Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mohegan Gaming Authority Official Discusses Timeline of Proposed Massachussetts Casino

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December 28, 2011

This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from The Republican in which Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA) CEO Mitchell Etess discusses what steps MTGA expects to take in their bid to open a casino in Massachussets. Massachussetts legalized casino gambling late this year and will seek applications for three casinos, of which MTGA expects to apply for the casino license slated for Western region of Massachussetts.

Mohegan Sun eyes vote next year for Palmer casino in Western Massachusetts
By Dan Ring
The Republican
December 27, 2011

BOSTON - The chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority said he is confident that an agreement for a casino in Palmer will go before voters in the town next year.

In an interview Tuesday to discuss prospects for a Palmer casino during the year ahead, Mitchell G. Etess, chief executive officer of the authority, said he expects his company can negotiate an agreement with town officials in Palmer for a casino and then ask voters for approval via a binding referendum.

Etess said next year will be a pivotal one for Palmer and the Mohegan tribal authority.

Etess said that he will likely do some campaigning himself for the proposed Palmer casino.

"We feel very confident," he said. "We're not taking anything for granted but we feel good about the support we have in Palmer."

Under a law signed by Gov. Deval L. Patrick on Nov. 22, a casino would need approval of a majority of voters in the community where it wants to locate. Voters would cast ballots on the terms of a deal reached by the community and the casino.

The law authorizes up to three casino resorts in different geographic zones including one for anywhere in the four counties of Western Massachusetts.

Etess said the Mohegan authority is preparing to submit an application for a license for a casino next year.

A five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission would regulate and permit casinos, but it is unclear if the commission will start accepting applications for casino resorts next year.

"The sooner they get going, the sooner they get jobs and tax revenues," Etess said.

The Mohegan has been planning the Palmer casino for more than four years including opening a storefront office in downtown Palmer two years ago.

Paul Burns
A casino company would need to pay for the costs of a local ballot question, according to the law.

"We feel very, very good about all the time and effort we've put in," Etess said. "It will certainly pay dividends for us."

The Palmer casino would cost about $600 million and would be located on 152 acres off Exit 8 of the Massachusetts Turnpike. It would create about 2,500 to 3,000 permanent jobs to operate the casino and 1,200 to 1,500 construction jobs each year during up to two years of building, according to company officials.

It would include a 600-room hotel and spa, slots, table games, restaurants and retail shops.

Etess said he is not surprised at the competition developing for a casino in Western Massachusetts.

At least three other casino companies are angling for a project in the region. Ameristar Casinos, Inc. of Las Vegas is planning a casino at the site of the old Westinghouse plant off Page Boulevard in Springfield.

Hard Rock International of Florida is proposing a casino for Holyoke, and Penn National Gaming of Pennsylvania has not announced a site yet but has said it is focusing on Western Massachusetts.

Etess said the authority still is seeking a financial partner for the Palmer project. He declined to comment at length, citing agreements for the talks to be confidential.

"There is a significant amount of interest in being part of Mohegan Sun in Palmer," he said.

The tribal authority needs a financial partner because of its heavy debt of $1.59 billion as of June 30. Etess said the authority is planning to refinance the debt but has not yet reached terms on a refinancing. "We're aware of our financial situation," he said.

The authority, an instrument of the federally-recognized Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, owns and operates the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

Paul E. Burns, president of the Palmer Town Council, said Tuesday that it's possible an agreement between the town and the Mohegan authority can be ironed out by April.

"It's important we do it early and hit the ground running," Burns said. "We should continue to be the leader in the state on this issue."

Burns said a ballot question on the casino could be held by some time in the early summer.

Burns said an agreement with Mohegan would spell out certain details of the project including compensation for the town, plans for infrastructure such as removal of waste water, and road improvements such as a proposed "flyover" road off the Massachusetts Turnpike to carry motorists to the planned casino resort.

Palmer voters approved a non-binding ballot question for a casino in April of 1997, but casinos were illegal at the time. Palmer voters passed the measure 2,444 to 1,935, or 54 percent to 46 percent, according to an article in the library of The Republican.

Burns said he is confident voters in Palmer would approve a ballot question for a casino next year. "At the end of the day, it will pass," he said.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mohegan Sun Reports 4.4% Decline In June Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Reports Less Than 1% Slot Revenue Decline

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Mohegan Sun reported that customers lost $57 million at the casino's slot machines in June, a 4.4 percent decline from June 2010. Foxwoods reported $51 million in slot machine win, which is the amount customers lost, a decline of less than one percent from last June.

Patrons at Mohegan Sun redeemed $6.5 million in free slot machine play in June while Foxwoods reported $5.8 million in free slot machine play promotions.

Both casinos contribute approximately 25 percent of their slot machine win to the State of Connecticut.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mohegan Sun Reports 6.2% Decline In May Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Reports About 1% Decline

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Connecticut's two Indian casinos reported declines once again in its slot revenue despite increasing free slot play promotions given to customers.

Mohegan Sun reported that customers lost about $61 million at the slot machines in May, a 6.2 percent decline compared to the same month last year, while Foxwoods reported a 0.9 percent decline to $55.9 million.

Players redeemed about $5.9 million in free slot play at Mohegan Sun and $7.3 million at Foxwoods. The state's cut of the casino's May slot take was approximately $31 million.

In related news, the U.S. Department of Interior announced yesterday that it rescinded a Bush administration policy that resulted in denials of some off-reservation casino applications. The policy led to a denial of off-reservation Indian casinos proposed for the Catskill region of New York and other areas of the nation, including a Mohegan-backed casino proposed by the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mohegan Sun CEO Hartmann Discusses Casino's Future

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media includes two articles from the Hartford Business Journal Online in which Mohegan Sun CEO Jeff Hartmann elaborates on the Mohegan Gaming Authority's strategic plan.

Glitz will top convenience, Mohegan Sun CEO says
By Brad Kane
Hartford Business Journal Online
May 30, 2011

As far as CEO Jeffrey Hartmann is concerned, Mohegan Sun is the preeminent gaming property in the Northeast. Period.

Even though more gambling establishments are opening in key markets across the Northeast, the beauty and splendor of Mohegan Sun will keep those crowds driving past more convenient locations to the more awesome destination, said Hartmann, who took over as resort president and CEO on Jan. 1.

“Mohegan is special,” Hartmann said. “The beauty of the facility is unsurpassed. It would easily compete with any property in the Las Vegas.”
To drive the point home, Mohegan Sun launched its new Shine advertising campaign on May 15 to keep more customers coming.

Still, the goal of the Mohegan Sun casino isn’t increased revenues, Hartmann said. The goal is the long-term viability of the Mohegan tribe and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, known as MTGA.

If that means Mohegan Sun loses its position as Northeast market leader — a title held since 2004 — in favor of streamlined operations and increased profits, then so be it.

If that mean Mohegan Sun takes on a smaller role in a larger MTGA gaming network across the Northeast, then so be it.

“We feel very good where we are in terms of how the business operates,” Hartmann said.

Hartmann is one half of a major shake-up this year in Connecticut’s casino leadership. Both he and Foxwoods President and CEO Scott Butera took over their roles on Jan. 1, at a time when the state’s resort casinos are reaching a critical juncture.

Slot machine revenue at Foxwoods and Mohegan dropped by 20 percent over the past five years. As revenue decreased, the cost of borrowing for new projects increased. And New York and Massachusetts — the main out-of-state draws for Connecticut’s casinos — are moving toward expanded gambling.

Unlike Butera who took over the top job at a casino that had six chief executives in four years, Hartmann inherits the legacy of a long-time CEO who maintains a strong presence at Mohegan Sun.

