Saturday, September 29, 2007
Judge: Detroit casinos can stay open during shutdown
By DAVID EGGERT
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Detroit's three casinos can stay open even if state government partially shuts down next week, a judge ruled Friday.
Wayne County Circuit Judge William Giovan's decision reversed a ruling by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The board said Thursday it would have to suspend the operations of the casinos if state government partially shuts down Monday.
"Putting pressure on the Legislature is not an excuse for torturing our statutes into something that they're not, and that's what happened here," Giovan said Friday. "Putting pressure on the Legislature is not a reason to cause the devastation, and I'm going to call it that, that would have occurred in terms of tax revenues and jobs for people."
State attorneys representing the gaming board were weighing an emergency appeal late Friday, said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox. But time was dwindling before the weekend and it appeared likely the casinos would stay open Monday.
"It's a victory for the 7,000 workers at the three Detroit casinos who will not be furloughed," Greektown Casino spokesman Roger Martin said. "It's a victory for public schools in Michigan and public safety programs in the city of Detroit that will continue to benefit from $1 million a day the three casinos pay to them."
Giovan issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction blocking the gaming board from suspending operations at the casinos.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said casinos would be among the casualties of a partial state shutdown because state employees who monitor and regulate the casinos would be among those temporarily laid off. The plan goes into effect Monday unless lawmakers and Granholm agree on a way to resolve a $1.75 billion projected deficit for the next fiscal year.
State parks, lottery sales, driver's license renewals and liquor distribution are among the other services that could be disrupted.
Michigan law requires that state regulators be onsite daily to monitor operations at the MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown and MotorCity casinos.
Richard Kalm, executive director of the Gaming Control Board, said that without state regulators in place, the integrity of each casino would be at risk when it came to payoffs, security and patrons' safety.
But casino lawyers said their casinos had enough surveillance and security in place that they could operate without state regulators on-site.
...At about two in the afternoon on April 27, Jack Healey opened bidding on the 120-acre property once owned by Daniel Striar. A couple of dozen folks had gathered in the domed Middleborough Town Hall. When a man in a neat leather jacket and casual slacks offered the minimum bid of $1.5 million, heads turned. He was unfamiliar to people in the room. His name was Jason Wilson, general counsel of Strather & Associates of Detroit. Herb Strather, a Detroit-born businessman who had built a fortune investing in real estate and casinos, had funded the Mashpee Wampanoag with millions of dollars during its drive for recognition, and then gone into partnership with Kerzner and Wolman to back the tribe’s effort to open a casino.
By law, abutters had to be individually noticed of the auction by mail. One abutter, Richard Beal, happened to be in the real estate business. Beal stepped up with a bid $5,000 over Wilson’s. But Wilson had been instructed not to come home without the 120-acre parcel, a representative of the casino developers told me. “We needed to control that parcel for our plan to work,” the representative said. “We couldn’t afford to have another player involved.”
The competition wore on, with 31 bids in all.
“One million, seven hundred and sixty-five thousand,” Wilson finally said.
“Sold,” declared Healey.
It was only after the auction, Healey told me, that he realized that it was a representative of the casino developers who had successfully bid on the property.
I called Marshall, the tribal chairman, on his cell phone a few hours after the auction. He said the casino developers were already in discussions with Healey and other town officials, and that the talks had predated the auction. “We’ve had a couple of good meetings,” he told me. “We’re still negotiating.”
Healey was only eight weeks from hanging a “gone fishing” sign on his career and retiring. But what a whirlwind six weeks it would be. ...
Original Post: Big money and tough times forces Middleborough's hand
Moorehead focuses on Big Lagoon, blames Schwarzenegger for Barstow failure; Wiggins won't author bill to build a casino at Big Lagoon
Casino at Big Lagoon back on the table
Eureka Times Standard
BIG LAGOON -- The Big Lagoon Rancheria is bringing its casino project back home after two unsuccessful legislative sessions attempting to get the go-ahead to build in Barstow.
Big Lagoon Rancheria Chairman Virgil Moorehead said Friday that negotiations with the state will begin Oct. 5 to build a gaming facility on the tribe's lands on the south side of Big Lagoon.
The decision to bring the proposed casino back to the North Coast follows the end of the 2006-07 legislative session without action on the gaming compact allowing Big Lagoon to open a casino in Barstow. That was the tribe's second attempt to get the September 2005 compact ratified.
In the 2005-06 session, the bill made it to committee but was voted down. This past session, even that step alluded the Rancheria.
The Barstow compact was part of the settlement agreement of the tribe's case against the state alleging bad faith negotiation. Without ratification of the much-heralded compact, the Rancheria is back to negotiating for the Big Lagoon site.
Moorehead said the only way the Rancheria would consider pursuing the Barstow compact at this point is if tribal members, the governor, the state Senate pro tem and the Assembly speaker all got together and said the Rancheria could build a casino in Barstow.
”It doesn't mean anything for the governor to sign an agreement,” Moorehead said.
Throughout the process, the Rancheria chairman has criticized the governor for not supporting legislation to ratify the compact.
Shortly after signing the Barstow compact in fall 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a news release that the agreement brought an end to “many years of litigation and ensured that Big Lagoon will be protected for generations to come.”
Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary, said that they do not comment while a gaming compact is being negotiated, but the governor will attempt to find a solution that works for the tribe, the community and the state.
Moorehead said the settlement agreement specifies 120 days of negotiation for a new compact. If that doesn't materialize, then it's back to court on the original bad-faith negotiation charge.
