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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - May 2005

9 September 2005

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell may have retired from Congress after serving in the U. S. House from 1987 to 1993 and the U. S. Senate from 1993 to 2005, but he has not retired from politics. He joined the law firm of Holland & Knight and, as one would guess as the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is a popular speaker and valued consultant. It is likely that he will become an influential spokesman for Indian country; in May Nighthorse Campbell was in Mississippi helping to frame the debate on Indian gaming, and more specifically taking on the Governor of California.

Former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a chief of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, spoke about the economic plight of the American Indian and misconceptions about tribal casinos in his keynote address Wednesday at the Southern Gaming Summit. He accused some states, notably California and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, of trying to "literally extort" Indian tribes involved with casinos to "pull out of deficits [the state's deficits]." Campbell expressed his displeasure at having read in newspaper accounts comments about Indians "not paying their fair share" or "ripping us off." "I would say that's a comment made by somebody who has just got off the boat and doesn't understand the history of what has happened to Indians in California," Sen. Campbell said. "They paid for their lifestyle in blood, lost relatives, millions of acres of lost land, untold billions of dollars in lost revenue from what's under the land - oil, gas, coal and so on... They've paid their dues, Mr. Schwarzenegger." Tom Wilemon, Biloxi Sun Herald, 5-5-05

The debate really heated up this month, not from that speech but a decision by the Department of Interior rejecting a compact in Oregon allowing the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs to open a casino off their reservation. The department cited the congressional committee activities and the uncertainty of congressional intent on the issue of off-reservation Indian casinos.

Interior Department rejected an agreement between Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs to allow a casino in Cascade Locks. It said it will not approve the casino deal unless it first rules that the off-reservation land can be taken into trust for gambling…Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chairman of the House Resources Committee, has committed to bringing to his committee this year a bill that restricts off-reservation casinos. "I think the Department of Interior has sensed that there is a change in congressional attitude, and for various reasons of its own, I think the Department of Interior is also in the process of shifting its position," said Rep. David Wu, D-Ore… Jeff Kosseff, Oregonian, 5-22-05

The issue has been a hot button for most of the last year. It was really brought to center stage by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians' proposed casino in a former poker club in San Pablo California. The bill that recognized the tribe and granted the tribe the land that was located in the metropolitan area of Oakland escaped public notice until the tribe signed a compact with the state of California. The size of the proposed operation and its location in an urban area generated a great deal of controversy, and a long line of opponents, not all of whom lived in California. This is not the only location with a debate, nor are all of the opponents non-Indians. If fact, the opposition is often another tribe that feels threatened by a casino closer to a major population center, such as the following stories from Wisconsin and Southern California.

Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is seeking common ground with the Forest County Potawatomi Community as the Menominee look to build a casino complex in Kenosha. Partnership with the Potawatomi, however, appears unlikely, given that tribe's outspoken criticism of the planned $808 million development at Dairyland Greyhound Park. At issue are the nearly 1 million customers from Illinois who visit the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee annually. Potawatomi officials fear the new Kenosha casino will "choke off" that business. Menominee officials argue that the two tribes can work together to cross-market the two casinos or other strategies. Erik Brooks, Business Journal of Milwaukee, 5-22-05

An Indian tribe is seeking to build a casino in Hesperia, but the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is trying to block the project. Historic Ties: Both the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which has a reservation near San Bernardino, and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe of Death Valley lay claim to the land. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is trying to block another tribe from building a casino in Hesperia, claiming that the project is both an intrusion on ancestral land and a threat to the structure of reservation-based gaming. Tribal Chairman Deron Marquez claims the proposal by the governing council of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe is an example of reservation shopping, in which tribes in remote locations seek to establish reservations in heavily traveled areas, sometimes hundreds of miles from where they live, so they can build casinos there. Chris Richard, Inland Southern California Press-Enterprise, 5-23-05

Even the decision concerning the Warm Springs Tribe is not as simple as it seems. In June another tribe is beginning a series of television advertisements to influence public opinion on the relocation of the Warm Springs casino into the market area of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde and the Spirit Mountain Casino. For me, that is one of the biggest surprises in the national debate on Indian gaming; when it comes to business tribes act just like corporations and do whatever it takes to keep their competitors from cutting into their profits. There are leaders in Indian country that fight for principles, but the ones fighting for profits while hiding behind principles often obscure them.

A group opposed to plans for an Indian casino in the Columbia Gorge town of Cascade Locks are sponsoring a television ad campaign…The opposition coalition includes environmental groups concerned about the effect on the Columbia River Gorge and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde… Associated Press, Oregonian, 5-25-05

And as a further sign that this is now a national and not just a regional issue, the Secretary of the Interior is calling for legislative reform of Indian gaming.

U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton made an impassioned defense of the Bush administration's record Wednesday…also spoke about the administration's controversial Healthy Forests Initiative…And Norton, whose department includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said Congress should consider amending the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to deal more specifically with tribal casinos in urban areas. Josh Richman, Tri-Valley Herald, 5-27-05

There are three or four separate trends moving across the gaming horizon that will shape the industry's future: the growth in popularity of casino gaming, poker, internet gaming, and Indian gaming and its expansion into urban markets. Internet gaming and poker over the long term are the most important of the trends. Congress is once again poised to attempt to control Internet gaming and many states are trying to put the poker genie back in the bottle. Those issues will become emotionally (and of course financially charged) in time, but they aren't yet. However, in the short term the growth in popularity and the potential ability of Indian casinos to move into the markets traditionally reserved for conventional casinos (and regulated by the individual states) will produce the most controversy in legislatures and in Congress. Investigations are underway into corrupt lobbyists and into Indian gaming in general. Ben Nighthorse Campbell was the previous chair of those investigations. He may be back in Congress soon, not as an elected representative of the people of Colorado or chair of the investigations, but as informal representative of Indian country, fighting to keep Congress from rolling back some of the opportunities of Indian gaming. The committee under his leadership began asking some hard questions about Indian gaming, now it may be his turn to answer the hard questions. I wish him the best of luck, but the mood of Congress seems to be turning against Indian gaming.

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.