The Thomas Edison Inn site selected by investors behind the proposed casino in Port Huron is 352 miles by car from the Bay Mills Indian Community’s Reservation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, along the shores of Lake Superior, near the town of Brimley.
Relocating a third Bay Mills Casino to Port Huron would be even further than relocating the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. across five states to the site of the Empire State Building in the heart of New York City.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Are we there yet?
When it comes to “off-reservation” casino proposals; the more often you hear that nagging question in your head, the less likely it is you’ll ever get there.
Officials in Washington D.C. and Indian Country observers across the U.S. indicate, “off-reservation” casino approvals are highly unlikely as it is – and the odds get worse when tribes seek to relocate their casinos across state, hop-scotching the homelands of other tribes and numerous counties or over state boundaries.
The further a tribe strays from its ancestral homelands, its modern day Reservation and the bulk of its present day population; the further it is from ever realizing the dream of a casino.
“An environmental impact study on the site of a proposed tribal casino will start next month but could take up to five years to complete, according to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“With the study, opposition from other Michigan casinos and the sponsoring tribe's distance from Romulus, tribal gaming experts say it's highly unlikely the new casino ever will be approved.”
“Off-Reservation Casino ‘very long shot’”
Detroit News (detnews.com)
“…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.”
associate deputy secretary
U.S. Interior Department
“In a December letter to the tribe, the U.S. Interior Department noted that the proposed site is in Monticello "over 450 miles from your reservation."
Further, an agency official noted: "As we have discussed on several occasions, we share the concerns that many have expressed with off-reservation gaming and so-called 'reservation shopping.'"
“Casino in the Catskills still facing Road Blocks”
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Barwest LLC has selected casino sites just off the heavily traveled I-15 Highway, halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in Barstow, California. The Barwest property is 733 miles by car from the Big Lagoon Rancheria just off Highway 101 in Humboldt County on Northern California’s majestic coastline.
Moving the Big Lagoon Tribe’s casino to Barstow would be like relocating the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. not far from the Chesapeake Bay across five states to the site of the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois 7-8 blocks from the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Tribes as Goliath, States as David
In our 2005 book, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise, we discuss how the perspective that tribal sovereignty places states as a disadvantage does not adequately take into account tribes' legal and political status and is ignorant of some 200 years of federal Indian law.
Here's another example of an editorial decrying the 'uneven playing field between federally protected, sovereign tribes and state governments' (and last we checked, states enjoyed
federally protected sovereign status as well . . . .):
Law Governing Indian Casinos Needs to Level the Playing Field (Shreveport Times)
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Like Ilitch, Atlanta Braves owner wants to retain MLB Team & gambling enterprise; an on line sports betting information Website.
Published on: 02/23/07
MLB looking into Liberty betting site
By TIM TUCKER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Prospective Braves buyer Liberty Media's ownership of a sports betting-information Web site has drawn the attention of Major League Baseball.
"Our people are looking into it," MLB spokesman Rich Levin told The Journal-Constitution on Thursday. "They are aware of it and are reviewing it."
Liberty last year bought a 51 percent stake in Toronto-based Fun Technologies, whose holdings include a Web site called DonBest.com. The site, which doesn't accept or make wagers, provides gambling lines and extensive picks from "expert" handicappers.
Levin said MLB's "basic rule is that an owner or anybody can't have any direct involvement in any kind of gambling enterprise." He said he did not want to "make a judgment" about whether Liberty's Web site would be found to violate that rule.
If MLB does deem the Web site a problem, it could ask Liberty to divest that business, which is a tiny part of the company's overall holdings, as a condition of being approved as Braves owner.
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said at an investment conference in Colorado that the Web site should not present a problem with MLB.
"It does no more, no less than USA Today or lots of other people who provide much more information in much more detail," Maffei told The Rocky Mountain News after a speech at the "Venture Capital in the Rockies" conference in Beaver Creek, Colo. "I don't see it as an issue."
Steve Greenberg, the investment banker representing Time Warner on the Braves deal, declined comment when asked if he expects the Web site to be an issue with MLB.
Time Warner and Colorado-based Liberty last week agreed on a tax-free stock swap under which Liberty would acquire the Braves. The deal was forwarded to MLB for what is expected to be a lengthy examination; the process typically includes looking at a buyer's businesses. Approval is required from 75 percent of owners.