Hartmann’s predecessor was Mitchell Grossinger Etess, who started as an executive of Mohegan Sun in 1996, before the casino even opened. In 2004, Grossinger Etess took over as CEO of the Connecticut casino, and in 2006 also became CEO of the organization that runs the casino, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, or MTGA.

In ceding control of Mohegan Sun to Hartmann on Jan. 1, Grossinger Etess maintained his position with MTGA, working to open other casinos across the Northeast and expand the brand to benefit the tribe.

The conflict inherent in Hartmann’s new role is he must maintain strong visitor counts and profits at the Connecticut property while MTGA expands its brand across the Northeast and draws directly from Mohegan Sun’s customer base.

In 2006, MTGA opened Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, which draws slightly from the Connecticut property. By 2013, MTGA will open a third casino in the New York Catskills region, nibbling away an estimated 1-2 percent of the Connecticut property’s clients.

The kicker will come if Massachusetts approves expanded gambling. MTGA is considered the front runner for a Western Massachusetts resort casino license, and the tribe already has property on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Palmer near the I-84 interchange.

A Palmer casino would significantly erode the Connecticut property’s client base, since 20 percent of its customers come from Massachusetts.

Losing customers to a MTGA casino in Massachusetts is much better than losing customers if another casino operator gets the license, Hartmann said.

With the economic recession and states looking to pad their budget revenues through any means necessary, it is a classic political environment to open more casinos, Hartmann said. MTGA shouldn’t waste the opportunity.

Mohegan Sun will remain the premier casino in the Northeast, and the Connecticut casino will be the central property in a hub-and-spoke system for MTGA, said Hartmann.

Thanks to the diminished economy and increased competition, Mohegan Sun’s revenues are shrinking. The Uncasville property is tracking to make $720 million in slot revenues for this fiscal year ending in June, its lowest since 2002. Meanwhile, Foxwoods is gaining market share, although Mohegan maintains its advantage 52 to 48 percent.

But slot revenues and market share aren’t what matters. Profits are, Hartmann said.

The Connecticut resort streamlined its operations — laying off 300 workers last September — and saw its net income rise in the first quarter of 2011 by 193 percent over the first quarter 2010.

“We had our best April in terms of profitability since April 2007,” Hartmann said.

But Mohegan Sun faces threats from many non-MTGA casinos, especially in New York. Mohegan Sun gets 15 percent of its customers from New York, more than any other New England gambling establishment.

Mohegan Sun already took a hit in convenience gaming when Empire City Casino opened at Yonkers Raceway, and faces another challenge when the Resorts World Casino opens this summer at the Aqueduct race track in New York.

“Retaining those customers is a challenge we are working on,” Hartmann said.

To keep those customers driving past convenient locations in favor of the more splendid regional destination, Mohegan Sun will invest more in the property, Hartmann said.

Mohegan Sun will start work on a new hotel in 2011, bring in high-quality entertainment, open new amenities such as the Italian restaurant BALLO, and complete a $10-million retrofit of the property’s 800-seat buffet.

To stay prominent in customers’ minds, the casino hired a new advertising agency — People, Ideas & Culture from New York City. On May 15, during the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees baseball game, the casino launched its new Shine advertising campaign.

The old Mohegan Sun advertising campaign was antiquated, unexciting and geared for the wrong audience, Hartmann said. The Shine campaign tries to be younger and more energetic. It folds in online, interactive elements to make the property stand out and showcase its variety of amenities.

Hartmann wants the Shine theme to permeate the property beyond the advertising, so blackjack dealers, hotel personnel, restaurant servers and all employees know how to interact with the property’s customers. The product Mohegan Sun offers to patrons must be constantly refreshed.

New energy will be important as Mohegan Sun markets itself as a big-time destination, so people will drive past closer resorts to come to Connecticut.“It’s really about our time to shine, about how we are more than just slot machines,” Hartmann said.

Mohegans to build another CT hotel
By Brad Kane
Hartford Business Journal Online
May 30, 2011

The Mohegan Sun resort casino in Uncasville will start work on a 300-500-room Connecticut hotel by the end of this year, according to President and CEO Jeffrey Hartmann.

Hartmann said the resort’s 1,200-room hotel operates at 97 percent occupancy and the property needs another hotel to accommodate guests. A third-party developer will construct and own the facility, unlike the existing hotel which is owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Casino spokeswoman Cathy Soper said the official size of new hotel and the timeline of its construction are dependent on the third-party developer. The Mohegans haven’t signed a deal with any developer yet, Soper said.

In 2007, the Mohegans started significant Connecticut expansion work — called Project Horizon — that included a 1,000-room hotel, a new casino and other amenities. When the recession sent gaming revenues plunging, the Mohegans suspended the project before any significant construction had begun. In 2010, the tribe had a $58.1-million impairment charge on the halted work.

Foxwoods resort in Uncasville — Mohegan Sun’s rival in Connecticut — completed its major property expansion just as the recession hit, a project that left the casino with close to $2 billion in debt.

But with the expansion, Foxwoods also has 2,100 rooms spread out over four hotels. Occupancy over the Foxwoods’ hotels runs in the high 90, said Foxwoods President Scott Butera.

Foxwoods is continuing with improvements to its various hotels, but the resort does not plan an expansion like Mohegan Sun is, Butera said.

The new Mohegan Sun hotel will not carry the Project Horizon name, as that project is dead, Hartmann said. The new hotel will be a fresh start.

The new 300-500-room hotel helps Mohegan Sun fill demand, especially when the property features major entertainment. Hartmann said when the rock band Bon Jovi held a concert in early May, the Mohegan hotel was sold out at $500 per room night.

More hotel rooms also help the Connecticut property book more meetings and conventions, Hartmann said. More hotel rooms equal bigger conventions.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is in the midst of a significant brand expansion across the Northeast. Its Pennsylvania casino and racetrack — Pocono Downs — added table games in 2010. In early May, the authority announced a new casino property in the Catskills region of New York. The tribe also has plans for a Western Massachusetts casino in Palmer, if that state legalizes casino gambling.

Note: Last week, MTGA CEO Mitchell Etess told the Mid-Hudson News that he expects to break ground in New York by early July to build a racetrack-slot parlor. MTGA recently announced the new venture with the Catskill's Concord Hotel property owner, Louis Cappelli. Plans include a harness racetrack, a 258-room hotel, and 2,100 VLT slot machines. Etess said he fully expects to secure state approval in a matter of weeks. We presume that Etess did not mean horse weeks. See article at:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mohegan Sun Slot Revenue Falls 3.3% In April, Foxwoods Slot Revenue Increases 9.3%

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Updated 3

Mohegan Sun reported today that its slot machine win for the month of April fell by 3.3 percent to $61.6 million while Foxwoods reported $57.1 million in April slot win, an increase of 9.3 percent compared to last April.

Foxwoods gave out $8.1 million in free slot play in April to attract customers while Mohegan Sun gave out $5.1 million in free play to its slot machine patrons.

The state of Connecticut's cut of the the tribal April slot win, which is the amount lost by customers at the machines, is about $31 million.

A major credit rating agency downgraded Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority debt last week because the authority, in part, has yet to refinance $925 million in debt that comes due next year. A lower credit rating translates into higher interest rates the authority will pay on future borrowings. MTGA currently pays $120 million in annual interest expense on its approximately $1.6 billion debt load.

"The Authority does not have sufficient funds to repay its outstanding indebtedness and its ability to otherwise refinance or replace its outstanding indebtedness is limited," according to today's MTGA quarterly report (10Q) to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Today's SEC report covers the first three months of 2011, which is the second quarter of MTGA's fiscal year. The report includes the quarterly earnings figures announced on May 5 in addition to the authority's balance sheet and statement of cash flows. MTGA reported a respectable $25 million in profits for the first three months of 2011, up from about $20 million for the same three months in the prior year. The casino's operating expenses were lower across every reportable category.

