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Best of Ken Adams

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Bits and Pieces of Indian Country - December 2004

2 May 2005

Indian gaming celebrated twenty-five years of success and growth. Wait a minute: 25 years? That means that Indian gaming began in 1979. That isn't possible; IGRA was passed in 1988, right? Not according to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole Tribe opened a bingo hall 25 years ago. Indian gaming has evolved since 1979. There are 225 tribes with some form of gaming, doing an estimated $16 billion in annual revenue. The rest of Indian country owes the Seminole and other pioneering tribes a debt of gratitude. Even though the Seminole still do not have a Class III compact, the Class II games they do operate are very successful.

The original Seminole Tribe bingo hall turned 25 on Tuesday in a ceremony marking its status as the nation's first Indian gaming room and legal trendsetter. While the building hasn't held up too well, its legacy on the tribe, Indians nationwide and the country's gambling habits remains powerful. …Today, about 225 Indian tribes operate gaming facilities, bringing in an estimated $16 billion annually, according to gaming industry figures. In state after state, tribes fighting for casinos pointed to the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision siding with the Seminoles over former Broward County Sheriff Bob Butterworth, who threatened to send deputies on the land and shut the casino down. The Seminoles make at least $320 million annually from new facilities in Hollywood, Tampa, Coconut Creek and the original hall at Stirling Road, which sits almost in the shadow of the luxurious new SeminoleHard Rock Hotel & Casino on State Road 7. John Holland, Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12-15-04

Besides Florida, the other remaining major Class II jurisdiction was Oklahoma. That changed in November when votersgave approval to Class III games. Like the Seminole, the tribes in Oklahoma have been operating casinos with Class II games for a while. However, the future of those games was always in question, and federal and local authorities have made several attempts to stop their operation. The approval of Indian gaming by the voters legitimizes tribal operations and makes it possible to purchase Class II and Class III games without legal opposition. The opportunity to sell to the tribes brought out the venders for a local trade show, with some predicting that Oklahoma may enter the top-five gaming markets.

Rising three stories along I-44 and roiling with Las Vegas-style lights, the Cherokee Casino Resort's extravagant sign alone speaks to the $80 million transformation of the old bingo hall here. Experts consider it a sign of the times in a state on the verge of explosive growth in Indian gaming. Now that Oklahoma voters have cleared the way for tribes to offer new and potentially more lucrative games, a wave of luxury is expected to sweep through the landscape of tin-roofed bingo centers. Associated Press, KOTV Channel 6, 12-18-04

The prospect of expanded gambling in Oklahoma has attracted unprecedented interest in this year's Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association's annual convention and trade show. More than 2,000 people connected to the gambling industry and 257 vendors were attending the show. …Marcus Prater, senior vice president of marketing for Bally Gaming, predicts Oklahoma will add 10,000 gambling machines by late 2006, with newly legalized machines accounting for all of the growth. Prater said that would make Oklahoma a top-five gambling market, behind only such locales as Las Vegas; Atlantic City, N.J.; Tunica, Miss.; and Shreveport- Bossier City, La. Associated Press, Las Vegas Sun, 12-2-04

In Alabama the Class II debate is still in process. The attorney general recently went on a tour of the state, looking at all of the illegal gaming and planning his strategy. The more cynical among us might have thought it was simply an opening volley in an attack on Indian gaming. The attorney general denied it, and later said he has no jurisdiction. He did find enough to keep him busy - slot machines and things just lying around Alabama waiting for players or police or whichever one gets there first. The Class II debate is not over and the NIGC can be expected to keep an eye on Alabama.

A week after Alabama Attorney General Troy King announced the results of his statewide gambling probe, two more groups have stepped into the fray. …In an editorial piece submitted to newspapers statewide, the Alabama Policy Institute's Gary Palmer claimed that King was working with federal officials to stamp out Indian gaming. …The United States Attorney's office in Mobile issued a lengthy statement that appeared to contradict Palmer's claim. "There have been a number of public questions concerning Indian gaming in Alabama in the last two years... In Alabama, Indian gaming, which is limited to bingo, is explicitly authorized, defined and regulated by federal law," the statement read. …"We understand the Poarch Tribe is continuing to work closely with the NIGC to bring its Alabama gaming facilities into complete compliance if the (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act)." "We are pleased to report that the Poarch Creek Tribe has been cooperative in our efforts and has consistently expressed a willingness to operate within the boundaries of the law." Arthur McLean, Atmore Advance, 12-15-04