Issues of ownership ties to gambling-related entities have surfaced twice recently in baseball. MLB blessed an arrangement under which Marian Ilitch, wife of Detroit Tigers owner Michael Ilitch, owns MotorCity Casino in Detroit. And Steve Swindal, a managing general partner of the New York Yankees and son-in-law of principal owner George Steinbrenner, was quoted by the New York Times in December as saying he got permission from baseball commissioner Bud Selig to participate in a group bidding for three New York horse racing tracks, one of which would operate slot machines.
According to a recent press release, the Don Best site "provides subscription services for live odds, major line-move alerts, injury reports, statistical reports and offers customized information-
At the conference, Maffei also addressed speculation Liberty would quickly re-sell the Braves, saying, according to the Rocky Mountain News, that the company intends to be "long-term owners."
The paper reported that he told the gathering of venture capitalists that there are "lots of reasons" to hold on to the team, one being that "you're not going to make a lot of friends" in MLB by quickly flipping it. Also, he noted the IRS would treat the deal more favorably if Liberty keeps the team.
But it was not clear what Maffei meant by "long-term" — the two or three years experts have said Liberty must hold the Braves to preserve the deal's tax-free status, or something significantly longer. He could not be reached for further comment.
Ex-lawmakers find work with lobbyists
By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
The cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists that embarrassed Congress and cost some lawmakers re-election haven't stopped the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry that seeks to influence legislation.
Five of the 39 ex-lawmakers rejected by voters three months ago landed jobs at firms that seek to influence Congress. The hires include two Republicans — Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Conrad Burns of Montana — who lost in part because of allegations of ethical lapses.
Federal law requires lawmakers to wait a year after leaving office to lobby Congress, but lets former Congress members advise lobbyists and clients. The Senate passed a bill that would extend that "cooling-off" period to two years and also ban ex-lawmakers from advising others during that time. The House of Representatives has not taken up that issue.
Weldon, a former member of the House Armed Services Committee, was named chief strategic officer this month by Defense Solutions, a defense contractor that consults and lobbies for other companies. One of the company's executives, in a previous job, benefited from federal funds secured by Weldon.
A series of FBI raids at the homes and offices of his lobbyist daughter and her business associates and clients became a major issue in Weldon's campaign. He has said he did not help her obtain contracts.
Burns was hired last month as a senior adviser by Gage LLC, a lobbying firm headed by his former chief of staff and whose clients benefited from funding Burns inserted into spending bills…
Former congressman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., on Tuesday joined Pac/West Communications, a lobbying and public relations firm. Pombo chaired the House Natural Resources Committee, and Pac/West's clients include timber and oil companies. Pombo said he will advise grass-roots groups on how to be politically effective. …
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Feb. 22, 2007
Federal approval of casino is not imminent, says BIA
Washington – Don’t expect federal approval of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe casino at Monticello Raceway any time soon.
Bureau of Indian Affairs spokeswoman Nedra Darling told MidHudsonNews.com Wednesday that they are awaiting the receipt of the governor’s concurrence. “We will review it once we get it.”
As far as timing of any decision, that is not imminent, said Darling, because of the lawsuit filed last week by the National Resources Defense Council and co-plaintiffs, which argues that a more detailed environmental review is needed before the BIA makes any decision on the project.
The lawsuit is there and we don’t know at this point where the timing for the litigation is going to happen,” Darling said.
Meanwhile, Empire Resorts' Vice President Charles Degliomini said that importantly for Governor Spitzer, Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Maurice Hinchey and a number of local officials and community members, "timing is indeed imminent and they have signaled their full support in addressing the need to have the Interior Department rapidly finalize the process."
Degliomini was also critical of the Natural Resources Defense Council "that has fought against some very important worldwide and national problems like global warming and nuclear nonproliferation has ginned up some co-plaintiffs (who have more cows than members) to interfere in a very local matter in a cynical attempt to rob Sullivan County and a Native American Tribe of realizing their longtime dream of economic rebirth."
He said, "Many are troubled as to why they are really doing this. The lawsuit's odds of success in bringing about anything other than nonsense and noise are about the same as lighting striking twice in a row at the Catskill country homes of the New York City elite -- who may be the NRDC's real local constituency in this matter.
