CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of Ken Adams

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - July 2004

16 September 2004

Indian gaming is certainly part of the move of imbedding gaming deeper into the American culture. Indian gaming brought casinos closer to the American population and introduced a very blue-collar kind of casino that didn't require a Las Vegas budget or wardrobe. But the place that Indian gaming has made the biggest inroads into our culture is politics. In nearly every jurisdiction where gaming is legal, casinos and their owners are restricted in politics: in donations, in holding elected office or in both. In Indian gaming neither of those conditions applies and Indian tribes have not been hesitant to apply their resources to the political process. California's Proposition 1, which allows tribes to operate casinos, demonstrates the power of the tribes and their casino cash to anyone that had failed to notice them before. Since then the political power of tribes has continued to grow, right up to the Democratic Convention.

Delegates of the Native American Caucus met yesterday during the first day of the Democratic National Convention to stress the need to preserve sovereignty and encourage greater voter turnout among American Indians. "It was a very powerful meeting," said Gay Story Hamilton of Uncasville, Chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribe's Council of Elders. "It was much more than I expected." Hamilton joined fellow delegates at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood to celebrate the largest Native American contingent ever to attend a Democratic National Convention. With 72 delegates and 20 alternates from states that included Arizona, Montana and South Dakota, the caucus wanted to use the meeting as a springboard to encourage more Native American voters to get to the polls. "Politics impacts every facet of our lives," said Frank Lamere, Chairman of the Caucus and a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. "It is almost a sacred responsibility that we have to go and get involved in this process." At the heart of most speeches and issues raised by delegates, sovereignty remained a recurring topic. Hamilton listed tribal self-government as essential to the survival of Indian culture in America. Richard Rainey, The Day, 7-28-04

The growth of Indian gaming has certainly contributed to the national political visibility of the tribes. It is difficult for either political party to ignore an industry or an ethnic group that produces $18.7 billion dollars a year and is not restricted in the amount that can be contributed to politics in the same way that other industries are restricted.

Growth in Indian gaming revenue continued to outpace revenue generated at the nation's commercial casinos in 2003, according to data released today by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Tribal gaming revenue in 2003 grew 13.7 percent to $16.7 billion from 2002, according to the Commission, which collects audited statements from gambling tribes. That compares with a growth rate of about 2 percent for commercial casinos in 11 states, which generated about $27 billion in revenue in 2003, according to recent data from the American Gaming Association. California accounted for about 50 percent of the total increase in tribal gambling revenue nationwide, the commission said. In California, tribal casino revenue jumped by about $1 billion to $4.7 billion, an increase of about 28 percent from the previous year. Liz Benston, Las Vegas Sun, 7-13-04

That does not mean that Indian gaming is without its adversaries in politics, adversaries that are working to limit its growth and thereby its impact. There are several investigations of Indian gaming, its influence and its spread, currently underway in Washington. It is a story without a beginning or an end, but every Congress does have its own chapter.

The Bush administration won't adopt a "blanket" policy on off-reservation gaming, a top Bureau of Indian Affairs official said on Tuesday. In testimony before the House Resources Committee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Aurene Martin said officials take off-reservation casino proposals very seriously. Currently, the Department of Interior is being asked to allow gaming on land far away from existing reservations. In some cases, tribes are looking at other states. "This issue has received considerable attention within the department," Martin testified. "But despite the growing and controversial practice, a one-size-fits-all approach won't work," Martin said yesterday. Just last month, she had told the committee that department officials were considering a "blanket" policy to help guide decision-making in the future. "We ultimately determined that adopting a blanket policy would not be appropriate because each application is different and the situation of each tribe, with respect to the local community and the state in which it is located, is unique," Martin said. "The BIA looks at off-reservation gaming proposals on a "case-by-case" basis," Martin said. Historical and cultural ties to the land, local and state support and other issues mean the agency acts "very conservatively." "Contrary to popular belief, tribes cannot simply buy a parcel of land anywhere and set up a gaming establishment," Martin said. Indianz.com, 7-15-04

If Washington has an annual Indian law chapter, California certainly has its own version of the same. There are some major differences; some aspect of Indian law has occupied the Congress of the United States for more than two hundred years. While in California the interest in Indian tribes has pretty much been limited to recent times and the advent of Indian casinos as the result of the Cabazon decision, a California case. As California was the midwife to the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, it has of late been moved back to center stage and a potential predictor of changes to come.

In California today, the tribes are not united under one umbrella (actually there has always been more than one point of view among the tribes in California). In most states, tribes have negotiated casino compacts as a unit or have accepted the model of one tribe in separate negotiations. In California a war is shaping up, not only a war between the governor and other gaming interests, but also a war between the governor and some tribes, and between the tribes. At issue is a new compact with five tribes that gives California a "share" of gaming revenue and two competing ballot initiatives; one that would allow gaming in non-Indian locations and the other that would allow expanded tribal gaming. Neither validates the new compact the governor negotiated with the five tribes. There are some big players and some big egos in this war. As they have said in cities all over the world, as semi-naked athlete warriors lined up to do battle, "Let the games begin!"

