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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - December 2002

31 December 2002

At some level, Indian gaming has always been controversial.  The tribes looking for opportunity for economic development have often pushed the legal envelope.  Even when the progress of Indian gaming has been slow and followed exactly the course outlined by the law, there has been some form of resistance.  In California, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine, there are organized movements to stop or limit tribal gaming. 

State Joins Court Fight On San Pablo Casino.  Lawyers for tribe and card rooms dispute meaning of Davis administration brief.  The state has entered the legal fray over an Indian tribe's plan to turn the Casino San Pablo card room into a Nevada-style casino, filing a brief against the plan.  …Penned by Deputy Attorney General Marc A. Le Forestier, the brief says the Lyttons' "acquisition of the Casino San Pablo property would violate the public policy of the state, betray the good faith of the electorate, and create a concern that others may look upon this case ... as a way to end-run the traditional process of site acquisition to achieve urban gaming." Josh Richman, Alameda Times Star, 12-31-02

Anti-Gambling Forces File Lawsuit Against TribesBOISE -- Some Magic Valley leaders are among those who have filed a lawsuit in the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn the Indian Gaming Initiative, which voters passed by a 16-point margin last November.  The challenge was filed Tuesday by the nonprofit group, "Straight Talk: Gambling in Idaho," led by Republican Sen. Laird Noh of Kimberly.  Associated Press, The New Times, 1-3-03

Christian Group Plans To Fight Casinos.  AUGUSTA - The Christian Civic League of Maine plans to rally against casinos and for public funding of religious schools in the new legislative session.  The Augusta-based group, established in 1897, considers traditional family values to be the core of its beliefs.  Susan M. Cover, Portland Herald Press, 1-2-03

The root of the conflict is and always has been sovereignty.  Sovereignty is not easily understood by non-Indians, but simply stated it means that tribes are treated as governments and not individuals and as such have different rights and a unique relationship with the federal government.  As sovereign governments, tribes do not pay federal income tax, just as state and city governments do not; individual tribal members are subject to federal taxes.  As sovereign governments, tribes are subject to federal laws, but only under some circumstances, state regulation.  State regulation is usually subject to negotiated treaties or compacts, as in gaming, fishing and hunting privileges.

Confusion, intentional or accidental, over the issues of sovereignty fuels the debate.  Governments, both state and city, argue for some form of control over the actions of local tribes, business groups argue for 'equal taxation or opportunity,' and citizens and communities want to limit tribal activities to areas of the community's choice.  One common argument against Indian gaming claims that tribal gaming is unregulated, subject to mob control and exploited by corrupt white businessmen.  In December, Time magazine gave that argument national coverage, and because of the magazine's reputation, credibility.

Wheel of Misfortune.  Imagine, if you will, Congress passing a bill to make Indian tribes more self-sufficient that gives billions of dollars to the white backers of Indian businesses—and nothing to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans living in poverty. Or a bill that gives hundreds of millions of dollars to one Indian tribe with a few dozen members—and not a penny to a tribe with hundreds of thousands of members. Or a bill that allows select Indian tribes to create businesses that reap millions of dollars in profits and pay no federal income tax—at the same time that the tribes collect millions in aid from American taxpayers.   …Congress created the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to be the Federal Government's principal oversight-and-enforcement agency for Indian gaming—and then guaranteed that it could do neitherDonald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Time, 12-16-02

Tribes across the country have taken exception to the article.  The major Indian newspapers have written editorials contesting the facts and implications of the article.  Most telling, however, was the press release from the American Gaming Association, the gaming industry's lobbying organization.  The AMA has often been an adversary of Indian gaming and in the early years acted in the interest of the industry trying to limit the growth of Indian gaming.  Today, the AMA and the National Indian Gaming Association have much in common, including a difference of opinion with Time.

While the American Gaming Association (AGA) does not take a position on Indian gaming, we do take issue with any attempts by the media to distort the facts about legal gaming in America. The recent TIME Magazine articles on Indian gaming are just the latest examples of how innuendo has taken the place of factual reporting when it involves the gaming industry.  …In the last decade, Indian and non-Indian gaming has created hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs across the country without any tax breaks, subsidies or other government largess.  Pechanga.net press release, 12-19-02

The Time article does not represent good research, an accurate reporting of the history of Indian gaming in the United States or a fair discussion of the issues.  Instead it uses the misunderstandings and lack of knowledge about tribal governments and their sovereign relationship with the federal government to further confuse some very important issues.  Within a month the article is being used in Idaho to manipulate public debate and an attempt to influence litigation.  We can expect it to be used for years to come by those who fail to understand the legal issues in sovereignty and in Indian gaming regulation. 

Noh said Idaho voters simply were uninformed about the pitfalls of reservation gambling before the vote.  He pointed to a Time magazine national cover story published on Dec. 16 -- five weeks after the general election -- which exposed reservation gambling across the country as a cash cow for rich white investors and a handful of Indians while poor tribal members were left out. The Time article did not report information about any Idaho tribes.  Noh said the Idaho tribes' 16-percent victory margin came "before courageous actions of Time magazine. The public is much more aware of the issue now," he said. "This has the potential to drastically change the state of Idaho to the detriment of our people," Noh said.  Associated Press, The New Times (Boise, Idaho), 1-3-03

As Indian gaming matures and as tribes become more successful and exert a larger degree of political influence the issue of sovereignty and other issues related to Indian gaming are going to become more important.  The Indian wars are far from over; it is a new century and a new war, but a war nevertheless.  Senator Harry Reid is using his position in Congress to help Nevada by limiting tribal gaming to traditional reservation sites.  The United States Congress is the correct legal venue; Congress does have the power to regulate the activities of tribes, something the individual states lack.