Casino in the Catskills still facing roadblocks
Federal agency has questions about site
Yancey Roy/Albany bureau
ALBANY — Don't hold your breath, casino supporters.
Just because Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the St. Regis Mohawks reached a deal on opening the first casino in the Catskill Mountain region doesn't mean it's going to happen. The federal government must sign off on the pact and it has expressed concerns about sanctioning a gaming hall so far from the Mohawks' reservation.
In a December letter to the tribe, the U.S. Interior Department noted that the proposed site is in Monticello "over 450 miles from your reservation." Further, an agency official noted: "As we have discussed on several occasions, we share the concerns that many have expressed with off-reservation gaming and so-called 'reservation shopping.'"
Mohawk officials contend that Spitzer's backing could influence the federal government's decision — and become the tipping point that finally gets an Indian casino sited in the Catskills, more than five years after the Legislature authorized three casinos in the region. Also at stake are casino proposals from other tribes, especially the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans, who believe approval of the Mohawks casino would enhance their chances.
The Mohawks and Spitzer announced this week a pact that would sanction a casino at the Monticello Raceway in Sullivan County. The state would get up to 25 percent of the annual revenues of the 3,500 slot machines at the casino, a share that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
But there's a track record of casino agreements falling apart in New York. Most notably, previous Gov. George Pataki's deal with the Mohawks and four other tribes to build casinos in exchange for settling long-standing land-claim lawsuits was upended by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005.
And the Mohawk deal still faces two hurdles: approval by the federal government and a lawsuit challenging the casino on environmental grounds.
In December, federal officials approved the tribe's environmental review of the project. But they also voiced serious concerns. The government would have to put the site, about 30 acres, "in trust" — effectively making it Indian land — to permit the deal.
James Cason, associate deputy secretary, noted that Congress has considered legislation that could significantly reduce the off-reservation options for tribes. .
"We anticipate changes to the rules that may result in fewer off-reservation properties being accepted into trust," Cason wrote. "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. ... We wanted you to know that the statutory, regulatory and policy environment is changing."
New York's constitution bans casinos. But Native Americans can operate them on reservation lands. There are currently four Indian-run casinos in the state: Niagara Falls, Cattaraugus County, Oneida County and St. Lawrence County.
Yet tribal leaders are confident.
"Gov. Spitzer is very strongly behind this and is urging the Department of Interior" to approve the pact, said Leslie Logan, spokeswoman for the St. Regis Mohawks, who are based at the Akwesasne reservation in St. Lawrence County along the Canadian border and have operated a small casino there for years.
"Really, that is the thrust. We think (Spitzer) will carry some weight and move the process along," Logan said.
Meanwhile, the question remains as to whether the state will continue to pursue Catskill casino deals with other tribes. The Stockbridge-Munsees have a casino planned in Thompson, Sullivan County, have completed an environmental review and have lined up support from some local officials. The tribe claims the Catskills as part of their ancestral land.
Spitzer's aides didn't immediately return calls to comment. The leader of the Stockbridge-Munsees said that Spitzer's support for the Mohawks is not only a major step for them but also for eventually authorizing three casinos in the region, as the Legislature intended in 2001.
"We have met with the governor's staff," Stockbridge-Munsee president Bob Chicks said in a statement. "We look forward to working with them to right a century-old wrong done to our tribe, spur the economic revival of the Catskills and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue to the State of New York."
Off-reservation casino 'very long shot'
Tribe faces land trust issues, fight from Detroit competitors, others.
Joel J. Smith / The Detroit News
ROMULUS -- Slot machines won't whirl in Romulus anytime in the near future.
An environmental impact study on the site of a proposed tribal casino will start next month but could take up to five years to complete, according to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
With the study, opposition from other Michigan casinos and the sponsoring tribe's distance from Romulus, tribal gaming experts say it's highly unlikely the new casino ever will be approved.
The 780-member Hannahville Tribe of Potawatomi Indians, which has a 5,800-acre reservation near Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula, has filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to build a $250 million casino. The gambling hall and hotel would be on 24 acres at the northwest corner of Vining and Wick roads in Romulus, about half a mile north of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
The proposed complex includes a 200-room hotel, 2,400 slot machines, 90 table games, several restaurants and some retail space. It would employ 3,300 workers.
But the public shouldn't be betting on it for the near future.