The biggest state engaged in the Class II debate is California. Some tribes are using Class II games to get around the governor and his attempt to get a share of the revenue by controlling the number of slot machines allowed. It is far from over in California, the battle lines have been drawn, a couple of negotiations held, but no progress reported. Governor Schwarzenegger has a challenge, there are a couple of tribes in Southern California with nearly as much experience as the Seminoles in Florida in fighting the sovereignty battle over a casino floor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's legal team and representatives of a Southern California Indian tribe met Tuesday to search for common ground in their closely watched dispute over the legal definition of a slot machine, an issue that threatens the state's efforts to gain far larger profits from California's casinos. The afternoon meeting called by Schwarzenegger Legal Secretary Peter Siggins with representatives of the Morongo Band of Luiseno Indians failed to yield an agreement with the tribe, which recently drew the state's ire by purchasing roughly 2,000 video lottery terminals for its Riverside County casino. John M. Hubbell, San Francisco Chronicle, 12-1-04

Not part of the Class II debate, but until now part of Indian gaming, Donald Trump is exiting California via stage-right. The Donald, always in the news these days, attracted attention by selling out his management contract in California. Did he sell it to the tribe? Did the tribe buy him out? Does Trump need money so badly that six million dollars makes a difference? Or did the tribe fire the Donald? And why didn't we get to watch that on prime time television? It seems rather cheap when he wants a half a billion dollars to leave a lawsuit over an Indian casino in New York. Donald Trump certainly has a checkered history in Indian gaming; he has testified against tribal recognition, sued and been sued over broken contracts. It is enough to cause one to wonder why a tribe would ever sign a contract with him in the first place.

Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts Inc., which filed for bankruptcy last month, said it would sell a casino management license back to a California Indian tribe for $6 million. The company said it had reached a deal to transfer its management agreement for the "Trump 29 Casino" in Coachella, Calif. to the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, its partner in the tribal casino. New York Post, 12-28-04

And here from New York in a non-Class II story. The Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin has agreed with the State of New York to settle their land claim for some land and the right to operate a casino, and you guessed it, with Class III games. The other Oneida Tribe, Oneida of New York, is not pleased. They say the Wisconsin tribe left (in 1820) and have no right to come back and get a Class III compact. Oneida of New York fought the Class II games battle nearly as long as the tribes in Florida and Oklahoma.

The General Tribal Council of the Oneida Tribe of Indians on Monday overwhelmingly approved a plan that could end a long-standing land dispute in New York. More than 700 tribal members came to the meeting at the Oneida Nation Elementary School and 97 percent endorsed the settlement, which gives the Oneidas 1,000 acres of land in New York, hunting and fishing rights and the opportunity to build a casino in the Catskills. …The settlement, which would resolve the oldest and largest Native American land-claim dispute in the country, still requires the approval of the New York Legislature and the federal government. Andy Nelesen, Green Bay Press-Gazette, 12-14-04

Indian gaming, for all of its success, is not without its challenges and its adversaries. In California, Oregon, New York, Washington and other states, there is significant resistance to tribal recognition, turning fee land into trust land, casinos off trust land, out-of-state tribes coming "home" to open a casino, and, of course, Class II games that look just like Class III games. But as the celebration in Florida shows, the tribes take a very long-term view of gaming and sovereignty. Gaming has been significant, possibly the most significant development in modern Indian history. The revenue has drastically
changed economics in Indian country; it has reduced unemployment, helped fund tribal services, build houses and even created some individual wealth. But, Indian gaming did not begin as a source of revenue or employment, it began as sovereignty issue. Those first bingo games may have provided some revenue, but, it was the resistance to enforcing local regulations on tribal land that was the real issue, the true battleground. That has not changed. Many things have changed and evolved but the basic issue has remained the same in Alabama, New York, Florida, Oklahoma and California. The opponents of Indian gaming are driven by contemporary events, local politics or business competition. The issues and the names of the opponents are always changing while the tribes remain constant and so does the focus - sovereignty and the seventh generation. Few non-Indian Americans have any real and direct experience with a lifetime-long constitutional
fight; it is part of every day life in Indian country. Tribes have been fighting this battle since the first treaty; for each tribe that date is different, but for all the battle is the same.

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.