding underneath craps tables, eluding process servers, problem gambling specialists grabbing handfuls of chips as they sprint past tables.

But instead, there will just be a lot of talk about more casinos in the near future and how the economic recovery is anything but that.

Speeches will probably cover the likelihood that Massachusetts will approve casinos this year or next year. That a new slot parlor will be in New York's Aqueduct Racetrack next year. That some states are holding gaming referenda. That Philadelphia's first casino will be opening this week. Oh, that's right, Philadelphia ain't New England. Neither is New York but they affect New England. Does that count? What happens if someone talks about states that aren't in New England? Maybe that could be the reason for a gaming commission raid on the event.

Speaking of Pennsylvania and mob bosses, did you know that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board does not ban mob members from the state's casinos? That's not really relevant to the gaming summit but I haven't been able to fit that into an article by itself. Yet. Just sayin'.

People will speak about problem gambling and other impacts of gambling on the community so maybe some real strides can be made on those topics.

The New England Gaming Summit is run by BNP Media and Spectrum Gaming Group and is the first New England Gaming Summit. Spectrum is from Joisey.

Note: This editorial is intended to be humorous. The Feather News in no way is inciting raids, comparing gaming executives and tribal officials to mob bosses, or encouraging problem gambling specialists to steal chips. We are not even positive if a gaming summit is taking place today so any actual event holding itself out as a New England Gaming Summit, run by BNP, with two keynote addresses scheduled for tomorrow is strictly coincidental.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seattle Storm Win WNBA Championship

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The Seattle Storm swept Atlanta in three games to win the WNBA Champpionship on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mohegan Sun Reports A 2.8% Decline In August Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Slot Revenue Falls By 6.3%

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Connecticut's two Indian casinos reported declines in their slot machine revenue for the month of August compared to the same month last year.

Mohegan Sun reported $67 million in August slot revenue, a decrease of 2.8 percent compared to August 2009, while Foxwoods reported $59.2 milion, a decrease of 6.3 percent.

The amount of free slot play, given by both casinos to customers as an incentive to visit their properties, is not yet available for August.

Both casinos pay the State of Connecticut 25 percent of their slot revenues in exchange for their casino monopoly in Connecticut.

The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs reported a 0.7% decline in slot machine revenue in August when compared to August 2009. Table game figures for Pocono Downs for the month of August, the first full month of table games in Pennsylvania, has not yet been reported.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission today that post-employment severance charges as a result of eliminating 475 employee positions, a move that was announced yesterday, is estimated at $8 million to $10 milion and will largely affect the fourth quarter that ends on September 30, 2010.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MOHEGAN SUN TO CUT 5% OF EMPLOYEE POSITIONS, CLOSE SUNBURST BUFFET AND OTHER FOOD OUTLETS

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The Day newspaper's Brian Hallenbeck is reporting this afternoon that the Mohegan Sun will pare its workforce by 475 positions, close the Sunburst Buffet, "a snack bar in its race book and two food-court outlets that will reopen under third-party management."

The news comes two weeks before the end of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's fiscal year and hours before tomorrow's release of August slot revenue figures. The end of the gaming authority's fiscal year is likely one reason for the timing of the announcement.

Last quarter the gaming authority reported an approximately 50 percent decline in its three-month profits so if the quarter that ends in two weeks isn't projected to show much improvement, the bankers and analysts will absolutely want to see proactive moves taken by casino management to address the sliding profits.

Yesterday's final approval on what will become New York City's first mega-slot parlor, to be located at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y., is not good news for Mohegan Sun.

Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun’s president and chief executive officer, said that 120 employees whose jobs were being cut would be transferred to other positions. Out of the 475 positions to be eliminated, 200 are in the food and beverage department and 75 positions are at the level of manager or above.

"The food outlets closing include the Sunburst Buffet, Chief’s Bagels, Subs and Sweets and Woodland Wok," according to the article.