"It certainly isn't something that happens overnight," said Scott Doig, an environmental protection specialist with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"With some of these gaming applications, it has taken four or five years to complete. We generally go into it looking at an 18-to-24-month time frame."
In this case, there is expected to be plenty of opposition from the three Detroit casinos as well as other tribes that operate some of the 17 other Indian casinos in Michigan, all of which will drag out the process.
"This is the opening step," said Chris DeWitt, a spokesman for the Hannahville Tribe. "We're pushing ahead, but it's a long, slow process. We're prepared for that."
Because the Romulus tract is off reservation, the tribe has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to place about 10 acres of the site into a federal trust that could allow an Indian casino.
Experts said this has happened only four other times in U.S. history.
"It's very, very rare," said Jacob L. Miklojcik, president of Michigan Consultants in Lansing, a gaming expert who is representing several tribes outside Michigan trying to get approval for a federal land trust.
"It's highly unlikely it will ever happen. The proposed Romulus casino has a lot of momentum against it. It's a very, very long shot for Hannahville to ever open a casino in Romulus."
The first public hearing will be at 7 p.m. March 8 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 800 Merriman Road in Romulus, north of 1-94 from Metro Airport. The purpose is to identify public and agency concerns and alternatives to consider in the environmental impact study.
Another gambling establishment, Michigan Downs, has been pitched as a neighbor to the airport. The "racino" would feature horse racing as well as casino gambling on a 212-acre site.
Proposed by Magna Entertainment Corp., which operates racetracks throughout the United States, Michigan Downs is on hold because of litigation over how the gaming license was awarded to Magna.
You can reach Joel J. Smith at (313) 222-2556 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New York Sun Editorial
February 21, 2007
"The investigation is opening a window on the murky world of Indian gambling, Washington lobbying, money washing, and campaign finance. It also is a cautionary tale for New York, which has four Indian-run casinos and is considering adding at least four more." — Jack Newfield, "U.S. Investigating GOP Lobbyists With Ties To Indian-Run Casinos," page one, The New York Sun, September 8, 2004.
Newfield died just months after his dispatch warning of the Indian gambling and influence-peddling scandal that led to the felony guilty pleas of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the resignation of Tom DeLay and that helped cost the Republicans control of Congress. So one can only imagine what he would have thought to see Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat Newfield admired as attorney general, suddenly, as governor, throw that "cautionary tale" to the wind and move forward with plans for a casino in the Catskills to be run by the St. Regis Mohawk Indian nation. That tribe, while accused of no wrongdoing, has been up to its eyeballs in the political giving that seems to go with government-authorized gambling.
We have no problem with Indians, or anyone else, participating in the political process through campaign contributions. It is a First Amendment right. But if the idea is that allowing Indians to operate casinos is a kind of reparations for the treatment they have suffered, it seems illogical to make them pay for the privilege. Yet paying is exactly what they have been doing. New York's St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council gave $25,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in June of 2005, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The tribe has also been pouring money into New York State politics, with no clear ideological pattern. The tribe made a $500 campaign contribution to the Democrat who is now lieutenant governor, David Paterson, and $2,500 to the successful Assembly campaign of a Democrat who was an aide to Senator Clinton, Andrew Brockway. It put $3,900 into the successful campaign of another Assembly Democrat, Darrel Aubertine, whose government Web site features a press release hailing Governor Spitzer's "ethics reform package." The tribe has also contributed $4,000 in the past four years to the re-election campaigns of Senator Bruno and has given a total of $17,950 to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, according to state campaign finance records.
Mr. Spitzer may claim that all this makes the case for public financing of campaigns. Or he may say that the fact he is awarding a potentially lucrative gambling opportunity to a tribe that has been backing Mr. Bruno is evidence of the governor's integrity, as he isn't denying his political foes state contracts. Yet New Yorkers will see that a governor trying to cultivate a reputation as a reformer has several better options here than striking a treaty with the Mohawks. One would have been to open casino opportunities statewide to any business wanting to open one, thereby eliminating the need for would-be casino operators to try to purchase the favor of politicians. Another would have been not to open any new casinos, thus avoiding what Newfield so aptly and presciently described as a murky world.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Ilitch pulls MotorCity Casino from brand line up, website: isolates it from Little Caesars, Tigers, Red Wings
Today there are all of two minor mentions of MotorCity Casino and those are buried on their respective webpages only to be found after scrolling nearly to the bottom of the page. There is no mention nor representation of MotorCity Casino on the website's home page.
