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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - June 2005

9 September 2005

Indian gaming is growing, maybe not as fast as in other years, but growing nevertheless. The numbers are large enough to get everyone's attention, or said another way, much too large to ignore. Indian gaming started officially in 1988 with the passage of the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). To go from zero to $19 billion in revenue, nearly a billion in fees to state and local governments, $8.8 billion in wages, is significant and makes Indian gaming a very important national industry. Not all states are created equal, however. California and Connecticut dominate, but look for Florida and Oklahoma to gain in the next year. Indian gaming, like conventional casino gaming, has to work hard to tell its story. It is a great story, but certainly not one without some controversy and opponents.

Report puts Indian casino revenue in U.S. at $19 billion: American Indian tribes shared $900 million in casino gambling revenue with governments in 2004, a 23 percent increase over the previous year, according to a comprehensive review of Indian gaming. The industry was responsible for $8.8 billion in wages, and 277,000 jobs. The Indian Gaming Industry Report, compiled by Alan Meister, a Los Angeles-based economist with Analysis Group, also characterizes Indian gaming in Oklahoma as undergoing "remarkable growth." According to the report, Indian tribes contributed a whopping $6.2 billion in taxes, two-thirds of which went to the federal government. The rest was split between local and state governments…The top two revenue generating Indian gaming states, California and Connecticut, accounted for almost 40 percent of the nationwide total. The top five grossing states, which included (from high to low) Arizona, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, accounted for 60.1 percent of total gaming revenue at Indian gaming facilities. Compared to 2003, the top five states experienced a slight change in order as Arizona moved ahead of Minnesota to rank third. Washington, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida, and New York rounded out the top ten grossing states. The largest 2004 growth came in Wyoming at nearly 119.2 percent, while the greatest decline occurred in Maine at -23.3 percent…There were six states with new Indian gaming facilities in 2004: Oklahoma (9), New York (3), Montana (2), Washington (2), Iowa (1), Florida (1), North Dakota (1), Nebraska (1), Oregon (1), and Wisconsin (1). Associated Press, Native American Times, 6-15-05

National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. today promoted the economic impact of Indian gaming on the American economy while addressing the issue of regulation during his keynote address at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians in Green Bay, Wis. "Indian gaming has provided over 550,000 jobs nationwide and over $8 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues," said Stevens. "Indian gaming is an American success story that has given Indian and non-Indian communities alike new hope and opportunity and we are proud of the progress we have made -- but we still have a long way to go." …Stevens also addressed the issue of regulation of Indian casinos across the country, reiterating the Indian gaming is one of the most tightly regulated industries in the world. "Tribes spend almost $300 million to regulate Indian gaming, including $228 million at the tribal level, $55 million at the state level and $12 million at the federal level," said Stevens, who is a member of the Oneida nation of Wisconsin. "Indian gaming also has more than 3,350 expert regulators and staff at the tribal, state and federal levels who are hard working men and women with significant law enforcement and regulatory experience, including the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal and state police." Newswire, 6-15-05

The very size of the industry increases its visibility and draws out more opponents. The Senate is holding hearings on off-reservation gaming, the NIGRA and lobbyists with Indian clients and connections. None of the hearings promises anything good for gaming tribes or Indian gaming in general (although some tribes support the efforts to keep other tribes from establishing casinos off of their traditional reservations). The hearings are not the only source of difficulty for Indian gaming; many of the initiatives in federal and state legislatures are driven by other forces. In California, Senator Feinstein's efforts to prevent the San Pablo casino are based on local politics and not the national debate.

A Senate panel Wednesday approved Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to force the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians to scrap its plans for a casino in San Pablo and go through rigorous state and federal approvals before moving ahead with slot-machine gambling at its card club off Interstate 80. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee's 9-3 vote in favor of the bill by the California Democrat is another blow to the tribe, which has seen its hopes for a major urban casino in the Bay Area thwarted by strong opposition in the state Legislature. Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, 6-30-05

Senator Domenici's (New Mexico) attitude reflects a far more threatening concept, penalizing tribes for success in gaming. This expression of the idea is new, but the concept is not; usually the discussion is couched in the language of "leveling the playing field." The basic idea is that tribes have a competitive advantage and should in some way either be penalized or have the perceived advantage removed. When an initiative in Washington State proposes slot machines, the state's purpose is to support non-tribal casinos and level the playing field. Or when legislators in states debating anti-smoking regulation ask for exemptions for certain business, they cite tribal casinos as having an unfair competitive advantage.