MTGA distributions to the the tribal government, as opposed to any reimbursement payments or fees, are not deducted from the casino's reported profits.

Today on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, drink servers and bar porters at Foxwoods are voting under tribal law on whether they want to be represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371. Last year, the same class of employees voted 190-145 in favor of the union under an election held pursuant to federal law. The results of that election are under appeal and have delayed management's bargaining with the union. Today's election is being held under tribal law and, if the employees once again choose union representation, is expected to facilitate the bargaining process.

Some employees at Foxwoods, including table game dealers, have already opted for union representation. No employees are represented by unions at Mohegan Sun.

1. SEC report at:

2. Moody's downgraded the MTGA corporate family debt rating and probability of default rating from Caa2 to Caa3, a designation that means there is a substantial risk of default, and downgraded all MTGA long-term debt ratings to a "negative" outlook. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, another major credit rating agency, continues to keep MTGA on its CreditWatch list. S&P cited, among other reasons, limited clarity around MTGA's refinancing plans."

3. Beverage workers at Foxwoods voted to unionize under tribal law by a 133-90 margin on the same day this article was written.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mohegan Tribe Announces Venture In NY's Catskill Mountains

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The CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Mitchell Etess, announced today that the Tribe will work with the Concord Resort in the Catskill Mountains of New York to rebuild the hotel and develop the property into a $600 million racetrack-slot parlor within two years.

Etess said that the deal is the first venture of a new company called Mohegan Gaming Advisors. The owner of the Concord, Louis Cappelli, is a well-known real estate developer in New York and in Western Connecticut.

Cappelli announced his intentions to turn the Concord property into a gambling resort years ago but financing for the project's completion was not secured. Over $100 million was said to have already been spent in remediation and site preparation of the property's stalled development. Today's announcement did not shed much light on who will finance the poject.

The first phase of the project is slated to open in the Spring of 2010 and will include 2,100 VLT slot machines, room for 450 electronic table games (or presumably actual table games if ever legalized in New York), a harness horse racing track, a 258-room hotel, restaurants and meeting spaces. The 116-acre property is in Thompson, N.Y.

Etess' family once owned and operated a hotel in the Catskills that competed with the Concord hotel.

Mohegan Gaming Authority Reports $25.2 Million In 2nd Quarter Net Income

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported net income, or profit, of $25.2 million for the three-month period ended March 31st. The net income reflects a 26 percent increase over the same three-month period last year.

MTGA's profit increased while reporting lower revenues at the Mohegan Sun casino on the reservation and higher revenues at the Tribe's Pennsylvania casino. The press release states that the increase in net income is primarily attributable to decreased expenses.

The Tribe also announced today that it entered into an agreement with the Concord hotel in New York's Catskill Mountains. The "Mohegan Sun Concord" is slated to open in 2013. According to The Day, Etess said the Mohegan Tribe would be a small, minority equity partner in the $600 million project.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Correction: March, March, March

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In a recent article, March slot revenues at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino were incorrectly referred to as April slot revenues. The article has been corrected.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Charlie Sheen Performs At Foxwoods

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media series is an article by Rick Koster in The Day newspaper describing his experience last night at the Charlie Sheen show at Foxwoods Casino.

Sheen, F-bombs and bare breasts
By Rick Koster
The Day
April 18, 2011

We've all heard about the caged chimp who throws his own, ah, waste at zoo visitors. Two things about that: the chimp doesn't continue to throw, ah, waste for 60 minutes and, also, zoo visitors presumably didn't pay $85-$150 for the privilege of dodging it.

Such were the anthropological issues at play Sunday night in the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods when Charlie Sheen appeared on part of his Laxative of Truth Tour - or whatever it's called. By now, based on mostly bad reviews of the several dates thus far, which consistently indicate Sheen has no real plan or concept for these appearances other than to show up and "wing it," we as consumers have essentially been forewarned.

And yet, though Sheen himself offered disjointed and meandering metaphorical waste based around his winning and tiger blood catchphrases, a late-breaking twist in the tour's concept sort of saved the day.

Comedian Jeffrey Ross - noted for his Comedy Central roasts - appeared about 30 minutes into Sheen's odd filibuster and actually roasted Sheen. It was very funny, and Sheen responded with gracious and apparently sincere amusement.

First things first, though. The theater was mostly full - who knows how true rumors were that a large number of seats went to casino regulars - and the demographics were surprisingly varied. Sure, there was plenty of the sort of NASCAR stereotype in attendance, but some of the folks clutching their $35 Sheen T-shirts or tour programs could well have been your obstetrician or accountant or the hip-hop act next door.

And there was a pleasant buzz of surprise when Sheen actually appeared onstage only 25 minutes late. After a short video montage of violent film clips, he began to pace the stage and talk. His pet guitarist, who provided odd riffage throughout the evening, was also in attendance. Who knows why?

Sheen joked that Foxwoods was built on an Indian burial ground, suggested that the crowd was so kind he should confine the tour to just Foxwoods - and dropped F-bombs like the carpet assault on Dresden.

For the record, when I departed for deadline purposes after 70 minutes - and apparently 10 minutes before the show ended, Sheen used derivations of F-ness 86 times. I counted to keep myself awake.

When Ross came out, we all had fun - though it would have been easier to pay $35 the next time Ross comes to town. Most of his remarks about Sheen were unprintable, but among them:

• "Charlie, you make your father ashamed he shares the same fake last name as you."

• "I'm used to roasting classier people than you. Like, Flavor Flav and Courtney Love."

After the roastage, Ross stayed onstage and assumed a moderator role. A Goddess came out - there's only one; Sheen said the other left in the dead of night - and then they got 10 audience members to come onstage and ask Sheen a question.

None of the questions were interesting, though one woman bared her breasts and managed to resurrect some momentum as the session continued interminably. Finally, fans back in the audience and with Sheen and Ross seated again, the comedian read a lengthy text message of encouragement to Sheen from filmmaker Michael Moore.

It was actually thoughtful but put the crowd in a snore. Sheen said it was "awesome." People began to leave. Me, too

Mohegan Sun Reports Decline In March Slot Revenue, Foxwoods Posts Inrease

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Slot machine revenue at Connecticut's two Indian casinos remained about the same in March as it was during the month of March last year, despite customers cashing in on total free slot machine play of about $12 million in March.

Mohegan Sun reported slot revenue of $62.7 million in March, a decline of about 1.5 percent compared to March 2010, while Foxwoods Resort Casino reported $55.1 million in slot revenue, an increase of less than 1 percent from last year.

Among the performances held at the Mohegan Sun Arena in March were concerts by Elton John, Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, and a concert with Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart.

The slot machine revenues were about ten times the amount given out in free play in March. Foxwoods gave out $6.7 million and Mohegan Sun gave away about $5 million in free slot play.

Both casinos pay the state 25 percent of their slot machine revenues plus a smaller percentage of the free slot play. The total amount the casinos paid the state was slightly more than $30 million in March.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cowlitz Tribe's Casino Bid Could Take Time

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Columbian newspaper discussing that an appeal to the Cowlitz Tribe's application for reservation land could take a while to resolve.

La Center Casino A High-Stakes Case
By Stephanie Rice
The Columbian
March 20, 2011

A seasonal stream runs through Greg and Susan Gilbert’s property near Paradise Point State Park.

Build a proposed casino nearby, the argument goes, and a proposed 500,000 gallons of treated sewage daily and unknown amount of stormwater runoff will do irreparable damage to the stream and the East Fork of the Lewis River.

The Gilberts are plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits challenging the federal government’s approval of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s application to take 152 acres near La Center into trust.

The plaintiffs, which include Clark County and the city of Vancouver, all have concerns about the local environmental, social and economic impacts of the tribe’s proposed casino-hotel complex.