State Sen. Patricia Wiggins' spokesman David Miller said the senator won't be sponsoring legislation for a compact allowing a casino on Big Lagoon. Wiggins had sponsored the second bill for the Barstow compact.
Moorehead said it's been more than a little frustrating.
”We're basically back to where we started,” he said.
Jason Barnett, a spokesperson for the Big Lagoon Rancheria, said the tribe's leadership has taken steps to mitigate concerns about building a casino on the shores of the lagoon, one of a few on the West Coast.
Meanwhile, the Rancheria's application to bring the Barstow land into trust -- granting all rights that come with native lands -- remains in process. The intent, Barnett said, is to keep all options open.
”Clearly,” Barnett said, “Virgil's in it for the long-term.”
Jessie Faulkner can be reached at 441-0517 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, September 28, 2007
California Bill Approved
CALIFORNIA -- As reported by the Contra Costa Times: "A bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would keep a North Bay Indian tribe from expanding its San Pablo casino, while ensuring that the tribe that runs it can keep profiting from more than 1,000 electronic bingo machines there, cleared a key committee Thursday in a unanimous vote.
"For years, Feinstein fought in vain to reverse a controversial act of Congress that granted the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians the rights to run an Indian casino on nine acres near Interstate 80 that had housed the Casino San Pablo card club.
"That act, shepherded in 2000 by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, paved the way for the tribe's deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 for a mega-casino with up to 5,000 slot machines, more than any casino this side of Connecticut.
"...Feinstein's compromise bill, which would lock in the status quo, has drawn support from the tribe and some of the casino's staunchest critics, including Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. Opposition remains from East Bay Coalition Against Urban Casinos, a local group funded by a few Bay Area card clubs..."
Detroit casinos sue state to remain open
Joel J. Smith / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Detroit's three casinos filed suit today against the Michigan Gaming Control Board over the state's threat to close casinos down temporarily if Lansing lawmakers can't reach an agreement on a new budget by Monday.
Attorneys for the casinos at 2 p.m. today will petition Judge William Giovan in Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit for temporary restraining order that would prohibit the state from shuttering the gambling parlors should Gov. Jennifer Granholm orders a shutdown of state government at midnight Sunday.
Operations at the three Detroit casinos are monitored 24/7 by on-site state employees; theoretically a state shutdown would make it impossible for the gaming halls to continue doing business without the legally-required oversight.
The attorneys will argue the gaming board is funded entirely with casino money placed in a restricted account and isnt part of the states general fund budget, which expires at midnight Sunday.
Granholm has informed the gaming board she plans to furlough the 106 staff members that monitor and regulate the three casinos on a 24 hour basis.
Roger Martin, a spokesman for Greektown Casino, said today a shutdown would impact both the 7,000 workers and the city of Detroit which receives about $400,000 a day in taxes from the gaming houses.
"The purpose is to protect 7,000 jobs and tax revenue to Michigan public schools," Martin said.
You can reach Joel J. Smith at (313) 222-2556 or email@example.com
Despite the failure to land a lost in the playoffs this year, The Tigers head coach Jim Leyland said:
"he is enthused about the Tigers' future and feels good about the situation. 'I would venture to say that as long as Mr. (Mike) Ilitch is the owner, this club will operate pretty darn good,' Leyland said. 'We have a man at the top who is very flexible and a general manager that leaves no stone unturned. So we'll see how it works out.' "
By ZACHARY GORCHOW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The Michigan Gaming Control Board voted today to halt gambling at Detroit’s three casinos if a state government shutdown occurs, preventing state inspectors from regulating the three facilities.
Richard Kalm, executive director of the control board, said if there’s no budget agreement between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the state Legisltiare, he would issue a notice at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, ordering the three casinos to suspend gambling within 24 hours.
Indian-run casinos in Michigan are not affected by the order.
Attorneys for MotorCity, Greektown and MGM Grand Detroit, said they would need to review the order before determining how to respond, but said going to court to keep the casinos open is an option.
The attorneys told the board they see no legal athority for the state to suspend gambling, but Kalm said state law requires the presence of inspectors at the casinos to handle any alleged violations and disputes over payouts.
Budget talks involving Granholm administration officials and lawmakers from both parties were continuing at the Capitol today. But there were no signs a breakthrough was imminent.
Lawmakers are trying to hash out a solution to a potential $1.75-billion deficit in the fiscal year that begins at midnight Sunday.
Detroit casinos fight possible shutdown by state
By COREY WILLIAMS
Associated Press Writer
DETROIT (AP) -- The Michigan Gaming Control Board ruled Thursday that it would have to suspend the operations of Detroit's three casinos if the state government partially shuts down when the budget expires next week.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm did not specifically mention casino oversight in an evening address televised nationwide. But the state government Web site listed "state-licensed casino gaming in Detroit" among the services that would cease operation without a budget in place by Monday.
Michigan law requires that state regulators be onsite daily to monitor operations at the MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown and MotorCity casinos.
Richard Kalm, executive director of the Gaming Control Board, said that without state regulators in place, the integrity of each casino would be at risk when it came to payoffs, security and patrons' safety.
Lawyers for Greektown Casino will scrutinize the order over the next 24 hours, spokesman Roger Martin said following Thursday's meeting.
"We are extremely supportive of gaming control rules, but we're disappointed with this order," Martin said.
The state would lose about $450,000 a day in taxes if the casinos are forced to close, Martin said, while the city of Detroit would lose about $440,000 daily. He added that each of the three Detroit casinos pays the state $9.25 million annually for gaming oversight.
