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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - April 2003

30 April 2003

Wisconsin's governor has quietly worked to increase income to the state from Indian gaming.  Before going public with his needs, unlike Grey Davis, Governor Doyle negotiated a new compact.  Opposition in the state legislature twice tried to stop the process, but Doyle vetoed the legislation.  The new compact extended its life and is being called permanent, and allowed the tribes a large variety of games and gave the state a larger percentage of the take.  Now Doyle has negotiated another seven compacts, bringing the total to nine. Wisconsin will make more from Indian gaming than any other state, except Connecticut.  One more piece of good news for the Governor, the courts have given him a little bit of additional control over non-reservation casino locations.  All in all, Wisconsin appears to have a certain and predictable relationship with Indian casinos in the state.

7 More Tribes Sign Gaming Compacts.  Gov. Jim Doyle and leaders of seven tribes completed permanent gambling agreements Friday that would abolish most limits on casinos - something state and tribal officials say will mean $105 million in payments to the state over two years and various tribal expansions.  Steve Schultze, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4-25-03

Governors Can Veto Casinos, Judge Rules.  A federal judge ruled Wednesday that state governors can veto off-reservation tribal casinos, ending a lawsuit three Wisconsin tribes filed in 2001.  …Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the interior secretary can approve off-reservation gambling if it's in the tribe's best interest. The law also says the agreement of state governors must be obtained.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4-25-03

Wisconsin's expected share of tribal casino revenue under new gambling deals will exceed all but one other state's, at least in the short run, a review of state-tribal gambling pacts shows.  The estimated $118 million Wisconsin could receive in casino "revenue-sharing" payments in the next fiscal year would outstrip gambling revenue anticipated in 21 of the 22 other states with formal gambling compacts, a review by the Journal Sentinel found.  Only Connecticut, on tap to get a whopping $400 million from its two large tribal casinos in a market of 30 million people, beats Wisconsin's fiscal 2003 casino payment total.  Steve Schultze, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4-17-03

The National Indian Gaming Association had their annual meeting and trade show in April.  There are some very hot issues; war in Iraq (the first woman killed in Iraq was an enrolled tribal member); the negative press from major publications, such as Time, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal; the compact negotiations in California and Wisconsin and a number of cases in the courts that will have an impact on the definitions and limits of sovereignty.  Under the circumstances it is not surprising that a war metaphor was being loosely bandied about.  The tribes are beginning a major public relations campaign to publicize the benefits of Indian gaming to the non-Indian community.

"Make no mistake, my friends, we are at war. Our sovereignty is under attack," Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in San Diego County, told the National Indian Gaming Association meeting in Phoenix.  "But this is not a war of guns and bombs. It's a war of words. It's a war of perception, and it's a war for truth," Pico said.  …"Gaming has opened a door for Indian nations," Pico said.  Associated Press, Arizona Republic, 4-9-03

Indian Leaders Discuss Benefits, Opportunities, of Gambling.  Indian leaders discussed tribal gambling's benefits and how to promote them Monday, acknowledging Indian gambling has encountered some opposition even as it has grown to a $12.7 billion industry.  "Indian gaming is working for the entire nation…," Ernest L. Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, told the group's annual convention. "But we have to make that clear."  To that end tribal leaders heard a report about a newly launched publicity campaign expected to raise $3 million to $5 million to spread the word about the benefits of Indian gambling and attempt to influence opinions among the public and elected officials. Erica Werner, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, 4-8-03

In California, the National Indian Gaming Association is not the only one using fighting metaphors; the press finds them convenient also.  As the compact negotiations progress, it appears that there will be many adversarial relationships revealed.  Unions, the state gambling commission and some local communities are making it clear that this will not be like Wisconsin.

Union, Tribes Clash Over Representation.  Animosity between the state's largest hospitality employees' union and gaming tribes boiled to the surface Tuesday during an Assembly hearing called to explore casino workers' need for government-funded health care.  Pitting two of the Capitol's strongest interest groups -- Indian gaming and labor -- the nearly three-hour exchange underscored the stakes as unions try to organize thousands of workers in the state's booming tribal casinos.  It also comes as the state begins to renegotiate gaming compacts with participating tribes. Jim Miller, Press Enterprise, 4-2-03

Gambling Commission Adopts Regulations for Indian Casinos.  Against tribal opposition, California's gambling commission yesterday adopted the first in what is expected to be a series of minimum operating standards for the state's 51 Indian casinos.  …For more than a year, the commission has attempted to persuade tribes to approve a series of regulations that set baselines…  Tribes have rejected at least five other regulations proposed by the commission.  James P. Sweeney, Copley News Service, San Diego Union Tribune, 4-24-03

Separate from the national public relations effort, some tribes in California are responding to the public debate over the compacting with a spin of their own.