Their local concerns are a part of a case that may set a national precedent.

The fight over the Cowlitz parcel will take place some 3,000 miles away in a Washington, D.C. courtroom.

Members of tribes between here and there will be watching.

The challenge took on special significance after the Obama administration chose to make the Cowlitz land trust case a test case of a 2009 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that ruling, known as Carcieri, the court said the government can only put land into trust for tribes that were under federal jurisdiction in 1934.

In saying the Cowlitz could establish a reservation, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk addressed Carcieri at some length.

“For purposes of our decision here, I need not reach the question of the precise meaning of ‘recognized Indian tribe,’ as used in the (Indian Reorganization Act,) nor need I ascertain whether the Cowlitz Tribe was recognized by the federal government in the formal sense in 1934, in order to determine whether land may be acquired in trust for the Cowlitz Tribe,” Echo Hawk wrote.

The Cowlitz were federally recognized in 2000; that ruling was challenged and reaffirmed in 2002.

“The Cowlitz Tribe’s federal acknowledgment in 2002, therefore, satisfies the IRA’s requirement that the tribe be ‘recognized,’” Echo Hawk wrote.

Kathryn Rand, a law professor at the University of North Dakota and co-director for the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy, said Clark County’s lawsuit is the first major challenge to the executive branch’s interpretation of Carcieri.

“The question, as Echo Hawk interprets the case, is not whether the Cowlitz Tribe was federally recognized in 1934, but whether the facts indicate that the tribe was under federal jurisdiction,” Rand wrote in an e-mail. “That approach is a reasonable interpretation of the court’s decision, but it’s not the only possible interpretation. The case most definitely will be important, and should speak to the (Bureau of Indian Affairs’) authority in applying Carcieri as narrowly as Echo Hawk did in the Cowlitz (decision).”

Clark County Commissioners Tom Mielke, Marc Boldt and Steve Stuart sent a letter last week to Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, asking him to join in the lawsuit.

“Our decision is not based on any opposition to the tribe but follows careful deliberations about the rationale provided by the department in approval of the land into trust and its interpretation of the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Carcieri v. Salazar,” the letter reads. “Moreover, we think the department neglected to consider alternatives and to fully evaluate the environmental and governmental impacts of the tribe’s proposed development at the site as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA.)”

The state should have an interest in joining the lawsuit, commissioners wrote.

For one thing, “the correct application of the land into trust laws is a matter of importance for our region, where there are many tribes and the precedent arising from (Department of) Interior’s decision may have far-reaching results for many years to come.”

Another long wait
While the La Center City Council recently passed a resolution saying they want to work with the tribe, overturning the previous council’s resistance to the casino project, the lawsuits mean the trust land will likely remain untouched for at least the next few years.

Cowlitz Tribal Chairman William Iyall said the challenges were expected.

“There will be a strategy to delay, delay, delay,” Iyall said last week. He knows his tribe has been selected to be the post-Carcieri “poster child” for landless tribes wanting to establish a reservation.

“There are a lot of other tribes in the United States that will be relying on this issue,” he said.

He said the tribe has a clear record of its existence and the Bureau of Indian Affairs laid a solid foundation for the decision.

He said the delay harms not only the tribe, but the local economy. Construction would provide short-term union jobs.

At completion, the hotel and casino is projected to have 3,151 employees with an average annual wage of $28,000.

“We are going to go ahead with planning,” Iyall said. Once the legal challenges are resolved, “we hope to have everything ready to go.”

Executives from the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, who have partnered with Cowlitz tribal member and real estate developer David Barnett of Seattle to operate the casino, have already said plans might be scaled back from the $510 million complex that was planned before the economy tanked.

The authority recently scaled back plans for a casino in Massachusetts.

“This isn’t a build-it-and-they-will-come business model anymore,” Paul Brody, vice president of Mohegan Gaming Advisors, told a Massachusetts newspaper. “It is a very tightly margined business, and you have to watch how much you spend.”

The plans for the Cowlitz reservation, which would be west of the Interstate 5 interchange in La Center, call for a two-story casino with 3,000 slot machines, 135 gaming tables, 20 poker tables and a 250-room hotel, plus an RV park, 10 restaurants and retail shops.

The tribe has also expressed interest in building tribal headquarters, elder housing and a cultural center.

For now, everything will be on hold.

In a Feb. 1 letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Justice Department attorney Gina Allery wrote that the Department of Interior has said that it will not take the land into trust until 60 days after the date of a U.S. District Court decision.

“The United States is committed to allowing appropriate judicial review of the secretary’s decision. However, I note that Interior continues to be concerned that any delay in the disposition of this case may adversely impact the Cowlitz Tribe,” Allery wrote.

Guy Martin, one of three plaintiffs’ attorneys from the Washington D.C. office of Perkins Coie, estimated the case may take more than three years to resolve.

“This is going to be a long process,” Martin said.

The defendants have until June 10 to respond.

Martin said attorneys will first argue over which documents are included in the official record, which the judge will rely on in making his decision.

Martin said the Department of Justice might also challenge the standing of the Grand Ronde tribe, which operates Spirit Mountain Casino in Oregon and filed a lawsuit the day after plaintiffs, led by Clark County, filed their lawsuit. Both lawsuits were assigned to the same judge.

It will likely be 2012 before the case even gets argued, Martin said. The judge will be asked to overturn or uphold the Cowlitz trust decision.

The ruling likely would then be appealed; from an appellate court, the sides could petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

The Supreme Court only accepts a small fraction of cases.

“This case has all the ingredients of a case that the Supreme Court would take, and that’s about all any lawyer could say,” Martin said.

While three pending cases involving other tribes do reference Carcieri, the Cowlitz case “is the only one in which the DOI (Department of Interior) theory about what constitutes ‘recognition’ under Carcieri is fully stated and at issue,” Martin said.

“At least at this moment, this stands to be the principal case testing whether the Interior Department and the BIA can essentially administratively ignore the Carcieri decision in certain cases,” Martin said. “It’s a very important decision.”

What is “Carcieri?
The 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar has been shortened to refer to Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri. Carcieri sued the federal government (the defendant refers to Kenneth Salazar, secretary of the Interior) for allowing the Narragansett tribe to take an additional 31 acres into trust.

Writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said in order to take land into trust, tribes had to be under federal jurisdiction in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was enacted. The Narragansett tribe was not formally recognized until 1983.

Congress debated a “Carcieri fix” last year that would have amended the IRA, but it stalled in the Senate.

Del Laverdure, a deputy assistant secretary, was quoted saying the Carcieri ruling “was not consistent with the long-standing policy and practice of the United States … in treating tribes alike regardless of the date of acknowledgment.”

Joining Thomas in the majority was Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. Justice David Souter (now retired) filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which was signed by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice John Paul Stevens (now retired) filed a dissenting opinion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

February Slot Revenue Increases By Less Than 1% At Mohegan Sun, Declines Less Than 1% At Foxwoods

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Mohegan Sun reported about $58 million in Februrary slot win, less than one percent more than the same month last year, while Foxwoods reported $51 million in February slot win, less than a one percent decline compared to February 2010.

The state of Connecticut receives about 25 percent of the tribal slot take each month. The tribes will pay the state about $28 million in total for the month of February.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mohegan Sun CEO Hartmann Is Subject Of The Day Article

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article by Brian Hallenbeck on Mohegan Sun CEO Jeff Hartmann that appeared in The Day newspaper.

Mohegan Sun's new boss embracing role
By Brian Hallenbeck
February, 20, 2011
The Day

Jeffrey Hartmann finding his stride in leadership post

Mohegan - Jeffrey Hartmann, numbers guy, has been stepping out. He's been walking the floor at Mohegan Sun, glad-handing employees - they're his employees now, all 8,000 of them - and gathering input, the kind that flesh-and-blood people deliver when the boss seems intent on listening.