Late in 2005, Ilitch Holdings, Inc. added MotorCity Casino to its line up of recognizeable name brands. Detroit's expanding gambling hall took its place on the corporate website to the right of brands like Little Caesars Pizza, Tigers Baseball, Red Wings Hockey; and a few lessor known brands that service the standards. MotorCity Casino, just another offering in the Ilitch's entertainment portfolio, was added to nearly every page on the website.
MotorCity Casino even became a sponsor of the Red Wings hockey franchise.
But, sometime last summer (2006), the Ilitch Holdings, Inc. corporate website was nearly purged of any reference to "MotorCity Casino" (words or graphics). And where it is mentioned, it's got "stand alone" status, isolated/buried at the bottom of the page; as if it's the bastard step-child no one wants to acknowledge except that it is the goose that is laying golden eggs for Ilitch Holdings. Inc.
While they have exiled MotorCity Casino from its place next to the other brands, they still lump its annual revenue or value into figures they publicly disclose for Ilitch Holdings, Inc. as a way to pump up their pizza dough!
"Their primary business interests include – Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Uptown Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, MotorCity Casino and a variety of venues within these entities. The holding company’s 2005 total combined revenues exceeded $1.5 billion."
After (as of December 2006)
click graphic below to enlarge for viewing
"Ilitch Holdings was established in 1999 to provide all companies owned by Michael and/or Marian Ilitch with professional and technical services. These services are provided to all of our businesses -- Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Uptown Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, and a variety of venues within these entities. In 2006, combined revenues of Ilitch-owned businesses totaled $1.5 billion.".
The purge was nothing short of a cut and past activity as can be seen by comparing the past and present banners. MotorCity Casino was cut out of the banner and the spot it held on the far right side of the logo line up is obviously left "empty."
Focus on the Family Called for Boycott
In late 2005 Focus on the Family started calling for a boycott of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. brands in light of the casino ownership. On the web pages of its family.org Citizen's Link Focus on Social Issues November 14, 2005, Focus on the Family's Chad Hill wrote:
"Michigan Take Action
"Pizza! Pizza! Casino! Casino!
Before you order another pizza from Little Caesar's, consider the following: Marian Ilitch and her husband, Michael Malik — Michigan residents — are the founders and owners of Little Caesar's Pizza chain. They also own the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers (see Ilitch Holdings). Nothing wrong here, as eating pizza and attending sports events are great family activities.
"Unfortunately, the Ilitch's are also partners in putting up the money for a casino bid by New York's Shinnecock tribe, and Marian Ilitch recently won state approval to become sole owner of Motorcity Casino in Detroit. Something is wrong here.
"Gambling exploits children and adults, ultimately destroying families.
"The Ilitch's are sending a mixed message: they are supporting family-friendly activities while investing in an industry that exploits people and ruins families.
Maybe Michigan citizens should send them a clear message: 'We don't fund gambling ventures through family-oriented activities.'"
Heading into the 2006 SuperBowl (spotlight on Detroit), Focus on the Family raised the volume. Then suddently Focus on the Family went quiet (nearly every mention gaming in Michigan was removed from its website); MotorCity Casino was removed from the Ilitch corporate website; and a month or so later, it was announced that Mike Ilitch (a Catholic) was going to fund some new evangelical-centered million dollar reality TV program pitting church choirs across the country against each other in some sort of "battle of the bands" type competition. One announcement for "Voices of Joy" included:
"...Michael Ilitch, the man who came up with the idea of "Voices of Joy" and also the founder of Ilitch Holdings, a family of companies dedicated to creating extraordinary and memorable entertainment and sporting experiences."
Numerous websites noted "Voices of Joy" was the "brainchild" of Mike Ilitch. However, there's no record of any hype on the project coming out of the Ilitch Holdings, Inc. headquarters.