A Southern California Indian tribe has launched a statewide television commercial criticizing Gov. Gray Davis' bid to get more revenue from tribes as negotiations begin over the agreements that govern Indian casinos.  "Thanks to the people of California, Indian gaming is making its contribution to local communities….Now, some politicians in Sacramento want to take that money and waste it on financial problems they've created."  Erica Werner, Associated Press, San Diego Union Tribune, 4-4-03

…tribe launched a second statewide television commercial Sunday seeking to rally public support as talks with the state over slot machine limits and tribal revenue get under way.  …shows community figures including a mayor, a fire chief and a coach talking about the benefits of Indian gambling.  "With the troubled economy and cutbacks, cities like ours are lucky to have Indian gaming," says Mayor Ray Rucker of Highland, where the casino is located.  Erica Werner, Associated Press, San Diego Union Tribune, 4-14-03

Tribes in California are not the only ones that have resorted to television advertising to make a point.  In Minnesota, where the next level of the 21st Century Indian wars is taking place, tribes are trying to convince voters that tribes should be the only ones operating a casino.

To counteract the success in the House of legislation for a state-sponsored casino, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has begun airing television advertisements emphasizing the contribution of Indian-owned casinos to the economy of rural Minnesota.  "A lot of people think Indian casinos don't pay taxes," says one of the 30-second ads. "The truth is, they pay more than $81 million in payroll taxes annually, millions in real estate taxes, and millions more are collected from companies that do business with casinos.  "If Minnesota votes to allow non-Indian casinos in the Twin Cities, it will hurt the rural community that Indian casinos help to support," the ad continues. "It will hurt the state's ability to generate tax revenues, and as a result, will hurt all Minnesota. Who wins then?"  David Phelps, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4-23-03

The issue is important to the entire country.  If this initiative is successful, other states may try to follow Minnesota's lead.  Minnesota may become the first state to authorize a non-Indian casino to raise tax revenues.  The enabling legislation still winding its way through the state legislature provides for a casino at Canterbury Park, if the tribes do not agree to a 6 percent tax on casino revenues.  The intent of the legislation seems to be state operated slot machines and not to tax the tribes.  The location is between Minneapolis and Mystic Lake, which puts the state in direct competition with Mystic Lake.  In Washington there are several bills in the making that would give the state slots or allow non-Indian slot operations.

In one of the nail-biters of the legislative session, the House gave narrow approval Friday to a state-sponsored casino at Canterbury Park that would break tribal control of casino gambling in the state.  …The state's cut from slot machines at Canterbury would be a projected $100 million over two years.  In a bit of maneuvering that may have made it easier for some members to support it, the House approved an amendment that would stop the racino effort if tribes agree to pay the state 6 percent of their casino proceeds. It passed 77 to 54.  David Phelps, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4-26-03

Seventy percent of adult Minnesotans support establishing a state-operated casino at the Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee, according to a new public opinion poll commissioned by the track's owners.  Lobbyists for the track were using the poll results Wednesday to try to persuade a handful of undecided lawmakers to support the casino proposal in a House vote tentatively scheduled for today.  Patrick Sweeney, Pioneer Press, 4-25-03

Lawmakers and lobbyists are working on a yet-to-be-released plan that would allow the state lottery to offer more than 18,000 electronic gambling machines made to resemble slots in restaurants, bars and bowling alleys across the state.  That's much more of an expansion than the once-every-four-or-five-minute keno game that the Democrats who control the state House detailed last week as part of their budget proposal.  Kenneth P. Vogel, Tacoma News Tribune, 4-22-03

It seems logical, at least to me, that this is the next step in the expansion of gaming.  The individual states, desperate for more revenue, seek to be an operator.  In some cases that may put them in competition with Indian casinos.  In others, as in the proposals in Illinois and Indiana, it would put the state in competition with conventional casinos.  In some way this is the final move in the game.  The first move took place in 1931 in Nevada; the second move took place, unless you count the lottery movement beginning in 1960s, in Atlantic City in 1976.  There have been thousands of moves since, and many still to come, but the time seems to be coming when casinos will be everywhere; some operated by Indian tribes, others by corporations or by the individual states.  Some may be inside your house, living in your computer, your television set or waiting in the telephone for you to press the right buttons.  By then, as northern Nevada is learning, the days of the large casino profits and semi-monopolies will have passed into a distant memory.

Ken Adams

Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.
Ken Adams
Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.