A certified public accountant long familiar with balance sheets, financial reports and SEC filings, he just might be toting a copy of Billboard or Brandweek, examples of his new taste in reading material.

The day after a January blizzard prompted some of the staff to stay overnight, he shed the suit and tie and donned a sweater, which is not to suggest he'll be working in a Hawaiian shirt any time soon. The CPA is, after all, the new CEO.

It's been barely two months since Hartmann took over as president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, succeeding Mitchell Etess, who relinquished the key to the executive suite to focus on the Mohegan Tribe's outside ventures as CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Actually, Etess kept his office. It was Hartmann, who still reports to Etess, who moved into new quarters in the casino's hotel.

Some have wondered whether there was more to the shake-up than Etess' stated desire to develop new revenue streams for the tribe. Given the authority's need to refinance debt and Mohegan Sun's emphasis the past couple of years on cost containment — salary rollbacks, layoffs, etc. — might investors be more comfortable with a numbers guy at the casino's helm?

"It's really a case of Mitchell deciding he wanted to move on," Hartmann says. "It was about where he was and where he wanted to go. It's really no more complicated than that."

Etess, the Sun's CEO for more than six years, and Hartmann, chief operating officer the past six years and chief financial officer for eight years before that, have been partners since the place opened in 1996.

"If you polled people who know us, the vast majority would say Jeff and I have totally morphed," Etess says. "It's like we've flip-flopped. I tend to be the one talking about finances all the time and he's been addressing the marketing."

Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, which serves as the authority's management board, said there was precedent for the change. The late Bill Velardo gave up the casino CEO's post in 2004 to concentrate on his duties as CEO of the authority, making way for Etess, then the casino's executive vice president of marketing, to ascend to the casino's top spot.

"Over time, Mitchell was getting too stretched out," Bozsum said of the latest change. "It's hard to stay focused on everything that's inside the walls of Mohegan Sun and on all the corporate stuff, too. Mitchell did a great job, but I think we were pushing him too far. It was a good move."

With the change, Etess says, comes a renewed commitment to increasing revenues as opposed to solely containing costs. "It's time to get out of survival mode, and this structure gives us a better chance to do that," he says.

Hartmann thinks it's possible to do both, to control costs and grow revenues at the same time. He quotes from Mohegan Sun management's bible, "Built To Last," the 1994 bestseller taken to heart by Velardo and his successors: "Chapter 1, shattered myths, the 'Tyranny of the OR.'" Visionary companies, the book asserts, "do not brutalize themselves with the … purely rational view that says you can have either A or B, but not both."

But how, at this point, can Mohegan Sun increase revenues?

There are "regional pockets" of the market that can yet be tapped, Hartmann says, and greater emphasis, marketingwise, can be placed on the breadth of the casino's offerings and the quality of service it provides its customers.

"We can focus on the destination," he says. "This is a one-of-a-kind facility. In my opinion, it will not be replicated in the next 15 years because the cost of financing casinos has gone up and because equity investors are seeking higher returns."

While the economic downturn has favored so-called "convenience" facilities that offer little more than slot machines, the recovery offers promise for the destination resort casino, with its full array of gaming and nongaming amenities, Hartmann says.

Convinced that the demand for more hotel rooms exists, Mohegan Sun continues to pursue a partnership with a hotel developer and a revival of expansion plans shelved in 2008. "We see the framework of a deal on the horizon," Hartmann says.

Mentors: Etess, Velardo

For the numbers guy, the prospect of becoming CEO was daunting. "There's a distinct difference between managing and leading," Hartmann says. He took a couple of days to consider the promotion, meeting with a career coach.

"Mitchell gave me the time to do it, which is symbolic of our relationship," Hartmann says. "It's a big commitment to lead 8,000 people."

But, it turns out, leading is not so foreign a concept to Hartmann, who co-captained the Eastern High School football team in Voorhees, N.J. He played center and linebacker. From middle school on, he held offices in student government.

At Mohegan Sun, he's had the examples of Etess and Velardo, who was a mentor to both Etess and him.

"He was very important in my life," Hartmann says of Mohegan Sun's first CEO. "What I learned from him helped me as much with my spouse and my kids as it did in the business. I realized that after he left."

Hartmann reconnected with Velardo when Velardo, who had left southeastern Connecticut for Las Vegas, returned in 2009. He died that November. "He was a great guy; he always had time for the employees," Hartmann says, locating a folder that Velardo used to teach from. "I learned from him the importance of being patient in stressful situations."

Hartmann strives to keep interviews in positive territory, and exudes confidence and stability, a trademark of Mohegan Sun management. He'll lead by consensus, he says, "not 100 percent consensus but sufficient consensus." He's trying to have more dialogue with "team members," fewer meetings, less e-mail.

"Meetings and e-mail can consume you," Hartmann says. "I tell people, 'If it's really important, call me. Better yet - if you have an idea - come see me.' "

The biggest change in making the transition from COO to CEO, he says, has been disciplining himself to walk around and say hello to employees, to sound them out. So, what's he been hearing?

"They're telling me they like it here, they like interacting with our guests," he says. "I ask them how I can help them do their jobs better. Here's one simple thing: Let's interact with each other more civilly. It doesn't cost a penny to show each other respect and dignity, regardless of what a person's title may be or the size of his paycheck."

Here's another Hartmann initiative that won't tip the balance sheet: He's called for more up-tempo music on the casino sound system in the evenings, a nod to the younger clientele on hand at that hour.

A risky proposition

Passion's no stranger to the numbers guy, either.

"The thing that's amazing about him," Etess says, "is that he's able to be extremely involved in his community and with his children despite how much he devotes to Mohegan Sun."

Hartmann is involved in the Old Lyme Little League and has coached youth baseball and basketball. He also chairs the board of the Connecticut Sports Foundation, the nonprofit that raises money for cancer research and to help families of cancer patients. His own mother is a breast cancer survivor.

"Jeff is one of those special people you meet along the way in your life," says John Ellis, the former New York Yankee catcher who founded the sports foundation. "When we joined with Mohegan Sun, Jeff and Mitchell Etess became an integral part of the foundation. I asked Jeff to become chairman, to lead us into the future and build our endowment. He's a good fishing buddy, too."

"I always wanted a boat," says Hartmann, who's now on his third one, a 25-footer with a center console. His two sons, ages 12 and 10, fish with him. His two girls, ages 18 and 16, are apt to pursue careers in music, not finance.

His wife, Marisa, was the one who advised him to go for it. It was 1991 and Hartmann was toiling at Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm, and living in a Manhattan apartment on 34th Street, between Park and Lexington avenues, when Al Luciani, from something called Foxwoods, called with a job offer.

"I might have made partner," Hartmann says, referring to the firm.

Instead, he joined Foxwoods' first management team, which assembled in a trailer. Foxwoods the casino had yet to be built.

"I kind of owe it to my wife," he says. "She said go for it."

Hartmann broke the news to his parents, the risk-averse Hartmanns of Voorhees, N.J.

"Hey mom, I think I'm going to take a job with the Mashantucket Pequots … in Ledyard," he remembers saying, then adds, "I've led a charmed life."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feds Rumored To Reject Pending Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican's N.Y. Land Application

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a New York Times article that questions whether the federal government will approve a land agreement struck between the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe and N.Y. Gov. David Paterson. The agreement would award the Tribe land in the Catskill Mountains of N.Y. The principals in Trading Cove Associates have worked with Stockbridge-Munsee officials on proposed casino plans for the Catskills region.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe's land-into-trust application for an off-reservation casino in the Catskills was rejected three years ago in a mass denial of numerous applications. The denials of were based on the application of a new policy that required off-reservation casinos to be close to a Tribe's reservation.