The 475 positions represent about 5 percent of Mohegan Sun's 9,000 employees.

New York City's First Slot Parlor Gets Final Approval

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New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli signed off yesterday on the 30-year franchise contract to operate what is destined to become a 4,500-VLT slot parlor at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Genting New York, LLC, was chosen during the summer to build and operate the slot parlor after three previous rounds of bidding were voided. The state initially approved slot machines at state racetracks in 2001 and the Aqueduct Racetrack will be the last of those racetracks to open a slot parlor. The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority partnered with Australian racing executives to form a group that was previously rejected in one of the rounds of bidding for the franchise.

Aqueduct Racetrack is about 130 miles from Mohegan Sun and is likely to become the casino's next competitor for slot customers.

Public statements made by Genting indicate that they expect to open the first phase of the slot parlor with 1,700 video lottery terminal machines by next May, possibly earlier. All that remains to seal the deal is for Genting to pay the state its upfront fee of $380 million.

Genting is a subsidiary of the Malaysian company that financed the building of Foxwoods casino.

Atlantic City Casino Revenue Falls By About 11% In August Amid Pennsylvania's Table Games Debut

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The first full month of table games at Pennsylvania's casinos certainly affected the casinos in the neighboring state of New Jersey.

The 11 casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., reported a decline of 11.3 percent in August revenues when compared to the same month last year. The 11 casinos reported $347.5 million in August. Slot revenue was $245.1 million, a decline of 11.3 percent from the same period last year while table game revenue was $102.4 million, a decrease of 11.4 percent.

Pennsylvania's state gaming board has yet to release table game revenues for the month of August.

Slot revenues for the month of August have, however, been released. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs' slot revenues for August decreased by 0.7 percent compared to August 2009. Pocono Downs' two closest competitors reported mixed results: Sands Bethlehem Casino reported an increase of 11 percent in August slot revenue while Mount Airy Casino reported a decrease of 4.8 percent.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo: World Trade Center On September 11, 2001


Photo by Ken Davison of lower Manhattan taken from Liberty State Park on the morning of 911.
Copywrite. All rights reserved. This image may not be published, broadcast or redistributed.

Mickey Brown Resigns As Empire Resorts Chairman

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Michael "Mickey" Brown resigned from his position of chairman of Empire Resorts due to health concerns, according to New York's Times Standard newspaper.

Brown previously ran Foxwoods when it first opened in 1992 until 1997 and was appointed as chairman of Empire Resorts' board of directors last year when Kien Huat Realty III acquired a controlling interest in the company. Brown worked in law enforcement in New Jersy prior to working for the Connecticut Indian casino.

Brown was also identified as a key person in Genting New York, LLC, the company that is planning to build and run the slot parlor at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y. Genting won the bid and is expecting the state controller to sign off on the contract this week, representing the last layer of approval requrired to seal the contract for the Aqueduct gaming franchise.

Brown reportedly underwent a triple by-pass operation last month. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WNBA's Championship Series To Begin Today

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Updated with footnote

Atlanta will face Seattle today at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the first game of the WNBA basketball championship series. The game will be televised on ABC.

The next game of the best-of-five series will be on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST and will be aired on ESPN2.

The Connecticut Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, did not make the playoffs this year.

Note: Seattle won the first game on Sunday by a score of 79-77.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Former Mohegan Tribal Councilor Roberta Harris-Payne Passes On

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Roberta Harris-Payne, 60, passed away on Saturday, September 4. Roberta previously served as the corresponding secretary on the tribal councilor and as a development coordinator for the Tribe. She will be missed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mohegan's Don Chapman Is Lead Story In "Indian Country Today" Edition

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I clicked on Indian Country Today, well, today, and saw that the lead story was on Don Chapman, a member of the Mohegan Tribe and the senior advisor on Native American affairs to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Today's installment of the Tribe In The Media is this story:

My business is your business
Conference spotlights ins and outs of Indian entrepreneurship
By Rob Capriccioso
September 8, 2010

WASHINGTON – If the MEDweek minority business conference had a slogan, it might well be “my business is your business” – for the Indian and non-Indian participants.