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who likes to call himself the "people's governor," will soon get a chance to prove that the description fits. Schwarzenegger's ability to move voters on hotly contested ballot measures will be sorely tested this fall when he confronts two well-financed coalitions that seek to expand gambling in California over his strenuous objections. Two measures - Propositions 68 and 70 - are being pushed by interest groups that normally compete with each other. One is the brainchild of a coalition of card rooms and horse tracks. The other is sponsored by a group of Indian tribes. The initiatives take very different approaches, but either would torpedo Schwarzenegger's plans to allow a controlled expansion of gambling on Indian reservations in a way that aids the state treasury while protecting the rights of non-Indian neighbors and customers. Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 7-26-04

A casino-owning California Indian tribe on Friday said it has committed $10 million to a campaign for a statewide gambling expansion proposal opposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and by five other tribes. The San Manuel Band, which has one of the largest casinos in the state east of Los Angeles, is backing the Proposition 70 campaign by another tribe, Agua Caliente. Reuters, 7-23-04

In a move to regain leverage in the casino compacting process with the state, the tribal members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), voted unanimously to support a proposal by a Southern California tribe that will appear on the November ballot. The measure, which qualified for the California ballot last month, was put forth by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and has been re-christened Proposition 70. The measure seeks to limit contributions from tribal gaming establishments to that of the corporate tax. CNIGA, which represents 64 California tribes… James May, Indian Country Today, 7-28-04

When it comes to getting slot machines at its tracks in California or Florida, money will be no object for Churchill Downs Inc. "I can assure you that whatever the cost may be, we are prepared to make the commitments. We cannot let these opportunities fail for lack of money or effort," Churchill Chief Executive Tom Meeker said in a conference call last week. Two major propositions are on the November ballot in California: one supported by Indian casino owners and another pushed by racetrack operators and card rooms. Louisville Courier-Journal, 7-26-04

Besides extending their political influence, American Indian tribes with casinos and casino cash are looking for places to invest and diversify. Much like major casino companies, one of the most popular diversification strategies is jurisdictional diversification. If there is an economic downturn at home, where would Harrah's Entertainment be today if it had never branched out from its Reno-Tahoe home base? A new jurisdiction may well carry the day and save the company or in this case the tribe. The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut is not expecting an economic disaster, though slots in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York and Washington D. C. will certainly cut into its revenues. The tribe is looking for new jurisdictions for investment. The Mohegan Tribe found the Cowlitz Tribe in Washington or maybe the Cowlitz Tribe found the Mohegan Tribe. Certainly for every gaming rich tribe looking for an investment opportunity, there is a gaming-less poor tribe looking for funding.

An East Coast Indian tribe that operates the third-largest casino in the nation is considering financing the Cowlitz Indian Tribe's proposed casino just south of Woodland. Members of the Mohegan Indian Tribe of Uncasville, Conn., were in La Center [Washington] last month observing local cardrooms and talking with Cowlitz Indian Tribe members, Cowlitz tribal attorney Steve Horenstein confirmed Thursday. "They were checking out the competition," Horenstein said. "They are just one of a group of folks the Cowlitz Tribe is talking to that is interested in financing the casino operation. That certainly is not the only conversation going." Sally Ousley, Longview Daily News, 7-2-04

The Santa Ysabel band of Diegueño Indians secured funding from an Arizona tribe to build a $30 million, 70,000-square-foot casino on its reservation in the Volcan Mountains. Yavapai-Apache Gaming, a finance and management company of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, agreed to provide a short-term loan to pay for the immediate costs of building the casino, in addition to co-signing on a larger bank loan. …The Yavapai-Apache Nation, with nearly 1,900 tribal members, is gaining a prominent presence in the growing market of casino financing. The tribe opened Cliff Castle Casino, about 50 miles south of Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1995. …After financial success, Yavapai-Apache began to help other tribes to develop similar projects. In San Diego County, Yavapai-Apache is set to finance casinos for Santa Ysabel and the La Posta band of Kumeyaay Indians. Fred Sanchez, President of Yavapai-Apache Gaming and Vice Chairman of the tribe's council, said he predicts a trend of more tribe-to-tribe business activity, instead of tribes seeking funding from large corporations. Brooke Williams, Union-Tribune, 7-15-04

The next few months are important to the American body politic as we listen to the opposing groups make their case to manage the country for the next four years. Indian tribes are part of that American political scene and this year more than any other, individual Indians as well as Indian tribes will play an important role. In California, the campaign will be much more specific and personal and very hotly contested.

Gaming is indeed a major industry; the largest companies have revenues of nearly ten billion dollars and employ nearly 100,000 people. Each new merger is a national story, not merely gaming or business news. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Hartford Courant each have more gaming stories each week than the Reno Gazette-Journal or the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In each state where a gaming issue is on the ballot, and there is at least one every year, the campaigns are usually among the most expensive and emotional in the history of the state. Gambling is on national television, as a sport and as entertainment, weekly if not daily. Gaming is more than an industry, it is a part our psyche and our culture. Like it or not, we will all have to get used to it.


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.