Tribe’s Plan for Catskill Casino, Backed by Paterson, Faces Rejection in Washington
By Charles V. Bagli
The New York Times
February 8, 2011

A proposed Native American casino on 333 acres in the Catskills is likely to be rejected by federal authorities next week, only three months after Gov. David A. Paterson approved the $560 million project in the waning days of his administration.

The former governor signed agreements with the Stockbridge-Munsees, a tribe based in Wisconsin with roots in New York, in November to permit a Las Vegas-style casino near Monticello, about 90 miles from New York City, and to settle the tribe’s land claim to 23,000 acres in upstate Madison County.

The casino seemed to be on a fast track. Having negotiated with the Interior and Justice Departments for more than a year before signing the deals, the tribe expected to get the necessary federal approvals this month.

But in January, according to the tribe, federal officials suddenly expressed misgivings about the viability of the tribe’s land claim and the ability of the Interior Department to approve it without Congressional action, as the tribe wanted. In a Jan. 31 letter to the department, a lawyer for the tribe acknowledged that department officials had told him it was “highly unlikely” the officials would change their views.

The Interior Department has done “an about-face,” said Kimberly Vele, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans. If the agreements are rejected, Ms. Vele said, the tribe will resume its fight for the land in Madison County.

“We’ll go back to fighting it out in the court system, which is an unfortunate consequence,” she said. “I’m confident that the tribe has a very good case.”

Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, said only, “The Department of the Interior is in the process of reviewing the compact.”

The department must approve or disapprove the agreements by Feb. 18. Under federal law, the agreements would effectively be approved if the department took no action by then. But recently, the department has been reluctant to approve casinos far from a tribe’s home base.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and local officials have supported the casino project, which they say would create jobs and bring visitors to an economically depressed area.

But the project has come under fierce criticism from some legislators and rival gambling operators, who have thousands of electronic slot machines at nine racetracks in the state. The Oneida tribe, which operates the Turning Stone casino near Syracuse, also objected to allowing what it called an out-of-state tribe to set up a casino in New York.

Last week, some owners of the slot parlors at the tracks, known as racinos, filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Albany aimed at blocking the Stockbridge-Munsees from building the casino. At the moment when the state is facing a $10 billion deficit and thousands of layoffs, the racinos assert that a Stockbridge-Munsee casino would result in the loss of 1,000 jobs at racinos and of $400 million a year in slot revenue that now flows to the state.

They say the Catskill casino, with slot machines as well as roulette, blackjack and poker tables, would almost certainly wipe out the nearby racino at Monticello Raceway and lure customers from the Yonkers, Saratoga and soon-to-open Aqueduct racinos.

Officials at the racinos, particularly Yonkers and Aqueduct, are also worried about the possibility that a full casino could be built on Long Island by the Shinnecock Indians, who won federal recognition last year.

James D. Featherstonhaugh, an owner of the track and slot parlor in Saratoga, said racinos paid a tax of 42 percent on net gambling revenues, collectively generating about $1 billion a year for education. But, he said, Indian casinos pay a maximum of 25 percent of slot revenues to the state. “The Stockbridge-Munsee casino has an unfair competitive advantage that seriously jeopardizes the future of New York’s racinos and the horse racing industry as a whole,” he said.

Not long ago, Mr. Featherstonhaugh, who is also a prominent Albany lobbyist, represented the St. Regis Mohawks who tried to build a casino in Monticello.

The Stockbridge-Munsees say the casino, which would provide the equivalent of 4,900 full-time jobs, would be the single largest construction project in Sullivan County. The tribe has agreed to pay the state up to 25 percent of the slot revenue and provide the county with $15 million a year.

“Interior said this is the path you could pursue,” said Ms. Vele of the Stockbridge-Munsee. “I don’t know what happened.”

Source at:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

County In Washington State Files Challenge To Feds Decision On Cowlitz Reservation Land

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Clark County filed a challenge in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to the federal Interior Department's decision to approve the Cowlitz Tribe's land-into-trust request. The county commissioners voted earlier this month to appeal the Interior Department's decision to take land into trust as reservation land for the Cowlitz Tribe.

The county contends that the Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar did not fully understand the environmental impact and that the decision goes against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carieri v. Salazar. That court decision ruled that the authority of the Interior Department to take land into trust on behalf of Indian Tribes only applied to tribes under federal jurisdiction before 1934.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Norwich Bulletin Erroneously Reports That Distributions To Mohegan Tribal Members Cut

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The Norwich Bulletin posted an article to their website today falsely stating that distributions to Mohegan tribal members were reduced. The headline of the article is "Mohegan Sun adds another adviser as 1Q profit rises, revenue falls: Distributions to tribal members cut 83.5 percent."

Aside from the erroneous headline, the article mentions that distributions to tribal members were reduced "substantially" and again in a sentence that reads, "Distributions to tribal members for the three months ended Dec. 31 were cut 83.5 percent to $4.5 million from $27.3 million a year earlier."

The reporter confuses yesterday's MTGA press release that stated the amount the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority distributed to the Tribal government during the months of October through December with the actual distributions to members.

The Bulletin posted another article later in the day entitled, "Mohegan Sun slashes tribal distribution," in which it reports, "Mohegan Sun announced that it has cut distributions to tribal members substantially and has hired an additional financial adviser ...."

See Norwich Bulletin article at: and at:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pennsylvania Gaming Board Releases Its Reasoning Behind Revocation Of Foxwoods Philly Casino License

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board made public a document that gives its reasoning why it revoked the casino license for the Foxwoods Philly casino. A link to that document can be found in the left hand column of this blog under the title of "Adjudication of Foxwoods Philly's Casino License."

Mohegan Gaming Authority Reports 1st Quarter Profit Of $12.9 Million

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported a profit of $12.9 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011. The first quarter is comprised of the three-month period of October through December. The figures include results at Mohegan Sun and the Tribe's Pocono Downs casino in Pennsylvania.

The profits are not reduced by the $4.5 million distributed to the Tribal government by the gaming authority in the first quarter. Last year, MTGA distributed $27.3 million to the Tribe in the same period.

The quarterly profit is an increase over the $3.9 million in net income, adjusted from $4.4 million, reported for the same three-month period in 2009 despite declining revenues in all categories except for table game revenue.

MTGA's overall gross revenues (money spent by customers at the casino properties and before deducting any expenses) for the three months were $361 million, down from $370 million for the same period last year.

MTGA reported that its Pennsylvania casino's income from operations, which doesn't take into account interest expenses, was $6.3 million for the quarter. This figure is a $4 million increase over the income from operations during the same period last year. Had interest expenses on debt related to the Pennsylvania casino been deducted from this figure, the result would be a loss.

The increase in MTGA's total table game revenue over last year is attributable to the addtion of table games in July at the Tribe's Pennsylvania casino.

MTGA reported $4.6 million in expenses over the three-month period related to its corporate diversification department. These costs represent about 30 percent of the quarterly profits. Diversification efforts have largely been focused on opening a possible casino in Massachusetts. Legislation to allow casino gambling has not yet been approved in that Massachusetts.

MTGA reported $68.5 million in adjusted EBITDA (which stands for earnings before interest expense, taxes, depreciation and amortization), a 7.3 percent increase over last year. The structure of a transaction between MTGA and the Mohegan Sun's former casino management company, which results in payments by MTGA to that company through 2014, ensures that the adjusted EBITDA figure will always reflect an increase through 2014, assuming all other variables being equal.

Interest expense for the three-month period was about $30 million, a slight increase over the same period last year, due to an increase in the weighted average interest rate of 7.1 percent on MTGA's debt compared to the weighted average interest rate of 6.8 percent reported for the same period last year.