Martin and Cheryl Scott-Dube, general counsel for MotorCity Casino, both said they believed their casinos had enough surveillance and security in place that they could operate without state regulators on-site.
Board Chairman Damian Kassab said the commission was reluctant to order the temporary closures, but had no choice.
"We're basically hog-tied by the Legislature," he said after the meeting. "This will impact very good corporate citizens. Hopefully, this will give the Legislature some incentive to do what they should have done months ago."
No budget legislation has been passed for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and the Legislature has not resolved a projected $1.75 billion shortfall. Michigan's constitution requires a balanced budget be in place in order for the state to spend money.
James Canning, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, said after Granholm spoke that it was "too premature to speculate about what's happening with the casinos."
But, Canning added, "After hearing the governor and majority leader speak, we are optimistic - as they are - that a solution will be found before the deadline, and we will support any efforts to get past this budget impasse."
A state government shutdown would not affect Michigan's 18 Indian casinos because there's no state oversight at those facilities.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Doolittle, six aides hit with grand jury subpoenas
A federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to six aides to embattled GOP Rep. John Doolittle (Calif.), who is under investigation by the Justice Dept. over his ties to imprisoned former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The subpoenas were issued to Ron Rogers, Doolittle's chief of staff; Dan Blankenburg, deputy chief of staff; Alisha Perkins, scheduler; Evan Goitein, legislative director; Martha Franco, senior executive assistant; and Gordon Hinkle, field rep.
The subpoenas are the latest sign that the federal corruption probe of Doolittle is continuing to gather steam. Doolittle's home was searched by FBI agents earlier this year. The agents were looking for any evidence regarding Doolittle's ties to Abramoff. Julie Doolittle, the congressman's wife, did consulting work for Abramoff, and Doolittle himelf wrote letters to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of several of Abramoff's Indian gaming clients.
Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing, and he has accused the Justice Dept. of harassing him and his wife, but after his home was searched [on Friday, April 13th], House GOP leaders forced him to give up his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Doolittle's office could not be reached for comment on the subpoenas at press time.
Update: The Associated Press is reporting that Dollittle has been subpoenaed for his legislative records going back 11 years (viatalkingpointsmemo.com). Doolittle will fight the subpoena, arguing that this investigation violates the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branch, according to his lawyer, David Barger.
As reported 9.27.07 in The Roundup, a daily look at the news from the editors of Capitol Weekly and AroundTheCapitol.com (part of the national Hotline Political Network):
Capitol Weekly takes a look at the strange alliance that is working to repeal four recent tribal gaming compacts. "For more than three years, the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community have been locked in a legal struggle with racetrack owners over the validity of gaming deals the tribes signed with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"But now, even as their internecine legal battle continues, the courtroom combatants have joined forces in an effort to repeal four new compacts ratified by the Legislature earlier this year.
"The legal fight is largely motivated by one man's struggle to bring slot machines to the racetracks his company owns and operates. Terry Fancher is the managing partner of Stockbridge Capital Group, the parent company of Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows racetracks. Since September 2004, Fancher and the racetracks he runs have sought to have the Pala and Auburn compacts ruled invalid by the courts."
"The lawsuit has been long and contentious.But now, in a relationship of convenience, forces on both sides of that legal question are fighting against the 2006 compacts signed by Schwarzenegger for some of the state's largest gaming tribes. " (Full Story)
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Detroit News provides these "details at a glance" on the new MGM Grand Detroit:
MGM Grand Detroit
Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News
MGM Grand Detroit
The new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino is located at 1777 Third St., Detroit.
Preview party: 1,200 people have been invited to a black-tie pre-opening gala from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday at the hotel. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are among invited politicians, local celebrities and high-rollers, who will enjoy hors d'oeuvres at the casino's various restaurants, a cash bar and live entertainment.
Opening: Opens to public at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
5 things that will wow you about the MGM Grand Detroit
Related Articles and Links:
Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News
Susan R. Pollack / The Detroit News
It's a good bet jaws will drop when visitors get their first look at the long-awaited MGM Grand Detroit luxury hotel, casino, spa and entertainment complex scheduled to open at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
Built from the ground up on the western edge of downtown, the visually stunning, $805-million-plus development -- done up in rich woods and fabrics, chic dicor and gee-whiz lighting and special effects -- looks every bit its extravagant price tag.
In a few words, it's a knock-out, according to those who have seen it including newly-hired staff members and work crews scrambling to get the complex in shape to open next week.
They say it's as if they took a little corner of the Las Vegas Strip and plopped it down in the Motor City, pulling out all the marble, teak and granite stops to put Detroit on the radar screen as a savvy and stylish entertainment mecca even for travelers not interested in gaming per se.
MGM Grand is betting the house, so to speak, on attracting not only locals but travelers from neighboring states, Canada and beyond who've never before considered Detroit a travel destination.