The conference, hosted by an office of the Department of Commerce the week of Aug. 23, is an annual event catering to minority business owners nationwide. The goal has long been to gather them to support their needs, help them network, and hopefully to strengthen their economic endeavors. Since the federal government often funds a substantial chunk of minority projects, it’s seen as a wise investment.

Throughout the American business and government sectors, there’s long been plenty of lip service paid to getting Indian-owned businesses in on the minority business action, but this year’s gathering, held in downtown Washington at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, went beyond the words.

Attendees said the event offered meaningful engagement with Indian businesses and showcased unique opportunities for interaction with them.

Native speakers and information was presented throughout the five-day conference, and an entire track with unique discussions and panels was devoted to Indian topics, like special bonding issues and unique challenges to partnering with reservation-based projects.

One of the key organizers of the Indian-themed components was Don Chapman, the Mohegan senior advisor on Native American affairs for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. In that capacity, he is responsible for leading the Office of Native American Affairs and for coordinating tribal consultation policy and Native American economic development issues. The position, which he entered last fall, is new in the agency.

Chapman said this year’s Minority Business Development Agency conference featured the greatest Indian country participation in the history of the event.

“One of my first initiatives after arriving here at Commerce back in October 2009 was to more closely integrate MBDA with NCAIED (the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development) and establish a closer collaboration between the two entities on behalf of tribally-owned and individually-owned Native American businesses. The two have parallel missions, goals and objectives.”

Increased Native inclusion is important, Chapman said, because a great deal of non-Native businesses do not understand the unique federal contracting status of Native-owned companies and many times are unaware of the level of sophistication and bandwidth that Native firms have today.

“MEDWeek 2010 really provided significant insight to many minority-owned businesses to not only get a better understanding of Native business capabilities, but to also meet and strategize potential areas of business, collaboration, and potential mutual customers together,” Chapman said.

Continuing the good will between Commerce and the National Center, Margo Gray-Proctor, chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors, said a $100 discount would be offered to business leaders who attended MEDWeek and go on to attend the 2011 Reservation Economic Summit. The annual gathering features a large audience of Indian business networkers.

“We need incentives for us all to get together. When we help each other, we help us all,” Gray-Proctor said, calling her offer “the chairwoman’s special.”

The goal for the next RES is to expand the number of attendees from 2,700 this year to 5,000 in 2011, said Eric Trevan, NCAIED president and CEO.

Kent Paul, CEO of the AMERIND risk management organization, gave a real world example of a new program being planned to strengthen minority relations. He said his organization is “on the cusp” of launching an alternative bonding program that can better meet some of the needs of minority businesspeople who want to work with Indian country. He estimated that the new program would launch within the next nine months.

Others spent a great deal of time discussing ways for companies to leverage their contracting opportunities with tribes and Indian businesses.

One point many Indian attendees hammered home was that there are many partnership opportunities to be made with tribes, but cultural respect is crucial for success.

“You might not have to worry about so many cultural issues when doing business with other entities,” said Gray-Proctor, during one of the event’s sessions. “But each tribe has its own unique sovereign nation structure that will help determine how you should interact.”

She offered an example of a time she was in a meeting with a matriarchal tribe where presenters were only addressing a male tribal staffer. The female leaders ended up doing business
with someone else.

“They didn’t know their culture, so it cost them.”

Heather Dawn Thompson, a partner with the Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal law firm and a panelist at the event, explained the situation another way: “Imagine you are traveling to a foreign country when working with Indian country, and your relationships will go more smoothly. … It’s a very different community to break into.”

She noted that Indian country in general tends to be mistrustful of working with outsiders given the many times tribes and Native individuals have been abused.