MTGA had $1.7 billion in debt as of December 31, 2010 and reported that it hired Credit Suisse, to "assist in the evaluation of refinancing alternatives." MTGA reported last year that it engaged Blackstone Advisory Partners, L.P. to "assist in its strategic planning relating to its debt maturities."

MTGA's quarterly conference call with analysts will take place later this morning.

See press release at:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mohegan Gaming Authority To Announce On January 27 Its Operating Results For October Through December

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The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has set January 27 as the date when it will discuss with analysts its operating results for the three-month period of October through December. MTGA typically releases the operating results on the same day as its conference call with analysts.

The period of October through December represents the first quarter of MTGA's fiscal year 2011.

MTGA reported $4.4 million in net income, or profit, for the three-month period of November through December in 2009 and reported a $3.8 million loss for the same three-month period in 2008. Distributions made by MTGA to the Tribe are not deducted from these figures.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Foxwoods Philly Files Appeal In Pennsylvania Court Over License Revocation

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The investment group that includes a gaming arm of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and was to build a casino in Philadelphia before its license was revoked by the state gaming commission is appealing the gaming commission's decision in Pennsylvania court.

The group of investors filed the appeal on Friday since it had not yet received a response from to its petition submitted to the Pennsylvania gaming board for reconsideration of the license revocation. The investment group, called the Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners (PEDP), also is unsure of whether it will be able to recoup the $50 million it paid for the gaming license in 2006. The state law and the gaming board are silent on whether PEDP is eligible to the return of its $50 million paid for the license.

The state gaming board, called the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, revoked PEDP's license in December after PEDP failed to line up financing to build the casino. At the last minute, PEDP secured a financing committment from Caesar's and various banks in exchange for ceding ownership and management interests to Caesar's but the state gaming board was not satisfied with the changes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pocono Downs Table Game Revenue Slips To Lowest Level Since Opening

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Consistent with the seasonal nature of gambling in the Northeast, table game revenue at the Mohegan's Pocono Downs casino in Pennsylvania reached its lowest level in December.

Pocono Downs' table game revenue, the amount lost by customers at the tables, was $3.2 million in December. Table game revenue at Pocono Downs for the first five months of table game operations were:

August $3.5 million
September $3.4 million
October $3.5 million
November $3.6 million
December $3.2 million

Taxes and expenses related to table games are not deducted from the above amounts. Pocono Downs increased the number of table games from 72 in August to 84 table games in later months.

CT Senator Joe Lieberman Not To Seek Re-Election

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U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2012.

Sen. Lieberman, who will have served 24 years when he leaves office in 2012, said that he will still be involved in public service in some manner after he steps down from office.

Sen. Lieberman was a Democrat up until he lost the Democratic primary in 2008. He then became an Independent to win re-election for the Senate seat.

Connecticut's representation in the Senate will be markedly different without the seniority of Sen. Lieberman and former Sen. Chris Dodd, who left office after deciding not to seek re-election in 2010.

Sen. Lieberman was Al Gore's vice-presidential running mate in their unsuccessful presidential election bid in 2000 on the Democratic ticket. Sen. Lieberman supported the Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, in the last presidential election and was rumored to be a potential running mate of Sen. McCain's in that election up until the selection of Sarah Palin.

Sen. Lieberman, a former attorney general for the State of Connecticut, was an original sponsor of the federal Tribal Law and Order Act.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mashpee Wampanoag Forced To Look For New Proposed Casino Site

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The State of Massachusetts will once again consider casinos but the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe just lost their proposed casino site in New Bedford and must look for a new site. The article below, part of the Tribes In The Media series, is from The Cape Cod Online media outlet.

Fall River pulls plug on Wampanoag casino
By George Brennan
Cape Cod Online
January 18, 2011

Fall River officials have told the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe that their $21 million purchase of 300 acres in Fall River for a casino is off the table.

Instead, Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan and a contingent of city leaders are meeting with state economic development officials this morning to resurrect the idea of building a biotechnology park, known as the BioPark, on the land. The park would include a bioprocessing and training facility to be built by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

More Times Breaking NewsThe deed restriction that prohibits a casino on the property, as well as an ongoing lawsuit brought by 10 taxpayers to block the sale to the tribe were seen as hurdles that would be too difficult to overcome, said Kenneth Fiola, vice president of the Fall River Redevelopment Authority.

This appears to be another blow for the Mashpee Wampanoag, who have been pushing for a casino for nearly four years since gaining federal recognition in 2007. Once considered inevitable, the hurdles have stacked up against the casino.

In May, the tribe scrapped a deal it had in place with Middleboro, where there was vocal opposition, to pursue the Fall River land with new investors.

On Tuesday, tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell issued a statement saying that the tribe is optimistic it will find a new site in Fall River. “This remains an outstanding opportunity to create jobs for the tribe and the city, and we are working hard to make this project a reality,” Cromwell said.

After months of negotiation that began last Feburary, Flanagan announced in May the city had reached a deal with the Mashpee Wampanoag to sell the 300 acres near Route 24. The tribe said it would build a $500 million resort casino that would include three hotels and a shopping mall.

City and state officials raised immediate questions about the proposal because of a deed restriction that banned both a landfill and casino at the site and because the state had already invested $34 million to build an exit off Route 24 for the BioPark.

But Flanagan and Cromwell pressed forward saying the casino jobs would make a more immediate impact on the city's double-digit unemployment rate and they could convince the Legislature to remove the deed restriction. In October, the redevelopment authority agreed to sell 45 acres to the tribe for $4.5 million. The tribe also had an option on 255 additional acres for $16 million.

No money ever changed hands and before the city and tribe leaders had a chance to sign a written agreement, a lawsuit was filed to block it. In addition to the deed restriction, that suit objected to the redevelopment authority selling the land without going out to competitive bid.

A Bristol Superior Court judge imposed a preliminary injunction that has so far thwarted the city's efforts to sell the land to the tribe. That case continues to wind its way through the court.

Monday, January 17, 2011

King Inspired By Time He Lived In Connecticut And Worked On Connecticut Tobacco Farm

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The following AP article, part of the ongoing Tribe In The Media series, discusses Martin Luther King's experience while working and living on a tobacco farm in Connecticut. The quality of the tobacco grown in the Connecticut River valley has been highly regardly since colonial days. The civil rights leader was born 82 years ago and is the only person who was not a former president to have a federal holiday named after him.

By John Christoffersen
Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Martin Luther King Jr. could hardly believe his eyes when he left the segregated South as a teenage college student to work on a tobacco farm in Connecticut.

"On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see," he wrote his father in June 1944. "After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to."

The slain civil rights leader, whose birthday is observed Monday as a federal holiday, spent that summer working in a tobacco field in the Hartford suburb of Simsbury. That experience would influence his decision to become a minister and heighten his resentment of segregation.

"It's clear that this little town, it made a huge impact on his life," said John Conard-Malley, a Simsbury High School senior who did a documentary with other students on King's experiences in Connecticut. "It's possibly the biggest thing, one of the most important things, people don't know about Martin Luther King's life."

Until then, King was thinking of other professions such as becoming a lawyer, Conard-Malley said. But after his fellow Morehouse College students at the tobacco farm elected him their religious leader, he decided to become a minister.

In his later application to Crozer Theological Seminary King wrote that he made the decision that summer "when I felt an inescapable urge to serve society. In short, I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape."

"Perhaps if he hadn't come to Connecticut, hadn't picked tobacco up here, hadn't felt like a free person, hadn't felt what life was like without segregation and been elected the religious minister, he may not have become such a leader in the civil rights movement," Conard-Malley said.

Nicole Byer, a junior at Simsbury High School who narrates the documentary, noted that King was roughly the same age as the students who produced the documentary. Such early experiences can have a profound influence on young people, she said.

"Everything right now influences us," Byer said. "Any small experience can change the direction of what we do right now."