Reid Blocks Indian Casino.  Washington - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has blocked a proposal that would pave the way for a new Indian casino in Michigan.  …But the land deal, in the form of a bill introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., needs congressional approval before the casino could be developed. And Reid objects because it would set an unusual precedent to allow a tribe to construct a casino off reservation property, Reid aides said.  Nevada gaming officials and casino operators have been wary of the increase in the number of Indian casinos in recent years. Reid is concerned the Port Huron deal could open the door to more off-reservation Indian casinos, particularly in California, where Indian operations already compete with Las Vegas and Reno casinos.  Benjamin Grove, Las Vegas Sun, 12-4-02

A frequent field for battles in the new Indian wars is recognition.  The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is generally in the position to approve the recognition of an Indian tribe seeking federal recognition.  Federal recognition is the first step toward sovereignty and ultimately toward a tribal casino.  A few years ago, the process went almost unnoticed by the general population; today each case is followed closely by the local press.

Schaghticoke Bid Denied.  The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs Thursday rejected the Schaghticoke Indians' bid for federal recognition, dealing the tribe a crippling setback in its pursuit of sovereignty and plans for a gambling casino in western Connecticut.  In a "proposed preliminary finding," the BIA told the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation it failed to meet two crucial elements necessary for recognition: existing as a distinct community and having a sustained government from historical times to the present.  "The evidence submitted was not sufficient," the BIA said in the much-anticipated decision, which came in a phone call to the tribe. The BIA found "little or no" evidence of tribal political authority from the early 1800s to 1875 and from 1885 to 1967. And between 1940 and 1967 and from 1996 to the present, the tribe failed to meet the BIA's definition of a tribal community.  Rick Green, Hartford Courant, 12-6-02

Connecticut, more than any other jurisdiction, frames the entire Indian gaming debate.  Until the Mashantucket Pequot tribe opened Foxwoods casino the potential of Indian gaming was mostly unrecognized.  Foxwoods and the subsequent Mohegan Sun, became so successful that they captured the attention of the entire world.  Those two Indian casinos in Connecticut are the largest casinos in the world, generating revenues that dwarf most of the other casinos in the country.  There are, however, other Indian casinos that are also very successful.

Mohegan Sun Passes $1 Billion Mark.  The Mohegan Sun casino became a billion-dollar operation during the last fiscal year and had a record gaming day in September that contributed to nearly 20 percent growth for the fourth quarter.  Net revenues jumped 32.4 percent to $1.042 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the first full year of operation for the Mohegan Tribe's newly expanded casino resort.  …Hotel revenue was $14.1 million for the quarter and occupancy was 79 percent, with an average daily room rate of $176.  Karen Florin, Republic, 12-9-02

Tribes' Revenue Skyrockets To Nearly $1BMadison - The Oneida Tribe of Indians and Wisconsin's 10 other tribes netted almost $1 billion in gaming revenue last year, according to a state audit released Wednesday.  …a 47.1 percent increase from the $660.2 million raised in 1997, the Legislative Audit Bureau report states.  John Dipko, Green Bay Press-Gazette, 12-5-02

Choctaw Announces 2002 Annual Results.  The Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise (CRDE) today announced revenues and results for its fiscal year, which ended September 30, 2002.  Net revenues for the year were $248.2 million compared to $237.6 million for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2001.  Yahoo Business, Business Wire, 12-23-02

In California, Indian gaming revenues are in the billions of dollars.  Two main issues have surfaced: first is the renegotiation of the tribal-state gaming compacts and, second, the governor's stance on urban casinos.  Both promise to expand the debate over sovereignty and the exact nature of Indian gaming in California.  The compact discussions will focus on the number of machines and the tribes' contribution to the state's coffers.  The discussions have already caused a rife among some of the tribes. 

Editorial: Reshuffle, Recut, Redeal.  Davis gets second chance on casino compacts. Every governor makes mistakes in the early days of his administration, and for the past three years California has been paying for one of Gov. Gray Davis': the rules governing Indian casinos.  …In its haste to conclude a deal, the state made drafting errors and sloppy decisions.  …Given that backdrop, it is no surprise that the gambling compact Davis signed in California is among the worst of any negotiated in the country. …provides that after March 7, 2003, the state and the tribes can begin negotiations over the "the number of gaming devices" each tribe can operate.  In short, starting Jan. 1, California can begin to renegotiate this one-sided compact in a way that protects all the citizens of California.  Sacramento Bee, 12-24-02

Governor Enters Fight to Block Indian Casino.  Gov. Gray Davis formally entered the fight to block an Indian casino in western Contra Costa County, filing legal papers in support of card room owners who want to stop the conversion of Casino San Pablo to a gaming hall brimming with slot machines.  …Davis said that Proposition 1A…authorized Indian gaming in California, but limited casinos to remote tribal lands.  The governor's action appears to send a message to other tribes attempting to site casinos in urban centers, including Richmond, Vallejo and West Sacramento, that he will attempt to stop the expansion of Indian gaming into other cities.  Thomas Peele, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, 12-31-02

Viejas Pulls Out Of State Gaming Alliance An exodus of Indian tribes from a powerful state gambling alliance began yesterday with the surprise defection of a big San Diego County tribe that was hosting the group's annual meeting.  The Viejas band joined at least five other tribes that submitted letters of resignation to the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, known as CNIGA.  Thirty-one other tribes either failed to pay dues by yesterday's deadline or did not show up at the gathering, a CNIGA spokeswoman said.  James P. Sweeney, Copley News Service, Union Tribune, 12-6-02

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.