Trevan said he didn’t want any non-Indian businesspeople to leave the conference with the idea that Indian country is closed to relationship-building, it’s just in a unique situation, given that tribes are governments, so special rules exist in many cases.

“Indian country is definitely open for business. Now let’s make it happen.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Massachusetts Governor Asks Legislators To Return And Approve Gambling Bill

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media is a Boston Herald Article from today on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick urging state legislators to go into a special session and approve a gambling bill.

Gov. Deval Patrick prods lawmakers to rethink casino stance
By Richard Weir
The Boston Herald
September 7, 2010

Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday urged state lawmakers to return to session and resuscitate a near dead-and-buried casino bill in an effort to spur job creation.

“We’ve been there for the people who want and need the jobs that can come from resort casinos. The Legislature should come back and finish this right now and let’s get it done,” Patrick told several hundred state political and union leaders gathered at the Park Plaza for the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast.

But the odds that state pols will return to Beacon Hill to end the stalemate that killed the bill are slim at best. In July, they approved three resort casinos and slots at two racetracks. Patrick stripped the so-called racinos from the measure and tossed it back to the Legislature, whose members packed their bags before resolving whether to override or approve the governor’s changes to the bill.

Senate President Therese Murray has said that two-thirds of the Senate will not support coming in to take up Patrick’s nixing of slot machines at racetracks.

“Nothing’s changed,” said Murray spokesman Dave Falcone. “We don’t have the votes to come back into session.”

Seth Gitell, spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo, said that while the “speaker has not taken it off the table,” the issue remains moot.

“It requires two-thirds of both chambers to come back into session. The speaker has indicated that the Senate is not coming back,” he said.

By revising the Legislature’s casino bill instead of approving it, Patrick risked alienating organized labor groups who counted on the gambling bill to put its members back to work.

Patrick yesterday tried to rebuild ties to the labor groups, saying, “I have been there for you,” but he had a caveat: “I know we don’t agree on everything. And some of you are so mad about these disagreements that you will support someone else or sit the race out. But we have shown you that I do not, and will not, take you for granted. And I think you had better be careful not to take me for granted either.”

Foxwoods-Sponsored New York Liberty Advance To WNBA Conference Finals

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The Foxwoods-sponsored New York Liberty basketball team advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and faces Atlanta in a best-of-seven series, the winner of which will go on to the WNBA championship series against the winner of the Western Conference finals.

New York will play its second game against Atlanta tonight. Atlanta won the first game in the series by a score of 81-75.

In the Western Conference finals, Seattle won its first two games against Phoenix.

The Connecticut Sun (15-15), owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, did not make the playoffs.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl Expected To Stay Out To Sea As It Passes By New England Tonight; Many Local Schools Plan To Close Early Today

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Hurricane Earl was well off the coast of the Carolinas this morning and losing its strength as it travels in a north-northeasterly path off the East Coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

Many local schools in Southeastern Connecticut will be closing early today while the the hurricane is predicted to remain out at sea due east of Connecticut sometime tonight. As of early this morning, the hurricane has weakened to a Category 2 and should weaken further to a category 1.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island announced a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm's passing.

Connecticut will likely get some rain and high winds. In Massachusetts, the effect of the huricane on the outer Cape, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, and the island of Nantucket could be much worse.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Cigarette Tax Collection For Two Tribes In N.Y.

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article by The Post Standard reporting on New York state's implementation of a cigarette tax collection policy, which takes place today.

Federal judge blocks implementation of cigarette tax for two western NY tribes
By Glenn Coin
September 1, 2010
The Post Standard

Syracuse, NY - The state will move ahead Wednesday to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by most Indian tribes, including some in Central New York.

A federal judge in Buffalo on Tuesday halted enforcement on cigarettes sold by the Cayuga and Seneca tribes, but tax officials said that ruling does not apply to the state’s seven other tribes. “The ruling specifically mentions only the Seneca and Cayuga,” said Brad Maione, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance. “The enforcement plan moves forward.”