Had Ilitch bought his way out of a boycott? Did the threat of a national boycott raise concern with Major League Baseball? Was this another chapter in the Abramoff scandal? Wouldn't the winning Choir be receiving a million dollar jackpot gleaned from Detroit slot machines? How would that be different than Ralph Reed and other evangelicals secretly taking Indian Casino money from Abramoff's team in exchange for supporting political activities that would benefit Abramoff's clients?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
February 20, 2007Spitzer Backs Plan for Indian Casino in Catskills
Gov. Eliot Spitzer has approved plans for a $600 million Las Vegas-style casino in the Catskill Mountains for the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and agreed to lead the effort to gain federal approval. His decision is the biggest leap yet in a 30-year struggle to bring gambling to the faded resort area.
The governor signed a letter on Sunday concurring with an initial federal determination made in 2000 that the proposed casino at the Monticello Raceway would benefit the Mohawks and the residents of Sullivan County. He and the three governing chiefs of the Mohawks also signed a gambling compact that would provide the New York State government with up to 25 percent of the annual revenues from 3,500 slot machines at the casino, an amount estimated at more than $100 million a year.
Proponents contend that the casino would revive the economy of the old borscht belt, attracting six million visitors a year and generating 3,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In a series of concessions by the tribe, the Mohawks have agreed to provide $20 million a year to the county and to Monticello to offset the impact of the casino and to collect and remit taxes from sales of liquor, cigarettes and other retail items at the casino.
But the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sullivan County Farm Bureau and several other groups filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan last week challenging the casino on environmental grounds. And the project still needs final approval by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the former governor of Idaho, who opposes Indian casinos on nonreservation land. The Mohawk casino would be built more than 400 miles from the tribe’s Akwesasne reservation, which straddles the Canadian border near Messena, N.Y.
Still, the Mohawks were optimistic about the project yesterday, and Governor Spitzer said he would lobby Mr. Kempthorne in person when he is in Washington next week for the national governors meeting.
Mr. Spitzer said he would urge the Interior Department to move quickly to take the land into trust on behalf of the Mohawks under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, as it has for three other tribes since then.
“I will do everything I can to encourage expeditious review and approval,” Mr. Spitzer said yesterday. “The objective here is economic development. One casino, at a minimum, is good for the economy, good for the region.”
The casino, first proposed in 1994, would be built on a 29-acre parcel next to the harness racing track, which already has 1,500 electronic gambling machines, including video poker. Governor Spitzer’s predecessor, George E. Pataki, long supported Indian casinos for the Catskills, but had not completed negotiations for the gambling compact when he left office.
Chief Lorraine M. White, one of three governing chiefs for the Mohawks, said she was elated by Mr. Spitzer’s decision. “It’s a strong indication of the governor’s commitment toward not only developing a relationship with the tribe, but in terms of rebuilding the upstate economy,” she said.
Anthony P. Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson, which includes Monticello, was in New York City yesterday for the State Association of Towns annual meeting when he heard the news. “That’s great,” Mr. Cellini said. “This is the furthest anyone’s ever gotten. I think we’ll see an explosion of growth.”
The owners of the longtime harness track, Empire Resorts, plan to put the land into federal trust for the tribe. Empire Resorts, in turn, would build and manage the casino for the Mohawks for up to seven years, with 70 percent of the net revenues going to the tribe. “While casino gaming and entertainment has expanded and prospered in Atlantic City, Connecticut and now Pennsylvania, the Catskills was left behind,” said Charles Degliomini, a spokesman for Empire Resorts. “Now, thanks to Governor Spitzer, New York State finally gets a chance to put a shovel into the ground.”
Hotel owners and state officials have looked to gambling as the salvation of the Catskills, ever since the area’s tourist economy and 500 hotels and bungalow colonies began a slow, inexorable decline in the late 1960s. Governor Pataki touched off a land rush in and around Monticello in 1999 when he said he favored Indian casinos in former resort areas. Suddenly, well-connected developers sought out tribal partners and bought large swaths of land and shuttered hotels like the Concord. But little headway was made.
Progress at the track is a personal triumph for Robert Berman, a Sullivan County resident who first conceived of building an Indian casino at the raceway in 1994. He lost his partners, the Mohawks, in 2000 after they were lured away by a major gambling company. Six years later, Mr. Berman, who is a shareholder in Empire Resorts but no longer a company executive, lured the tribal leaders back to the raceway for what may be the last off-reservation casino.
“After 12 long years, the project conceived to revitalize a dying community will finally move forward at its rightful home, Monticello Raceway,” Mr. Berman said.