American Indian tribes that operate gambling businesses should receive less money from the federal government than Indians without casinos, an influential senator said Tuesday. "Gaming tribes are getting the same amount of money distributed to them under old formulas," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that sets spending for the Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "I think it's time to look at perhaps a new formula that gives those who don't have the benefit of casinos a larger share of the government's assistance," said Domenici…Perhaps a tribe's casino profits should be subtracted from the amount of federal funding it receives, he said…Although he stopped short of proposing a change in the funding formula, Domenici suggested the Bureau of Indian Affairs could prepare a report on how federal money could be better divided among the tribes. Samantha Young/ Tony Batt, Stephens Washington Bureau, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6-8-05

Indian gaming is always part and parcel of local politics. Tribes have to negotiate with the states for compacts, and lately state legislatures are more and more trying to be part of the process, especially when they are looking for funding sources. Gaming is not the only facet of tribal status that gets caught in local politics; recognition is also a magnet for local politics. The attorney general in Connecticut and the congressional delegation have been very vocal in attempting to prevent local tribes from receiving recognition. Other states have recognition opponents, though none as organized or vocal as Connecticut. Louisiana is bidding for second place; the previous governor, the present governor and members of the state's congressional delegation have all used tribal status as a political football. Senator Vitter has introduced a bill to keep out-of-state tribes from building a casino in Louisiana; the tribes, of course, argue that the only reason they are out-of-state is that they were driven out at gunpoint.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter continued his long opposition to the expansion of gambling in Louisiana by introducing a bill Thursday that would prohibit Indian tribes from building casinos outside their traditional homelands. "I think there's a strongly growing consensus that Indian gambling has spun out of control," the Metairie Republican said. Vitter's bill could hurt plans by the Jena Band of Choctaws to establish a casino in Louisiana. The Jena Band has tried twice, unsuccessfully, to establish casinos in the state on lands where they had little or no connection -- in Vinton and in Logansport. The tribe now is trying to open a casino in Grant Parish, an area where it has historical ties. But Vitter, who opposes the Jena Band's plans to open gaming operations anywhere in the state, said other provisions of his bill -- including one that would give states more power to reject proposed Indian gaming operations -- would make it difficult for the tribe to open a casino. "This would give the state a lot more ability to prohibit it outright." Ana Radelat, Gannett News Service, Shreveport Times, 6-17-05 .

The investigations in Congress into the activities of lobbyist Abramoff and his associates and associations are getting lots of attention. There appear to be ties to nearly everyone in the administration and to many in the democratic leadership in this tangled web. What investigation would be complete that did not tie in the president, his advisors and everyone else in this partisan political climate? The president may not be guilty of anything, nor any of the other leaders of either party, but Abramoff certainly is guilty of a kind of arrogance that would easily involve anyone and everyone that would feed his ego or his pocketbook.

An arrangement involving two Indian tribes, the head of an anti-tax organization and a lobbyist now under criminal investigation -- plus $50,000 -- secured Indian leaders a private audience with President Bush…in 2001 and confirmed by tribal lawyers and documents showing the solicitation of money and the promise of a meeting with Bush. The tribes were seeking to protect their casino gaming revenues from tougher labor regulations and to block changes in federal gaming laws that might interfere with their casinos… At the behest of Abramoff, two Indian tribes -- the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Mississippi Band of Choctaw -- paid $25,000 each to Norquist's group to underwrite a 2001 event that included a private meeting with Bush. …Indian tribes were uncertain how the Bush administration would treat Indian gaming since many Republicans historically had been anti-gaming. A federal grand jury is investigating whether Abramoff and a lobbying partner overcharged Indian tribes millions of dollars for their work. Associated Press, New York Times, 6-8-05

Regardless of the heat Indian lobbyists are feeling, there are still those willing to be in the kitchen. Robert Dole worn out from his Viagra campaign has found a new cause--Oklahoma Indians trying to go back home to New York.

The Oklahoma-based Seneca-Cayuga's hired former presidential hopeful Bob Dole at nearly $1,000 per day to help grease Washington's wheels in their bid for a Catskills casino, said sources familiar with the deal. The lobbying deal with Dole, who was the 1996 Republican challenger to President Clinton, was approved by the tribe last week and covers three months of services at $30,000 per month, said a source briefed on the deal. Dole's hiring is the latest of a string of connected local, state and national lobbyists hired by Indian tribes hoping to build casinos in the Catskills. John Milgrim, Ottaway News Service, 6-8-05

Poker is pulling gaming into the national spotlight in ways no one could have imagined a few years ago. The partnership of television and the Internet have been powerful forces in the growth of poker and in the national trend towards acceptance of casino gaming. The trend may or may not drag Internet gaming into a legal status in the near future, but it promises no short-term hope for proponents of Indian gaming. Indian gaming is also on center stage, but instead of positive images on television and development opportunities on the Internet, Indian gaming is the focus of negative national attention originating in Washington, D. C. The "Trojan horse" is off reservation casinos, in New York, Ohio, Louisiana, California and other states; tribes seeking land (and possibly a casino) in their historical homeland are meeting very heavy resistance. I don't see poker helping. The issues at the core of this debate are not the moral ones that have dominated casino legislation in the past, but rather they are issues of sovereignty; who owns this land, who will profit from it and who can make the rules for its use?

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.