"We're ...way more than a casino," said John Hutar, general manager of the 400-room MGM Grand hotel, where nightly rates are in the $300 range. "On weekends, we hope to be a big draw for the local drive market. There are a lot of people in the metro area, southeast Michigan, northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, even Chicago, that don't think of Detroit as a weekend getaway destination. There really hasn't been a luxury hotel in downtown Detroit" ... (Complete Story)
The History of Federal Indian Policy
by Robert J. Miller, Professor, Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon
The relationship between European countries, the United States and American Indian tribes on the North American continent has been one of conflict, strife and occasional warfare between different people, cultures and religions. Indian tribes owned properties the European settlers and, later, the American colonists and United States citizens wanted; land and its valuable resources including animals and furs, water, timber, and minerals. Europeans also brought new ideas, new ways of life, new forms of government and religion, and new diseases to the North American continent. All of these factors played a major role in changing the cultures and lives of the natives of North America... (MORE)
San Manuel Band of Indians donates stadium
The Inland News reports that a high school in California has a new football stadium and athletic field thanks to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Stephanie Bustamante, the tribal secretary, attended San Gorgonio High School more than 20 years ago. While watching her son play football, she noticed the stadium hadn’t changed much. “So I went to the tribe, and this is the result,” she told The Riverside Press-Enterprise of the new facility she toured on Wednesday. The tribe reportedly spent about $3 million on the project.
The MGM Grand Detroit will open on Oct. 2. Yup, in Detroit. An MGM Grand. Did we mention in Detroit? There's already an MGM Grand but that's closing on Sunday. The WSJ ponders why MGM Mirage chose to open an $800 million property in this "wounded city" and it turns out the city is hoping a sleek new casino-hotel will turn around the sluggish economy.
Let's hope so but aside from the General Motors workers recent contract dispute, Michigan may also have to shut down Detroit casinos on Oct. 1st because of a state budget deficit.
Nevertheless, inside the casino hotel is 335 rooms going for about $300 a night, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant (natch), two Michael Mina restaurants, 4 nightclubs/lounges, a poker room with a bar made of solid ice, retail stores and an Immerse Spa.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Five American Indian tribes would regulate hunting, fishing and plant gathering by their members on millions of acres in Michigan under a tentative agreement announced Wednesday with the state.
Supporters hope the deal will end decades of bickering over what rights Indians retained when signing away ownership of land that amounts to 37 percent of the state. The 1836 treaty helped lead to statehood for Michigan the next year.
State officials and the leaders of most tribes and sporting groups were lining up behind the agreement, saying it doesn't give all they want but is a fair compromise that protects their primary interests.
It "will provide stability and predictability in an area of former legal uncertainty," said Rebecca Humphries, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The proposed consent decree needs approval of each tribe's government and Federal Judge Richard Enslen to take effect. Several have already signed on, while the largest tribe _ the Sault St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians _ has submitted the pact to its 23,870 adult members for a referendum.
Both sides hope to submit the document to Enslen before the next court hearing, scheduled for Oct. 22.
A coalition of 13 conservation and property rights groups that were allowed to observe and comment on the negotiations described the agreement as "tough but fair."
"We have worked to ensure healthy and sustainable game and fish populations, to protect private property rights and to preserve Michigan's sportspersons' heritage," said Dennis Muchmore, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
The settlement allows the tribes to deviate from state rules in some ways. For example, they could have a four-month firearm deer hunting season during which they could take up to five deer. Non-tribal members can pursue deer with firearms for just two weeks in November, although there is a separate muzzleloading season and limited firearms hunting of antlerless deer in parts of southern Michigan.
Tribal hunters also could take two turkeys per season, while non-Indians would be limited to one. And tribal hunters could take about twice the state's daily bag limits for most small game species.
In a statement, the Burt Lake Preservation Association voiced "disappointment with the negotiation process because there was little public involvement." The group said it feared the deal would put the lake's walleye fishery at risk.
"But we must accept the conclusion and work towards a positive resolution with the state and the tribes," the association said.
Tribal leaders say they have demonstrated over many generations their responsible stewardship of natural resources.
"We've wanted all along to make sure people wouldn't feel the need to lash out because they were afraid we were going to destroy the resource," said Jimmie Mitchell, natural resources director for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians based in Manistee.
The out-of-court settlement, prompted by a state lawsuit in 2003, does not involve Indian fishing in the Great Lakes, which is covered by an earlier agreement. Instead, it provides a framework for regulating tribal fishing on inland waterways such as lakes and rivers _ plus hunting and gathering _ within the area that natives ceded under the 1836 treaty.
It affects much of the western and northern Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula.
The five tribes are the Bay Mills Indian Community; The Sault Tribe; the Little River Band; the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
Both sides made concessions to reach the settlement and avoid a trial.
The state acknowledged that tribal rights in the treaty zone remain intact. Previously, state officials contended those rights no longer existed because the treaty guaranteed them only "until the land is required for settlement." They said tribal members should have to abide by the state's fishing and game regulations.
The tribes agreed their treaty rights pertain to hunting, fishing and gathering only for subsistence purposes _ not commercial activities.
Tribal rules will observe many of the state's policies for protecting resources from overharvesting and abuse. For example, they will limit use of nets on inland waterways and prohibit gill netting, a highly efficient tool that kills virtually any fish it snares.
The tribes also acknowledged their treaty rights don't grant access to private property unless the owner gives permission. But tribal members can go onto private lands already open to the public, such as forests owned by timber companies, plus 4.5 million acres of federal and state lands.
The case reaches back to the early 1970s, when the federal government sued on behalf of the tribes, seeking state recognition of treaty rights. The fight produced some tensions between sport anglers and tribal fishermen _ particularly over gill netting.
"It was just a very bad situation," said Joseph C. Raphael, a member of the Grand Traverse Band tribal council and its former chairman. "We all wanted to keep that from happening again. Is everyone going to be satisfied? Absolutely not, but this is something for the good of all."
On the Net:
Michigan Department of Natural Resources: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
"The Detroit News reports that seven years after a century of baseball ended at Tiger Stadium, money for its upkeep and hopes it can ever be saved are running dry. Since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000, the city has paid the team's owner, Mike Ilitch, an estimated $2.5 million for maintenance and security at the old park.
