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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - April 2006

12 June 2006

Oregon isn't the center of Indian gaming in the United States, but is very much a part of it. There are 9 tribal casinos with over 6000 slot machines. Indian gaming in Oregon is over 10 years old and any growth will be incremental, achieved through hard work, reinvestment and good marketing - and that assumes the competition remains the same.

This month the tribes dodged a competitive bullet when the state rejected an attempt to put a casino initiative on the ballot. There is still a possibility that one of the seven new initiatives filed may make it to the ballot in November, the tribes have won this round.

The state rejected a package of ballot measures Thursday that could have allowed construction of the state's first non-Indian casino. The two Lake Oswego entrepreneurs backing the project, proposed for east Multnomah County, said they would rewrite the measures and try to qualify them for the November ballot. But critics said they doubt whether financial consultant Bruce Studer and attorney Matthew Rossman have enough time to get any casino measures before voters this year. Jeff Mapes, Oregonian, 3-24-06

Two Lake Oswego men who are seeking to develop Oregon's first nontribal gambling casino have filed seven new proposed ballot initiatives to replace earlier proposed initiatives that were ruled unconstitutional….filed four new initiatives with Oregon Secretary of State…adding to the three new initiatives they filed Friday, a day after Bradbury's office rejected the earlier versions. Edward Walsh, Oregonian, 3-28-06

The most significant competitive change on the horizon promises to come not from an outsider, but one of the state's gaming tribes - Warm Springs. Oregon's Warm Springs Confederated Tribes have spent years and millions of dollars dutifully following federal Indian gaming law in their effort to build a tribal casino in the Columbia River Gorge. The tribes currently operate one of the smallest casinos in the state, 340 slots as compared to the three largest with between 1100 and 1500 slots each, on its reservation. The site is more remote than most of the other tribal casinos and therefore not nearly as profitable. The tribes would like to change that by moving the casino into the path of millions of tourists.

The possibility of a move into their market area has caused at least one of the other tribes - Grand Ronde, with 1500 slot machines - to back efforts to keep Warm Springs for reaching their goal. And along the way they have picked up John McCain and a candidate for governor. McCain was induced to specify Warm Springs as one of the tribes targeted by his proposed legislation; and in the political fray for the next governor of the state, Grand Ronde is both praising and bashing candidates depending on their stand on a casino in the Columbia Gorge.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. said he wants to eliminate a procedure that enables Indian tribes to buy land outside their reservations to build casinos… As part of a bill to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, McCain said he has included a provision that would abolish the "two part determination" [for placing land in trust for a casino]. Tony Batt, Stephens Washington Bureau, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3-1-06

The Grand Ronde tribe, which runs the state's largest casino, has jumped into the middle of the governor's race as part of the tribe's expensive battle to block another tribe from building a casino in the Columbia Gorge…began running a television commercial Friday attacking Republican Kevin Mannix for supporting a proposal by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs…The same ad praises one of Mannix's rivals, Ron Saxton, for opposing the casino…The Grand Ronde also has been helping to finance a separate political coalition that has been running advertising that attacks both the Warm Springs casino proposal… Jeff Mapes, Oregonian, 3-27-06

The good news in the current war against Indian gaming and sovereignty is unity; excepting the kind of infighting illustrated by Grand Ronde and Warm Springs, the tribes are presenting more of a unified front. And through organized lobbying and congressional testimony they have had some impact; the government is backing away from its attempt to have the Department of Justice define what a slot machine is and allowing the National Indian Gaming Commission to continue to regulate Class II games. The input from the tribes is apparently making an impact.