It remains to be seen whether other casinos would be built in the Catskills. The State Legislature authorized three Indian casinos there after the attack on the World Trade Center damaged the state’s and New York City’s economy. At one point, the Pataki administration supported five. But only the Mohawks had obtained preliminary federal approval.
There are now four Indian casinos in New York State, including the Oneida tribe’s Turning Stone casino in Verona and the Mohawks’ casino on the Akwesasne reservation. In the first 10 months of last year, the Seneca tribe’s two upstate casinos generated about $75 million in revenues for the state, according to the Racing and Wagering Board.
But the Catskills was always seen as the gambling prize, because it is closer to New York City than either Atlantic City or the two Connecticut casinos. Analysts have said that a major Catskill casino could generate $1 billion a year and put a significant dent in Atlantic City revenues.
Rosa Lee, a leader of Casino-Free Sullivan County, said yesterday that she remained unimpressed by Governor Spitzer’s actions. She said she was more concerned about traffic congestion, increased crime and the pressure of development.
“We don’t think casinos are the answer to our economic and development problems up here,” she said.
Richard Schrader, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has filed a suit against the project, also expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision and the federal government’s environmental review, which he said was insufficient.
“We simply don’t know the likely impacts in increased traffic congestion, air quality deterioration and dangerous sprawl that a major development like this would have on the Catskills,” he said.
The Interior Department sent a letter to the Mohawks in December saying that it had approved the existing environmental review of the project. But the letter spent more time highlighting Mr. Kempthorne’s negative views of off-reservation casinos. Though they are permitted under the 1988 law, he contends that it was never meant to allow casinos so far from reservations.
It is not clear whether the secretary would have a legal justification for blocking the project, but he could at least delay a final decision.
The agreements reached over the weekend were delayed for weeks when state officials insisted on discussing the collection of cigarette taxes on the Mohawk reservation, a prickly issue for the tribe, which is regarded as a sovereign nation. The tribe has agreed to collect and remit taxes in Monticello. But on the reservation, it says the state should collect taxes from wholesalers who sell tobacco products to distributors there.
The two sides agreed to try to work out the issue.
“We are committed to entering good-faith negotiations toward a formal cigarette trade agreement,” Chief White said.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Posted Feb. 10:
"... Reid opposed legislation to approve a Michigan casino for a Native American tribe that would have rivaled a casino owned by a tribe represented by Abramoff. But the article omitted the fact that Reid said at the time that he opposed the legislation because it would create a 'very dangerous precedent' for the spread of off-reservation gambling -- something Reid had opposed for nearly a decade. The AP further noted that Reid deemed the bill 'fundamentally flawed' but neglected to mention why Reid said he reached that conclusion:
"Reid went to the Senate floor to oppose fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's effort to win congressional approval for a Michigan casino for the Bay Mills Indians, which would have rivaled one already operating by the Saginaw Chippewa represented by Abramoff.
"'The legislation is fundamentally flawed,' Reid argued, successfully leading the opposition to Stabenow's proposal.
"In fact, Reid said the legislation was flawed because it would allow the Bay Mills tribe to build an off-reservation casino 'under the guise of settling a land claim.' From the November 19, 2002, Congressional Record:
"REID: [A]llowing a tribe to settle a land claim and receive trust land hundreds of miles from their reservation for the express purpose of establishing a gaming facility sets a very dangerous precedent.
"This pursuit of off-reservation gaming operations should continue to follow the procedures outlined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Public Law 100-497, which authorizes tribal gaming operations on off-reservation 'after-acquired lands' where the land to be acquired has no relationship to the land upon which the claim was based.
"Let me say that the first gaming compact ever approved with an Indian tribe in the history of the country was done in Nevada. So it is not as if Nevada is here opposing this request. The first compact ever approved in the country was in Nevada. That is still an ongoing operation and a very successful one.
"The proposed casino would be located just north of Detroit on a major link to Ontario that is in the lower corner of the lower peninsula. Bay Mills is located in the upper peninsula. The legislation is fundamentally flawed because it allows Bay Mills to establish gaming facilities under the guise of settling a land claim.
"The land claim is simply -- and everybody knows this -- an excuse to take land into trust for off-reservation gaming. I object."