"Mike Malik was also a City of Algonac Councilman and was instrumental in the sale of the old Chris Craft property to his business associates Pete Beauregard and John Carlo that became the current Algonac Harbor Club."
Monday, September 24, 2007
Michael J. Malik, Sr. (MJM Manistee) qualified once again as a "major donor" for calendar year 2007 under California's political reform laws; requiring him to file regularly scheduled disclosure reports detailing each contribution he makes to state legislators, constitutional officers and certain other political committees.
The following details contributions Malik made between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2006 and reported in disclosure documents filed July 31, 2007.
2007 CA Political Contributions of Michael J. Malik, Sr. (through June 30, 2007)
DOWNLOAD THESE DISCLOSURE RESULTS: MICROSOFT EXCEL
FRIENDS OF PAT WIGGINS 2010
STATE SENATOR 2
GLORIA NEGRETE MCLEOD FOR SENATE 2010
STATE SENATOR 32
HANCOCK FOR SENATE 2008
STATE SENATOR 9
RE-ELECT FIONA MA
STATE ASSEMBLY PERSON 12
ALBERTO TORRICO FOR ASSEMBLY
STATE ASSEMBLY PERSON 20
CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY
TAXPAYERS FOR ACKERMAN
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION MEMBER 3
In 2004, Barwest LLC (a company controlled by Michael J. Malik, Sr. and Mrs. Marian Ilitch) failed to report a $26,600 contribution they made to the San Joaquin County GOP Committee. After an investigation by California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Barwest LLC was fined on two counts of violating California's political reform laws and Malik paid a fine of $6,500 for failing to report the contribution.
MGCB standards for licensing; would Malik be eligible for a gaming license if standards are relaxed?
"The gaming board [MGCB] does not license an applicant convicted of any felony; a misdemeanor involving gambling, theft, dishonesty or fraud; or those who are 'unsuitable' due to questions of 'integrity, moral character or reputation.' "Casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr., a founder of MotorCity Casino, was disqualified from receiving a gaming license in 1999 and forced to sell his interests in MotorCity Casino prior to the gaming hall opening its doors to the public. Records used to determine qualifications have been sealed and deliberations over licensing have been kept confidential so it's unclear exactly why the MGCB declined to license Malik.
A bill in Lansing (House Bill 5212) introduced by state Rep. Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit) seeks to relax the legal requirement that requires all casino workers to clear an exhaustive background check and ease the conditions under which a license will be granted. It's unclear if the bill would have any impact going forward on Malik or others who were forced to sell their Detroit casino interests in 1999.
House bill would allow applicants with criminal records to be considered for nongambling jobs.
That should let some applicants with criminal records to at least be considered for some casino jobs.
BY ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Two of Detroit’s three casinos saw monthly revenue decline in August, as total receipts fell more than 1 percentage point.
MGM Grand Detroit recorded revenue of $42.7 million last month, compared with $41.3 million in July. It was the only gaming in town that recorded an increase in sales.
MotorCity Casino posted August sales of $41.1 million, versus $42.7 million for July. Meanwhile, Greektown Casino saw its revenue slip $27.8 million last month, compared with $29.3 million.
Total gross receipts of all three casinos throughout the first eight months of the year $888.5 million.
The Detroit casinos also raked in less in taxes to the tune of $13.5 million in August, compared with $13.7 million in July.
Contact ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA at 313-222-5008 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There's been a major shake up at MotorCity Casino Hotel with a month to go before scheduled grand opening
"Randall K. Villareal will run the casino's new luxury 400-room casino scheduled to open on Nov. 1. He replaces Asaad Farag who was hired several months ago, but suddenly left for personal reasons."Back on July 12th, executives at the Ilitch owned-MotorCity Casino project announced Farag had been hired as VP of Hotel Operations and Farag gave a tour of a "model hotel room" which was captured on video by the Detroit News. They emphasized his experience with luxury hotel projects.
Asaad Farag Named Vice President of Hotel Operations for MotorCity Casino Hotel
DETROIT - MotorCity Casino Hotel -- the first permanent gaming location in the city and the only locally owned and operated Detroit casino -- today unveiled a model hotel room that that will introduce a whole new level of hospitality to Detroit business and leisure travelers when the hotel opens this fall.
"MotorCity will provide a hotel product that is unmatched in this market," said Asaad Farag, newly appointed MotorCity Casino Hotel vice president of hotel operations. "We will provide a truly unique guest experience with an uncompromised level of service."
Asaad Farag, an international hospitality industry veteran, has been named vice president of hotel operations for MotorCity Casino Hotel. Farag's responsibilities will include all aspects of hotel operations including the spa, retail, catering and conference sales.
"Asaad brings enormous value to the MotorCity team," said international hotel background is critical to our mission of creating a luxury hotel that offers unparalleled guest service. He has historically demonstrated his ability to assess the needs of his guests and to exceed their expectations, which is consistent with our edict to raise the bar on hospitality in the City of Detroit and across the region."
Farag, a native of Egypt and a U.S citizen, brings to the MotorCity team more than 20 years of hotel management experience at some of the world's most impressive properties. Prior to his new assignment, Farag was general manager of the Conrad Istanbul where he directed the development of the Five Star Diamond, 584-room hotel internationally known for its fine restaurants and world class business and conference facilities. During his tenure, the Conrad Istanbul was awarded the 2005 World Travel Award as Europe's leading business hotel. Tens of thousands of travel professionals cast their votes to determine the recipient of this coveted award.
