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Best of Ken Adams

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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - January 2008

1 February 2008

Unions, race track owners, and other opponents of Indian gaming in California have been successful in getting an initiative put on the ballot in February that would overturn the compacts signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and several tribes. The compacts were signed in September, and the scheduled vote is intended to stop the tribes from adding as many as 17,000 slot machines. The sponsors also hope to force the tribes to accept unions; the tracks hope to stop the spread of slot machines or at least be allowed to also operate them. Instead, in a move that surprised nearly everyone, including a senior official in the BIA who had promised to delay the compacts in the Bureau until after the vote, the compacts were published in the Federal Register and are now officially approved and in force. The vote will take place on February 5th, but it will not, in and of itself, prevent the tribes from implementing the terms of the compacts. Publishing the compacts in the Federal Register may have been a bureaucratic mistake, but it certainly was good timing for the four tribes. Both sides have spent millions of dollars on convincing the voters of the merits of their respective positions – but then billions of dollars are at stake.

Opponents of the compacts gathered enough signatures to put them to a vote in February 2008. But publication in the Federal Register means they are legal and fully binding. The Class III gaming compacts for four California tribes are being published in the Federal Register today. The "Big Four" compacts are for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation. The agreements allow the tribes to add up to 17,000 new slot machines to their facilities in exchange for a share of the revenues… Earlier this month, George Skibine, the number two at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said he would delay publication of the compacts amid concerns about the review process. Somehow, the four compacts never got to his desk until it was too late – so he was forced to "deem" them approved because the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the BIA 45 days to review compacts and the time period had already run up. If a compact is approved by the BIA, subsequent action at the state level – such as a voter referendum – might not have an effect. (Indianz, 12-19-07)

In Florida, a comparable situation is developing. The governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, signed a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, authorizing the tribe to operate Class III gaming in Florida. The governor said he was under pressure from a federal deadline, and the tribe would have been granted Class III with or without the state's approval. By negotiating a compact, Crist sought to guarantee a share of the revenue for the state. Critics said he lacked the authority to negotiate for the state without the review and approval of the state legislature, and they disavowed the federal government's ability to grant Class III without the state's consent. Even those who agree in concept thought he gave in too easily and gave away too much.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has until December 29 to approve or deny the Class III gaming compact for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the BIA has 45 days to review gaming compacts. The agency can approve or deny a compact. In the alternative, a compact is considered "deemed approved" to the extent its provisions do not violate federal law. (Indianz, 12-21-07)

The Florida House, in new documents filed Thursday in the state Supreme Court, continued to insist that Gov. Charlie Crist had 'seized or encroached upon' legislative powers when he signed a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe last month…House lawyers were responding to Crist's assertions in earlier court documents that he had the authority to sign an agreement with the tribe. (Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald, 12-7-07)

Attorney General Bill McCollum today will ask a federal court to stop the Seminole Tribe from offering Las Vegas-style gambling before the Florida Supreme Court can decide if it is legal. (Linda Kleindienst/ Ihosvani Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12-21-07)

Wisconsin is one of the oldest Indian gaming venues. Depending on who is speaking, Wisconsin was the first state, or one of the first states, to offer high stakes Indian bingo. California, Florida, and Michigan also have tribes that lay claim to having been the first. Regardless, Wisconsin has tribes that have been offering bingo since the 1970s and casinos since the early 1990s.

Two Wisconsin Indian tribes that have been working on a casino and resort development with the city of Beloit since 1990 have filed an action in federal court against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The request for injunctive relief filed by the St. Croix Chippewa tribe contends the Bureau of Indian Affairs has changed the rules concerning how the BIA reviews applications as a way to prevent the tribes from getting approval for their casino application. The federal complaint and request for injunctive relief were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington. The St. Croix and the Bad River Chippewa are working together on the casino project. Joe Hunt, spokesman for the casino project, said Sunday the Bad River tribe will join in the civil complaint later. (Kathleen Ostrander, Rockford Register Star, 12-11-07)

A casino project under development between the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and a Wisconsin tribe most likely will use organized labor in its construction and operation thanks to a series of agreements between local unions and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. But what impact, if any, those agreements have on potential efforts to organize workers at Mohegan Sun here is unknown…Chuck Bunnell, a Mohegan tribal spokesman, said the Mohegans also will be employees of the Menominee tribe. "Menominees are a separate sovereign, government in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "That was the decision of the Menominee people…Whether the tribe, which has a reservation and casino in northern Wisconsin, can take the land in southern Wisconsin into trust has yet to be decided by the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C." (Erica Jacobson, Norwich Bulletin, 12-11-07)

An Aug. 11 directive from the General Tribal Council — enrolled members of the tribe who are at least 21 — requested the one-time payment outside of the money already given as per capita payments from gaming revenue. It's the largest amount since 1994 when the tribe started divvying up the profits from the casino among members.

Wisconsin (Indian gaming) - - The Bureau of Indian Affairs has given the Oneida Tribe of Indians the go-ahead to disburse about $88 million to its members as a one-time payment. Checks for the tribe's largest one-time payment — between $5,000 and $10,000 per person — will go out this week to the more than 16,000 enrolled members of the tribe, said tribe spokeswoman Bobbi Webster. The deadline set by the General Tribal Council was Wednesday…In the revenue allocation plan sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, about 46 percent of net-gaming revenue is being allocated in 2008 for per-capita payments, including this special one-time payment. "There's no secret that the vast amount of assets the tribe holds are from gaming revenue," Webster said…According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, federal approval is required for per-capita payments that come directly from gaming revenue. The total $130.1 million worth of proposals from the General Tribal Council — including the $88 million for this one-time payout — is about a quarter of the tribe's annual budget that runs about $530 million. (Malavika Jagannathan, Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers, 12-11-07)

Wisconsin was also one of the first states to sign compacts with Wisconsin tribes to conduct Class III gaming; gaming in Wisconsin is mature, successful and offers a good insight into some of the issues that are common to tribes in others states. Off-reservation casinos, union organization and the uses of casino revenues are all important issues today in Wisconsin, just as they are important in many other states. Watching the issues play out in Wisconsin can sometimes gives us a clue about how they will play out in other states.

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.