In a letter to his mother three days after he wrote his father, King marveled over a trip he took to Hartford.

"I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford," King wrote. "And we went to the largest shows there."

He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.

"I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings," he wrote.

William Duschaneck, an 88-year-old Simsbury resident interviewed by the students, said he played baseball with King in town. King was a strong pitcher, though the future preacher of nonviolence never drilled a batter, he said.

"He was a good ballplayer. He beat us a couple times," Duschanek told The Associated Press, laughing. "It was interesting to hear him talk. He had a nice voice. He talked about God and so forth."

King described the work on the tobacco farm as easy.

"I have a job in the kitchen so I get better food than any of the boys and more. I get as much as I want," he wrote to his mother.

In a speech in Hartford in 1959, King recalled how hot it was working on the tobacco field and how he looked forward to relaxing on weekends in Hartford.

Byer says King and other students often worked in temperatures that reached 100 degrees or higher. The students, who were earning money to pay for college, made about $4 per day, Byer said. They lived in a dormitory built at the edge of the tobacco field.

King was nicknamed "Tweed" by his friends because he often wore a tweed suit to church, said Alexis Kellam, whose late father, Ennis Proctor, worked with King that summer in Connecticut.

King's friends teased him that the hot sun in the tobacco fields caused him to preach, his sister, Christine Farris, told The AP.

In her book "Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith," Ferris wrote that her brother underwent a "metamorphosis" as a result of his time in Connecticut.

"That was quite an experience," Farris said.

King's widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote in her memoir, "My Life With Martin Luther King Jr." that her husband talked of the exhilarating sense of freedom he felt in Connecticut that summer.

That taste of freedom ended as King returned home. When he got to Washington, he had to ride the rest of the way to Atlanta in a segregated train.

"After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation," King wrote in his autobiography. "I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly because the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect."

Clayborne Carson, a history professor and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said King's time in Connecticut played a role in his decision to become a minister and in influencing his views about segregation. He said shortly before King came to Connecticut that summer, a bus driver ordered him to give up his seat for a white passenger on the way to Atlanta.

"These experiences came fairly close to each other," Carson said. "I think the two things together sharpened his sense of resentment about segregation in the South."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Foxwoods Slot Revenue Increases 1.2% In December; Mohegan Sun December Slot Revenue Declines 6.3%

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Foxwoods reported a 1.2 percent increase in slot machine win, the amout lost by customers at the machines, in December compared to the same month last year while Mohegan Sun reported a 6.3 percent decrease in slot win compared to December 2009.

Slot win at Foxwoods totalled $45.1 million in December. Mohegan Sun registerd $53.4 million in December slot win. Both casinos continue to attract customers by offering millions of dollars of free slot play. Foxwoods still offers more free slot play, redeeming $5.2 million worth of free slot play in December while Mohegan Sun redeemed $3.4 million in free slot play.Foxwoods sent $12 million of its win to the state Division of Special Revenue. Mohegan Sun contributed $13.5 million to the state.

Both tribal casinos will pay the State of Connecticut just over $25 million in total as a cut of the December slot machine action.

Friday, January 14, 2011

County To Appeal Federal Decision To Establish Cowlitz Tribe Reservation

Feahter News

The first shot was fired to delay the establishment of the Cowlitz Tribe's reservation and proposed casino in the State of Washington's Clark County.

Clark County commissioners agreed to appeal the U.S. Department of Interior's decision made in late December to take land into trust as reservation land for the Cowlitz Tribe. The Cowlitz Tribe hopes to build a casino on the land which would be managed by the Mohegan Tribe.

The appeal will challenge the federal Department of Interior's authority to take the land into trust, claiming that the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carcieri v. Salazar does not permit the transaction. In that case, the Supreme Court denied the authority of the Interior Department to take land into trust for the Narragansett Tribe, ruling that the Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction before 1934 as required under a new interpretation of a 1934 federal law. The 1934 law previously allowed the Interior Department to take land into trust for all federally recognized tribes, regardless of when the tribes were deemed to have been under federal jurisdiction.

Clark County's decision to appeal the establishment of the Cowlitz Tribe's reservation was not unexpected and will further delay a possible casino to be built on the land.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Online Gaming

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New Jersey's legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill that could make it the first state to legalize online poker if Gov. Chris Christie signs the bill into law.

To avoid running afoul of federal interstate online gambling laws, players would only be able to access the websites from within the state.

Online versions of table games, in addition to poker, would also be part of the games offered. If approved, only casinos in New Jersey will be licensed to operate the sites.

The state Senate voted 34-2 to approve the bill while the Assembly voted 63-11, with three abstentions. Senator Raymond Lesniak estimated that Internet gambling could add $100 million to casino revenues.

Attempts by the U.S. Congress to pass Internet gambling have failed recently and chances at federal approval are seen to be increasingly unlikely with a Republican-controlled House of Respresentatives.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If Sticking A Card On Your Forehead Seems Too Obvious, Try Hiding The Card Up Your Sleeve

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media series is a Norwich Bulletin article on an alleged swindle run by Korean citizens who hid cards up their sleeves while playing baccarat at Foxwoods casino.

Foxwoods cheater hid cards up sleeve, police say
Expert: Casino foiled by old trick
By Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin
January 4, 2011

In just two weeks of gambling at Foxwoods Resort Casino last year, four Korean nationals walked away from the baccarat tables with more than $870,000 in winnings.

It wasn’t luck or skill, according to newly unsealed police reports, but a cheating instrument known as a holdout device, that allows a player to hold a card up their sleeve.

Young Su Gy, 50, had the device concealed on his left forearm while his partner, Wookyung Kim, 34, acted as a blocker, waving score cards to obstruct the view from other patrons and baccarat dealers, police reports show. Police said two other people were working with the couple on various dates between Sept. 8 and Oct. 20. Federal authorities are investigating a link to an international syndicate.

Baccarat is a card game in which two or more players gamble against the banker. The winner is the one who holds two or three cards whose total is closest to nine.

Gy used the mechanical device to drop a card down to fit his hand and switch it with one he had picked up, saving the card until it fit another hand, according to the arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Detective Martin Graham, a member of the state police casino unit.

Spotted on camera

Most of the activity was captured by casino surveillance, but only after the group was gone. The Foxwoods Office of the Inspector General contacted state police Oct. 22 and filled them in on the scheme. Foxwoods security determined who the players were because they had obtained Foxwoods Player Dream Cards with their Korean passports. A month later, state police were contacted by the Department of Homeland Security to report the couple were back in the country, arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Nov. 19.

The couple were back at Foxwoods the same day, where they were served with a warrant.

Two other Korean nationals were arrested at the same time on a similar warrant issued by New Jersey authorities. A link is unclear, though federal authorities have been present at several court appearances.

Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney, who is prosecuting the case, declined comment while the case was pending.

Former baccarat dealer, professional cheater and self-proclaimed cheating expert Richard Marcus said the cheating scam and use of the holdout device is nothing new.

Old West device

“It is mainly used in poker games, dating back to Mississippi Riverboat days and the Old West,” Marcus said. “It simply allows a player to stash cards removed from a game or brought with him prior to the game up his sleeve where the device is hidden. Then when he needs to enter the cards into the game, he releases them from the holdout device, which generally holds up to six cards comfortably, depending on the device.

“It is simply incredible and a shame on Foxwoods surveillance that this old trick was used to beat them for that much money,” Marcus said.

Gy and Kim remain held in prison on $500,000 and $150,000 bonds, respectively. Their passports have been seized and they have entered not guilty pleas to a host of charges that include multiple felony counts of first-degree larceny and cheating. They are due back in New London Superior Court on Feb. 7.

A representative from Foxwoods Resort Casino could not be reached Tuesday for comment.