Farag has also served as general manager of the Regent Wall Street Hotel & Spa in New York City and was a member of the start-up team for the exclusive Stirling Club Turnberry Place in Las Vegas, serving as vice president and general manager. In addition, he has managed the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles and held various senior positions with the Ritz Carlton in Cleveland, the Walt Disney Dolphin in Orlando, the Beverly Hills Hotel in California and the Plaza in New York City.
Farag is a trustee of the Five Star Diamond American Hospitality of Science and a member of the esteemed Chaine of Rotisserie. He is a graduate of the Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt.
Detroit casinos fight closings
DETROIT, Michigan -- As reported by the Detroit News: "Detroit's three casinos, which attract thousands of gamblers and rake in about $3.5 million a day, oppose closing their doors in the event a state budget stalemate forces a shutdown of government services.
"Attorneys for MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity and Greektown vigorously argued against any shutdown during a meeting Friday with the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which regulates and monitors casino operations.
"...The four-member gaming board was reluctant to vote on the issue because of the amount of tax revenue -- nearly $1 million a day -- the casinos produce for city and state coffers. In addition, the casinos pay all the costs of the gaming board's operations. Board employees are at the casinos 24 hours a day to make sure their operations adhere to state gaming laws.
"...The board has scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Thursday to discuss the possible closures again..."
"...Villareal has managed two casino-hotel properties and has launched several hotels during his accomplished career..."Relative to Villareal's most recent employer Tishman Hotel Corporation, the press release later indicates:
"...It was in this position that he developed, implemented and managed casino operations in Puerto Rico..."However, the indepth press release -- which goes into great detail regarding Mr. Villareal's career and names most of the properties which Mr. Villareal has been associated with in any way -- fails to make note by name of the two relevant casino hotel properties that were reportedly managed by Villareal. Was that just poor PR writing? an oversight? Are the properties minor and without distinction, irrelevant, unremarkable or even troubled? Were those casinos minor amenities or after-thought additions to a traditional caribbean vacation destination resort property or were they the properties' main attractions?
Given the extensive "name dropping" in the press release about other brands and properties Mr. Villareal has been associated with throughout his career, and the nature of Mr. Villareal's new assignment within the Ilitch organization, it's conspicuous that the two alleged casino-hotel properties he "managed" aren't referenced by name.
Ilitch hires another hospitality/entertainment executive with downtown LA experience to oversee MotorCity Casino hotel operations
Industry expert brings nearly 30 years hotel leadership experience to provide exceptional guest service
DETROIT, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- A native Detroiter is returning to the city to oversee the day-to-day operations of MotorCity Casino Hotel, which will open November 1. Randall (Randy) K. Villareal has been named vice president of hotel operations effective immediately. He brings nearly 30 years of independent and corporate hotel experience and has held assignments across the United States, in the Caribbean and in Eastern Europe. In addition, Villareal has managed two casino-hotel properties and has launched several hotels during his accomplished career.
"MotorCity welcomes Randy back home," said Rhonda Cohen, chief operating officer of MotorCity Casino Hotel. "We are excited to add his breadth of hospitality experience -- from boutique and private resorts to massive corporate properties -- to the team and adopt his quality guest service standards. We're extremely fortunate that Randy has specific hospitality experience in Detroit and understands the Midwest market."
Villareal joins MotorCity Casino Hotel from the Remington Hotel Corporation in Dallas, where he served as divisional vice president since 2006 and was responsible for the oversight of 11 U.S. hotels including Crowne Plaza, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, Marriott, Radisson and
"I am grateful for the opportunity to return to Detroit and apply my experience to a new casino-hotel that fully embodies the identity, the energy and the vitality of Detroit," said Villareal. "I am committed to exceeding our guests' expectations through exceptional customer service, while further positioning Detroit as a destination city bursting with the best entertainment, sports and dining offerings in the region."
Villareal was born and raised in the city of Detroit and is an economics graduate of the James Madison College at Michigan State University. While a student, he became a food and beverage manager and was quickly appointed to director -- the youngest in the chain -- at the Holiday Inn Flint (Flint, Mich.). After graduating, he became the director of food and beverage at the Mobil Four Star Westin Michigan Inn Southfield (Southfield, Mich.). That position ignited a six-year relationship within the Westin Hotel Corporation, in which he held several food and beverage leadership positions at prestigious hotels such as the Westin St. Francis Hotel San Francisco, and back in Detroit at the Westin Hotel Renaissance Center.
In 1984 Villareal moved to Philadelphia as director of food and beverage for the Adams Mark Hotel Corporation. A year later he accepted a position with Madesco Investment Corporation in St. Louis as corporate food and beverage director for several hotels and two free-standing restaurants.
Three years later he accepted a food and beverage director position at the independently owned, 700-room Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, a Mobil Four Star and AAA Four Diamond historic landmark hotel in the city's downtown, and was quickly promoted to managing director. During his 11-year tenure at the Biltmore, Villareal was involved in several civic and industry associations including serving as chairman of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau and Downtown (L.A.) Marketing Council. He is credited for creating the Downtown Safe and Clean program immediately following the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and was named one of the top 10 business leaders in Downtown Los Angeles.
In 1998 Villareal joined the Tishman Hotel Corporation as senior vice president of operations where he oversaw the daily operations for 14 hotels in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. It was in this position that he developed, implemented and managed casino operations in Puerto Rico and coordinated all aspects in the opening of the Courtyard by Marriott at Warsaw International Airport.