As of today, wholesalers who sell cigarettes to Indian retailers must pay the $4.35-per-pack tax upfront and then collect it from the tribes.

The Oneidas and the Onondagas have said they won’t pay the taxes and, instead, would stop selling name-brand cigarettes in favor of Indian-made brands. The Seneca brand, made by Seneca Indians, is already the biggest seller at the Onondaga Nation smoke shop, said Tadodaho Sid Hill. Senecas sell for $30 a carton at the Onondaga smoke shop, compared with $59 for a carton of Marlboros.

Smokers might not notice the lack of name brands immediately, because tribes can still sell tax-free whatever inventory they have on hand. When they place new orders with wholesalers, however, the wholesalers must pay the tax and affix state stamps to each pack.

Under federal law, Indians can buy cigarettes tax-free on reservations, but states can require non-Indians to pay the tax. The tribes argued that the regulations that provided for tax-free cigarettes for tribal members were cumbersome and would impose excessive burdens, turning them into tax-collectors for the state.

The Cayugas argued in court that the regulations would crush the tribe’s cigarette business, its only source of revenue, and “make it impossible for the nation to provide vital tribal services.”

U.S. District Court Richard Arcara agreed Tuesday afternoon to delay enforcement of the law for the Seneca and Cayuga tribes for up to two weeks and possibly longer. Arcara will meet with lawyers next week to schedule a hearing on whether to issue a longer injunction.

The court ruling was a victory for the two Indian nations, which had filed suit last month. “Judge Arcara’s ruling sets the stage for an orderly and thoughtful legal review of what we believe is an illegal, ill-conceived attempt by New York state to use (tribes) as piggy banks to balance the state budget,” said J.C. Seneca, a Seneca Nation of Indians tribal councilor, in a prepared statement.

The state’s convenience store owners, however, saw the ruling as another blow to their cigarette sales, already down following the July 1 tax hike that made New York’s cigarette taxes the highest in the nation.

“We’ve lost 25 to 45 percent of our sales, and our customer counts are way down,” said Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores. “We were expecting some relief and those customers returning from the reservations tomorrow, and now that’s not going to happen.”

State officials had estimated the tax would bring in $150 million this year, although other groups had estimated as much as $1 billion would be collected. Indian nation stores sold about 24 million cartons of cigarettes –— 240 million packs — in 2009, according to state records. The Seneca sold about half those cigarettes.

Tuesday’s two-page ruling capped a flurry of activity as the collection deadline drew near:

Monday afternoon, a state Supreme Court judge in Erie County lifted an injunction issued last year that had prevented the state from enforcing the taxes. Monday night, the Seneca nation voted to withhold a casino payment to New York, claiming the state has violated terms of a 2001 gambling agreement. The tribe has paid more than $700 million in slot-machine fees to the state. Tuesday afternoon, even as the federal court hearing was under way, the state tax department issued a memo saying collection would start today.

A lawyer for the Onondaga Nation, Joe Heath, said tribes had been meeting with state officials to try to work out an agreement but had gotten nowhere. “It will take a lot more work and a lot more time,” Heath said.

The Oneida Indian Nation announced last week it would move its cigarette manufacturing plant from Western New York to Oneida to put its own brands out of reach of state tax collectors.

Mohegan Council Of Elders Election Results

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It has been reported that an election for three seats on the Mohegan Council of Elders took place, which resulted in the re-election of Marie Pineault (currently the vice-chair of the elder's council) and Robert Soper Sr. (currently the chair of the elder's council) and the election of Bill Gucfa (currently working with the Tribe's Public Safety Department). Gucfa will occupy the seat currently held by Councilor Maynard Strickland, who will be stepping down in October.

The terms for the remaining four members on the seven-member Council of Elders expire in 2012.