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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - March 2003

31 March 2003

Sovereignty makes headlines again this month; actually it would be more accurate to say it is the headlining story every month in Indian country.  The U. S. Supreme Court is going to be hearing an important case that will either limit the ability of states to enforce laws on tribal land or limit the ability of tribes to resist the legal action of the states.  In either case, it will be an important decision in the ongoing debate over sovereignty.

The U.S. Supreme Court soon will take up a California case that could affect every American Indian tribe in the United States.  At issue is how far the reach of county and state law enforcement can extend onto reservations.  …The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1953 act of Congress giving California and other states criminal jurisdiction on Indian lands applies to tribal members but not tribal governments.  Chet Barfield, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3-5-03

Tribal sovereignty is the basis of Indian gaming.  Tribes are not subject to the limitations of state regulatory gaming law, but must negotiate with a state for the conditions under which gaming may be operated.  The tribes see the relationship as that of equal sovereigns.  That principle brings us the reality of the negotiations in California.  California needs more tax revenue and the governor believes tribal casinos should pay ("contribute") into the state confers.  But he cannot ask the state legislature to pass the appropriate law; instead he is forced to ask the tribes to agree.  The negotiations have officially begun. 

And in Wisconsin the state legislature is still trying to find a way to inhibit the governor's ability to negotiate compacts without the approval of the legislature.  Governor Jim Doyle does not agree and for the second time vetoed a bill to limit his authority.  Not every circumstance calls for a negotiated compact.  If a tribe operates Class II gaming only, it does not need a compact.  The question of what constitutes Class II does not have an absolute answer.  This month the answer is slightly different and includes a slot machine look alike called Lucky Tab II.

Formal talks have begun on renegotiating California's Indian gambling compacts, as Gov. Gray Davis pushes for a share of tribes' profits to help with the state's budget shortfall.  The governor's administration would disclose neither which tribal representatives were at the first meeting Monday, nor even how many attended.  Don Thompson, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, 3-25-03

Governor Vetoes Second Bill.  Gov. Jim Doyle on Tuesday vetoed for the second time a bill that would have given state legislators final say over some tribal gambling contracts.  The governor now has the sole authority to negotiate compacts with tribes.  Todd Richmond Associated Press, 3-19-03

With a decision that may have changed the way tribes will look at Class II gaming in the future, the Santee Sioux Tribe can legally operate its casino.  The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court Decision that said the Lucky Tab II is indeed a Class II gaming device. This decision may change the way people interpret the Johnson Act.  David Melmer, Indian Country Today, 3-31-03

In Oregon, the governor is in the driver's seat.  It is a tribe, Grand Ronde, that has a wish.  The Grand Ronde tribe would like to open a casino in Portland and is willing to pay for a baseball stadium to get it.  The governor is not ready to agree, yet.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday rejected a baseball stadium-for-casino proposal from the Conferederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.  …Kulongoski was not ready to make a decision on off-reservation gambling, so he was in no position to accept the offer.  "He wants to separate out the issue of reservation gambling and baseball," she said.  Associated Press, kgw.com, 3-12-03

A baseball stadium is only one of several Indian business ventures that made the news this month.  In Okalahoma a tribe is selling shares in a project; in Minnesota a tribe has purchased a conventional resort, and in Washington D. C., four tribes broke ground on a joint-venture hotel project.

A band of the Shawnee Indian Tribe based in Oklahoma is behind the proposal to build a $550 million gaming operation near Botkins, according to Botkins contractor and casino supporter Tom Schnippel. He also confirmed that shares in the project have been sold to interested companies and individuals and said that if it doesn't happen near Botkins, there are other sites in west central Ohio being considered.  Sidney Daily News, Casino City Times, 3-6-03

 The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians today announced the purchase of the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa from KSL Recreation, Inc.  …Already among the largest employers in northern Michigan, this transaction is expected to catapult the Grand Traverse Band into a leadership position among Indian gaming operations nationally, as well as among Michigan tourist destinations.  PRNewswire, Yahoo Business, 3-5-03

The significance of the drama of compact negotiations is easily understood when one looks at the results of operating a successful Indian casino.  Tribal casinos in Connecticut are beginning to feel the same economic trends as other jurisdictions.  Still, the level of slot play is high enough to excite any government official looking for money.  The expansion of Indian casinos is somewhat in doubt, as the governor's authority to sign a compact is in question.  While the case works its way through the court system, the Seneca tribe opened a casino in Niagara Falls.  The first official statement forecasts that it will be a very successful casino; and finally from Arizona, initial reports suggests that blackjack will add significantly to the success of most casinos in Arizona.

Performance of the state's slot machine industry dipped in February, declining slightly over a year ago, according to figures released by the state Division of Special Revenue Friday.  The $1.43 billion "handle" for slots at Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos was down from last February's $1.47 billion. …The Indian casinos kept a combined $115.7 million of that gambling money after paying out winnings, a 4 percent decline from last February. Hartford Courant, 3-17-03

In the first public statement of the Seneca casino's moneymaking power, local leaders were told that the community could expect about $9 million for its share of 2003 casino slot profits.  …That suggests an estimated slots profit of $200 million for the year, or an average daily profit per machine of about $210Andrew Z. Galarneau, Buffalo News, 3-25-03

Lawyers challenging the legality of casino gambling in New York argued to the state's highest court Wednesday that Gov. George Pataki's ability to make casino deals with American Indian tribes should be constrained.  …The case, …probably won't be decided for at least a month…gambling in New York, … has grown to an $8 billion-a-year industry.  Erika Rosenberg, Gannett News Service, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3-27-03

Nevada-style blackjack is proving to be an ace attraction, operators are reporting after the game's first month in play.  …"I could have run 80 tables," Lentz said, noting the casino will add 26 tables in July.  John Stearns, Arizona Republic, 3-10-03

California is the biggest story in Indian gaming, with a potential to be even bigger.  Tribes in California lead the state in job growth and have for three years.  Tribal employment has doubled since January 2000.  The Agua Caliente Band, a significant employer, now has decided to continue to pay employees who have gone into the military in the Iraq conflict.

Tribal government economies have for three years led the state in job growth, with employment doubling since January 2000…  The explosion of employment on Indian lands has largely been generated by the expansion of tribal government gaming…  Tribal governments employ 36,300 workers, according to state figures, more than twice the 17,200 workers on tribal payrolls in January 2000, three months after 58 tribes agreed to compacts with Gov. Gray Davis…  PRNewswire, Yahoo Finance, 3-31-02

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians affirmed today the Tribe will supplement the salaries of its team members who are called to active military duty. …"As the war in Iraq enters its second week, we felt it was important for our team members and this community to know that we stand by our team members who are called to serve in the United States military.PRNewswire, Yahoo Finance, 3-31-03

The impact of the war on Indian gaming, the gaming industry, the general economy, indeed on our daily lives, is still uncertain.  It is certain, however, that there will be an impact.  It is also certain that the longer the war lasts the greater the impact will be on the gaming industry, the economy and on our daily lives.  Just as war dominates television, radio and the print media, war will dominate the economy and make itself felt in the gaming industry and our lives.  The biggest and strongest of private and public companies, Indian casinos and public jurisdictions will be the least impacted; the smaller and weaker ones will be severely challenged.

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.