About MotorCity Casino Hotel
MotorCity Casino Hotel, owned by Marian Ilitch, is the only locally owned and operated casino in Detroit. For more information about MotorCity Casino Hotel, or to make a reservation, visit http://www.motorcitycasino.com/ or call 1-888-STAY-MCC.
SOURCE: MotorCity Casino Hotel
North to the Future
The men who gave us the "Bridge to Nowhere" may be headed there themselves.
On Friday Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin ordered the state to prepare a "fiscally responsible" alternative to the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," which made the state a national laughingstock and shone an unwelcome spotlight on the pork-barrel greed of its all-Republican congressional delegation. The $398 million bridge would have connected Ketchikan (population 7,400) to its airport on a nearby island inhabited by 50 people.
The same day, the Associated Press reported that the FBI has recorded two phone calls between Sen. Ted Stevens, who sponsored the bridge, and Bill Allen, a Stevens patron who dominated state politics as the head of the oil-services firm VECO until he pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators this year. Mr. Allen has also testified in open court that he paid some of the bills incurred in the expensive remodeling of Mr. Stevens's Alaska home. Last month, FBI agents raided the senator's home to secure evidence about the remodeling work. Few expect Mr. Stevens, who has served since 1968 and rose to become chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, to survive politically.
An era is ending in Alaska politics. For decades the state justified its raids on the federal treasury because Washington owned so much of the state and had locked up so many of its natural resources to development (the oil underneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge being the most famous example). In what some called "compensation," the state made sure it became No. 1 in the nation for pork per person--$984.85 for each Alaskan in 2005.
The arrogance Alaska congressmen displayed in pursuing their taxpayer largesse was stunning. Rep. Don Young, the former Transportation Committee chairman and the state's lone House member, became famous for trying to secure funding for another dubious bridge near Anchorage, this one costing $223 million. Art Nelson, Mr. Young's son-in-law, is part owner of 60 acres of what he described as "beautiful property"--land that would be opened up to development by the new bridge. He admitted discussing the project with his father-in-law. Mr. Young said he saw no conflict of interest.
But Mr. Young is nonetheless highly sensitive about the projects he promotes. Earlier this year Rep. Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, sought to trim $11.8 million from programs for aboriginal populations in Alaska and Hawaii. Mr. Young, who once threatened to chew off the ear of an opponent, turned on Mr. Garrett with similar ferocity: "Those who bite me will be bitten back." He bellowed against members who would attack his projects: "It's my money!" He then claimed that the GOP lost control of Congress in 2006 because of "members who want to cut spending."
Even many of Mr. Young's constituents seem to disagree. A poll conducted this summer by the free-market Club for Growth found that 66% of Alaskans disapproved of the "Bridge to Nowhere." When asked to choose between a prospective candidate who wants to cut federal spending "even if that includes cutting some money that would come to Alaska" and a candidate who is willing to increase overall federal spending "as long as more federal spending and projects come to Alaska," the vote was even more lopsided: 71% of Alaska's residents chose the skinflint.
Adding to Rep. Young's woes, The Wall Street Journal reports that he has become a target of the same federal investigation that's been looking into connections between Sen. Stevens and VECO. Mr. Young has a lot more to worry about than whom to bite on the House floor. The same can be said for Mr. Stevens, whose pork-barreling days are likely numbered.
Of course, politicians naturally want to take credit for dragging federal dollars home. But the GOP Congress let the situation go berserk. In 2005, Congress authorized a record 13,999 earmarks. The scandals surrounding just a few of them involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham sent reporters scurrying to find what other nuggets of news might be buried in the remainder. Majority Republicans suffered most, even though Democrats routinely secured an estimated 45% of earmark spending.
Now it's Democrats who are championing earmarks and trying to hide them from the public, all the while proclaiming their desire for openness. House Minority Leader John Boehner took an important step toward reclaiming the party's fiscally conservative brand last week when he announced he would try to force a vote on greater earmark transparency.
It's time for Senate Republicans to step up to the plate. It's increasingly clear that their Sen. Stevens has ethically compromised himself and brought shame to the Senate. Will his colleagues continue to kowtow to him as a powerful Appropriations Committee member and allow him to serve on other key committees? Or will they send a signal that they are prepared to shun senators who abuse the public trust?
He's either “owner” of Farmington Hills-based MotorCity Harley-Davidson and Bloomfield Hills-based MotorCity Power Sports; or he's “president and CEO” of Novi-based Luna Entertainment; or he's “proprietor” of TC Vineyards Inc., the Celani Family Vineyards in Napa Valley.
He's also an investor in a theater chain, a land developer in Arizona and Colorado, and a casino management consultant.
Celani, 51, of West Bloomfield Township, has grown a successful family wholesale beer company into an empire of businesses.
One source estimates Celani's companies could hit close to $250 million in revenue in 2007. His two dealerships employ about 110 people and had about $50 million in revenue last year, Celani said.
Celani expects to sell about 1,100 motorcycles this year at MotorCity, the top volume Harley-Davidson dealer in the Midwest. He is currently expanding the dealership from 30,000 to 40,000 square feet.
Walls in his upstairs office are decorated with Harley posters, a huge elk head and a large portrait of his wife Vicki and three children: Vinnie, Olivia and Ben.
On the wall near his desk is a striking photo of the Celani Family Vineyards in Napa Valley.
In many ways, Celani's heart is there on the sunny slopes that remind him of Italy, or back to Detroit's east side 40 years ago.