The Bush administration is scaling back its controversial gaming law proposal amid overwhelming opposition in Indian Country, outgoing U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said on Monday…the measure has been "significantly revised" in response to tribal complaints. Provisions that would have defined a Class II gaming device -- the most highly contested part of the bill -- have been deleted, he told tribal leaders…Although he couldn't release copies of the latest revisions, Heffelfinger said the changes put the power back into the NIGC. Tribes had complained that DOJ was overstepping its bounds by seeking a legislative solution for what has so far been a regulatory issue. So the measure will direct the NIGC to develop its own gaming machine definitions, a process the agency was undertaking before officials at DOJ intervened and proposed the bill. "The tribes generally did not like that the DOJ was going to define, through statute, the Class II standards," Heffelfinger said. "The revised statute," he continued, "recognizes these concerns." Indianz News, 3-1-06

In a meeting held at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, MN, tribal leaders from across the nation expressed strong opposition to legislation introduced by Senator John McCain to amend the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and agreed to send a letter notifying McCain that they would not support the bill…The meeting marked the first time that tribal leaders have come together to develop a position on McCain's bill, S. 2078….In opening remarks before the group, it was said that S. 2078 was an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion on the sovereign rights of Indian tribes to govern themselves. PRNewswire, 3-23-06

Amid Congressional efforts to curb off-reservation casinos, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Monday announced a series of meetings on new land-into-trust regulations. Setting an aggressive timetable, the BIA plans to hold four meetings throughout Indian Country in the coming month. The effort begins this Thursday on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut and ends on April 20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The goal is to take input on a draft proposal the BIA released in January. The agency, for the first time since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, is developing standards for the acquisition of lands to be used for gaming. Lands acquired after 1988 generally can't be used for casinos. But Section 20 of IGRA contains four exceptions that apply to newly recognized tribes, restored tribes, tribes in Oklahoma with former reservations and tribes with a land claim settlement. Indianz News, 3-29-06

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has long been a leader in Indian gaming; not from their presence in Washington or at national conventions, but in their actions on their lands in Florida. From the beginning the Seminoles have pushed the envelope, first with bingo, then with litigation against the state of Florida and now with major casinos, including Class II games that look much like Class III slot machines.

For years the leader of the Seminole was a larger than life chairman: James Billie. He was a legend in Indian country, a singer, "gator" wrestler, a high flying (literally) and high living super hero. Along the way he acquired a few enemies within the tribe; enough in fact that they threw him out of office - and in the process occupied the tribal newspaper they claimed was his mouthpiece. Like the rest of his life it was a Hollywood film script - well in finally ended. Billie is going to apologize and the tribe is going to pay him back pay. Somehow I was hoping for something more spectacular. It just goes to show you, even Chairman Billie is human. Maybe the movie will have a more exciting ending.

Almost five years after they threw him out as chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, James Billie and tribal leaders have reached a semblance of peace. A legal settlement reached last week ends a dispute over Seminole finances and marks the official end of an era for the tribe, which under Billie's watch grew from a low-stakes bingo parlor into the state's largest casino gambling venture. Now, the 62-year-old alligator-wrestling, larger-than-life Vietnam veteran who led the tribe for more than two decades will do something fairly simple but crucial: tell his fellow Seminoles he's sorry for his conduct. In exchange for his written apology, Billie will receive more than $600,000 in back pay and retirement benefits for the time from 2001 to 2003 when he was suspended and then officially ousted as chairman. Billie was making about $330,000 a year at the time of his suspension as the head of the Hollywood-based tribe. Erika Bolstad, Miami Herald, 3-24-06

The process of rewriting the NIGRA in congress is moving along more briskly than either Pennsylvania or Florida. But as always the devil is in the details. The exceptions are going to define the short-term impact of the new regulations. If all of the applications in process, the tribes in Oklahoma and of course those whose host communities supports expansion into urban areas are excepted nothing will have changed in the short-term.

The same will be true of the other major legislative effort that impacts gaming, the anti-Internet gambling bills; those bills, supposing that one passes and the president is willing to sign it, will be defined as much by the exceptions as what it prohibits. Like the circus in Florida and Pennsylvania there will be many agendas and interests fighting to succeed. The rest of us can only buy a ticket and watch the show. It is too bad Jack Abramoff is going to jail; he would make a good leading man. I wonder if he can dance and sing, it could be a musical: Congress is Gambling - The Musical. Given the recent developments in baseball, there will be a Barry Batting Balls Over The Barriers number also. The title is not as catchy as Chicago, Oklahoma or West Side Story, but the production could be bigger, much bigger.

But now, that is simply my opinion, isn't it?

Ken

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.