This position was entirely consistent with Reid's longtime opposition to off-reservation gambling. As early as 1998, Reid supported the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which generally prohibited Indian gaming on non-tribal lands. He proposed separate legislation in 1993 "prohibit[ing] states from opening gaming operations on off-reservation land" [AP, 5/28/93].
blog The Catbird Seat previously posted the following re: Team Ilitch's activities in the Hawaiian Islands:
"Marketing Resource Group [Tom Shields] could also be fined for failing to disclose its lobbying activities to the Ethics Commission for the previous reporting period, from May to December.
"Commission executive director Dan Mollway said organizations that employ lobbyists and refuse to file reports could be fined up to $500, but most comply voluntarily.
"Marketing Resource Group could not be reached for comment yesterday. The firm's Hawai'i lobbyist, John Radcliffe, said he did not know why the report was missing, but that it had been lost in a Michigan snow storm when it was first mailed. The report was due at the commission by the end of January. "
Or was it because the dog ate it? or his Mom actually threw it away by mistake? or maybe they rolled it up, put it in a bottle and let it float out to sea and can't predict exactly when it will wash up on the shore in Waikiki???
And these people are professionals? Do they not have fax machines or email in the Hawaiian Islands?
Sunday, February 18, 2007
"In summary, state legislators who support tribal sovereignty have every reason to oppose the giveaway compacts. Gaming tribes such as Pechanga and San Manuel are adamant about preserving their hard-won sovereign rights. These tribes already face substantial competition in their region, so more competition isn't likely to faze them...
"And if gaming tribes 'control' the Legislature, why can't they pass the laws they want enacted?"
If SoCal Tribes feared competition, they would be endorsing plans to move Los Coyotes’ Casino to Barstow
If fear of competition was the primary motivator, Southern California’s established gaming tribes would be endorsing plans to relocate two tribes and their casinos to Barstow, in the middle of the Mohave Desert but they aren't.
Spokesmen and lobbyists for Detroit-based casino syndicators say established gaming tribes in Southern California oppose their plan to build and manage dual Indian Casinos in Barstow simply because the established tribes are afraid of competition.
However, a look at a map suggests if “fear of competition” was motivating the established gaming tribes, those tribes would be endorsing any plans that might move a Los Coyotes casino to Barstow; and out of the San Diego/Riverside County area.
There are seven casinos located along the Hwy 76 corridor primarily in northern San Diego County and including the Pechanga Casino in Riverside County. Those casinos are within 30 miles of the Los Coyotes Reservation with the closest being less than 10 miles away. And most of those seven casinos are within 5 miles of one or two other casinos. If fear of competition was the primary motivator for the established tribes, casinos at Pechanga, Pala and Harrah’s Rincon among others would be endorsing a plan to re-locate the Los Coyotes' casino outside their territory, but they are not.
More likely, it’s Barwest’s fear of competition that resulted in abandoning any plans the tribe might have had for a casino on their San Diego County reservation. Barwest would have to compete with those seven casino and a dozen more.
In Barstow, the Detroit casino syndicators are virtually guaranteed there won’t be another casino within 50 miles (or an hours drive) of their dual casinos mega resort.
At home in Detroit, the people behind Barwest bankrolled a 1996 statewide ballot measure that voters narrowly approved, which ensured they would be given preferences in a competition to see who would build and own one of three commercial Las Vegas-style casinos in Detroit. As soon as they had things up and running, they helped bankroll another ballot measure to protect their casinos by virtually prohibiting any new competition from entering into the Michigan marketplace without statewide voter approval; casinos, racetracks, lotteries or otherwise.
Governor Schwarzenegger's negotiators confirmed last March (2006) that it was Barwest's interests and not the state who pushed for the unprecedented 5,044 square mile competition-free zone around a future Barwest casinos mega resort included in the Barstow gaming agreements the Governor negotiated in 2005..
SAN PASQUAL INDIAN RESERVATION -- The first phase of Valley View Casino's $114 million expansion is scheduled to open to the public April 13, officials announced Tuesday.
"The opening of our first phase of growth and our subsequent grand opening in November is an amazing achievement for the San Pasqual Tribe and Valley View Casino," said Joe Navarro, president of the San Pasqual Casino Development Group Inc.
The opening dates of a steakhouse and lounge will be announced soon. The rest of the expansion, including a 24-hour cafe, an ice cream shop, event center and cabaret bar is set to open later this fall.
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