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Best of Ken Adams

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Bits & Pieces from Indian Country - June 2007

15 July 2007

A friend of mine uses the term "get it" for the ability to understand something that most people fail to understand – they don't get it. Indian gaming is sometimes in that category. Some people understand it – meaning Indian gaming's impact on rural tribes and their host communities – and some people don't get it. The places that get it most easily are those that need economic development the most. Towns that formerly hosted successful industry or whaling, for example – with current unemployment two or three times the national average – those towns "get it."

Even those in need of a safe haven to worship or play basketball find it easy to understand. Yet, there are those who do not "get it" and are willing to pray regularly to prevent an Indian casino from coming into their backyard.

About 350 acres of land is in trust for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation at Saganing, which is today little more than a wide spot in where Worth Road turns and becomes Sturman Road, a few houses, a church and a brand-new community center. That's all going to change soon. The Tribal Nation has announced plans to build a casino at Saganing, and heavy equipment already has begun clearing land for the project…"It will be a good thing," Stachowski said. He said the community needs as many jobs as it can get. Unemployment in Arenac County hovers about 12 percent during the winter. (Mark Ranzenberger, Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, 5-21-07)

A lot has been said and written about Middleborough, Mass., becoming the chosen site for an Indian casino, but New Bedford is also still in the running. NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that Monday representatives of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe will meet with the mayor of New Bedford to discuss building a casino in the Whaling City…The unemployment rate was recently more than 9 percent, and city officials say a casino would bring much-needed jobs to the region. (Boston Channel, 5-21-07)

"They welcomed us," said the Rev. Paul Buster, the Seminole Baptist minister known as Pastor Paul. "Some people, maybe out of curiosity, worshiped with us or sat with us." Florida (Indian gaming) - - When Hurricane Wilma knocked out power at the First Seminole Indian Baptist Church, help came from a neighbor that never rests, even on Sunday. Services were moved next door, to the 24-hour casino at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, near Hollywood. Song and prayer in Creek and English emanated from a private ballroom, just out of earshot of the whirring slot machines. (Kathleen Kernicky, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 5-21-07)

It's a long shot, but Seattle real estate developer Dave Sabey has an idea about a convention center that could house the Sonics and Storm, although the pro basketball franchises would not be the driver of the project…Another player in the Sonics' future could be the Muckleshoot Tribe. According to two sources, there has been conversation between Bennett and the tribe about an arena on land the Muckleshoots own near Renton. (Gary Washburn, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5-21-07)

More than 50 church members from across Jackson County held a prayer vigil directly across from land where the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has proposed building a casino. The 35-minute vigil was held at Mississippi 57 and Firestone Road. About 10 pastors prayed about a coming nonbinding referendum on the issue, public officials on both sides of the issue… King said the prayer vigils would be held twice monthly until the Nov. 8 general election when residents countywide get to vote on a nonbinding referendum about the casino proposal. (Associated Press, Biloxi Sun Herald, 5-21-07)

Indian gaming revenues continue to grow, and at a faster rate than the rest of the industry – that is the good news. And while individual tribes and tribal operations are receiving a mixed reception, the industry as a whole is increasingly a pawn in state and national politics. Obama is championing unions, so we might expect that when he campaigns in California, he will be taking sides in the compact debate. McCain's stalking horse is regulation, so the ruling that IGRA does not provide for Class III oversight opens the door for him to enter into every state's compact discussions, as well as giving him a national platform plank – gaming reform. At this point he would be the first with a national gaming issue, and he is still walking both sides of the line – the protector of Indian integrity and prosecutor of bad lobbyists and the protector of state's rights and guardian of congressional integrity and authority.

Since the ruling became final last year, Hogen has been on a crusade to persuade Congress to restore the commission's authority to impose and enforce the rules for all Indian casinos. The chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission yesterday warned that the absence of federal standards in Indian casinos could attract crime and cost tribes untold millions of dollars. The future without the internal operating rules, which were invalidated by federal courts, "will be a time of some uncertainty and doubt," Chairman Philip Hogen said in remarks prepared for the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. "Operations without effective internal controls and oversight will, once again, become obvious targets for the unscrupulous," Hogen predicted. "Those tribes . . . will lose millions of dollars and often not realize that it has happened until years later." Federal courts invalidated what are known as "minimum internal control standards." (James P. Sweeney, Copley News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5-15-07)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who led the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal, has sworn off taking tribal money in his presidential campaign but continues to accept donations from lobbyists whose firms represent tribal clients. McCain spokesman Danny Diaz said the senator believes that tribes can spend their money in other ways. He added that McCain implemented the ban on tribal money when he became chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in the midst of the Abramoff scandal, before the panel began probing the tens of millions of dollars the tribes paid the former lobbyist. Diaz, however, would not explain why McCain would not extend that policy to lobbyists representing tribes. (Susan Crabtree, The Hill, 5-5-05)

The Department of the Interior is holding off making any decisions on placing land into trust if there is even a remote possibility of that land being used for gaming. And again, the reason is national politics; Interior thinks it is prudent to wait and see which party controls the White House and Congress and what the policy will be on Indian gaming and placing new land into trust.

"In particular, we expect to consider a paradigm where the likelihood of accepting off-reservation land into trust decreases with the distance the subject parcel is from the tribe's established reservation or ancestral lands and the majority of tribal members." A top official with the Department of the Interior has notified Indian tribes that the agency is reconsidering how it handles applications for off-reservation casinos because of public opposition to the expansion of gambling. James E. Cason, associate deputy Secretary of the Interior, said the agency "anticipates changes to the rules that may result in fewer off-reservation properties being accepted to trust" in letters mailed to tribes that are seeking casinos…He also advised the tribes that the agency plans "more detailed consideration of the broad implications associated with new gaming operations with established communities where gaming is not currently conducted." As part of that process, the agency will review how it solicits and considers the views of city and county elected officials, Cason said. (Tom Wilemon, Biloxi Sun Herald, 5-8-07)

"If it's a Hillary Clinton, if it's an Obama, or it's a Giuliani, and I think we get a casino, because they will replace that Department of Interior and they are, I think, sympathetic to have a casino in Sullivan County." A Las Vegas style casino proposed by the St. Regis Mohawk Indians for Monticello Raceway in Monticello, could take another year for final federal approval, New York Senator John Bonacic said Friday. He told the Orange County Chamber of Commerce meeting in the Town of Newburgh that current Interior Secretary Kirk Kempthorne does not support building Native American casinos off reservations. (Catskills News, 5-8-07)

And that is really the big issue, the major trend of the year: national politics. Gaming is moving squarely into the crosshairs of national politics. The other trends will continue: MGM-Mirage announced a new non-gaming division to build hotels around the world (and one would guess be ready should gaming become legal); there were a couple more "take'em private" moves; four or five more states are debating expanding gaming. But possibly the most significant trend in the long-term will be the entrance of national politics into gaming, and that can only lead to additional layers of taxation and regulation. Just look to the Internet legislation if you want to imagine some of the extremes in possibilities – okay, outlawing gaming could never happen at a national level, or could it? All it takes is the right climate in Congress and the right scandal or event to trigger the legislation. Problem gambling stands by ready to take its place on the national stage – it already has its advocates and spokespeople. Interstate lotteries and Indian gaming also provide a forum for Congress and the White House to introduce national gaming policy. Remember, the Internet bill never made it on its own, but sneaked through on another bill. Pay attention to what the candidates are saying. We are entering unknown, uncharted territory.

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

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.