"I guess there always was a seed there, since I was a boy and worked with my grandfather Vincenzo in his basement making wine with grapes we'd buy at Eastern Market.
"He'd make about four barrels just for his own family and friends, and a small barrel of vinegar,” Celani said.
"I began collecting wines about 20 years ago, knew a good distributor, started going to tastings, and about 1987 put a few cases away."
Today, his home wine cellar is stocked with French, Italian and U.S. wines, and includes about 5,000 bottles, he said.
In 2005 he purchased a 20-acre vineyard with house and winery in Napa Valley.
"We're about a quarter-mile down the road from (race driver) Mario Andretti and (former Kmart CEO) Joe Antonini's vineyard," Celani said.
Celani has hired winemaker Mark Herold, who has been astonishing critics with his wines from small vineyards.
Our goal said Celani, is to build "a small, boutique, high-quality winery, and make wines sought after by great restaurants."
He said his wines — labeled "Ardore," meaning passion — will hit store shelves this fall with a limited amount of Chardonnay available in October and about 300 cases of a Cabernet/Merlot blend to be distributed by General Wine & Liquor Co. starting Nov. 1.
Celani's passion for wine-making extends to custom-designed bottles and a custom label. His love for wine has also led him to wine auctions, which in one case resulted in a spot on the board of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
CCS President Rick Rogers said the college family got to know Celani through the wine auctions before he became a trustee in 2003.
Celani is a big donor, as well as a major bidder at CCS wine auctions, Rogers said.
"We were already friends. Knowing of his interest in the mission of the institution, and of his level of enthusiasm, we thought he would be an asset to the board and that's worked out," Rogers said.
As a businessman, Celani also has fared well from his investments in the casino industry.
In March 1999, Celani hit a $30 million jackpot when International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT) bought Sodak Gaming Inc., a South Dakota-based slot machine distribution company he had invested in.
"I bought two-thirds of the company for $2 because two partners wanted out ... and then invested $500,000 in it," Celani said.
Sodak became the exclusive slot machine distributor to North American Indian-owned casinos for IGT, the world's largest manufacturer of slot machines.
Celani owned more than 3 million shares, according to the 1998 annual proxy report of the then-publicly traded company, when IGT decided to buy Sodak and do its own distribution to tribal casinos.
He also was working with various start-up tribal casinos in Michigan and elsewhere. That led to a partnership in Detroit's MotorCity Casino.
Celani joined with Detroit entrepreneur Herb Strather and Greektown Casino L.L.C. founders Ted Gatzaros and Jim Papas to push for commercial casinos in Detroit by helping finance a statewide ballot campaign in November 1996.
"Tom was a good partner," Strather said. "We did our deal on a handshake, in July 1995, and signed paperwork a month later."
Celani had been supporting a proposal for an Indian casino complex called FoxTown to be built east of Woodward Avenue by the Bay Mills tribe and Harrah's Casinos of Las Vegas.
But then-Gov. John Engler blocked off-reservation casinos, Strather said.
"My recollections of Tom are that he always kept his word and he had guts. I'm very appreciative to have worked with him," Strather said.
Celani was a partner in MotorCity Casino L.L.C., and sold his share to Marian Ilitch when she gained total control in 2005.
Ilitch paid MGM Grand/Mirage Casinos $525 million for its Mandalay Bay holdings, a 53.5 percent share of MotorCity. She bought an additional 11.5 percent from Strather's group, Atwater Associates L.L.C., for $100 million and 10 percent from Celani for an undisclosed amount estimated at between $85 million and $100 million.
In addition to casinos, Celani is a major figure on Detroit's philanthropic scene.
In 2003, the Celanis donated $1 million worth of Harley-Davidson and Buell motorcycles, personal watercraft and other power sports items to the Central Michigan University College of Business Administration.
"Those were ingenious contributions," said Steve Smith, CMU director of media relations. "Celani's idea was that marketing students could find the best ways to sell the 'boy toys,' with the money from the sale going toward a student investment portfolio, the Tom and Vicki Celani Venture Capital Fund.
"It gave marketing students a chance to figure out how to get the best prices for those items, so the bikes were auctioned on eBay," he said.
Then finance students got to figure out how to invest the money in the stock market. "It gave them real world experience," Smith said.
Celani attended CMU as a freshman in 1974 but left to help run the family business — Action, a Livonia-based Miller beer distributorship — because his mother was dying.
In 2004, CMU awarded Celani an honorary doctorate for his "more than three decades as a business leader and entrepreneur."
And in 2005, the university named a new dorm on the Mt. Pleasant campus the Ben and Marion Celani Residence Hall in memory of Celani's parents.
Since 1982, one of Celani's favorite charitable endeavors has been Hearts of Livonia, founded in 1978 by his father. The nonprofit raises money for advanced life-support equipment at Livonia's St. Mary Mercy Hospital, giving $2.6 million to St. Mary and other charities, including more than 160 college scholarships for Livonia students.
The Celanis also support Rochester-based Sweet Dreams Project, Oakland Child Abuse and Neglect Council, and the Rainbow Make-a-Wish Foundation in Oakland County. They are also benefactors to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Opera Theatre.
"He's such a good community citizen," said David DiChiera, founder and general director of MOT. "You don't meet many people as open to supporting community efforts as he and Vicki."
He said the Celanis opened their home for a fund-raiser for the world premier of "Cyrano," DiChiera's own opera that will be performed Oct. 13-28.
"They do it with such grace, everything very beautifully done, and show so much enjoyment doing it," DiChiera said.
Robert Ankeny: (313) 446-0404, email@example.com
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