Saturday, December 20, 2008

Paradice Hunt Club owner stripped of licenses, sentenced with five year ban on hunting, fishing and trapping

The owner of the Paradice Hunt Club in Northern Michigan, has been fined nearly $15,000 by the Arizona Game & Fish Commission and stripped of his right to hunt, fish or trap in 32 states for the next five years -- that includes his home state of Michigan.

Michael J. Malik owns the 1,000 acre Paradice Hunt Club retreat, a commercial game reserve and hunting grounds, north of Gladwin, Michigan. The high roller, who develops real estate projects and syndicates casino investment opportunitites, is also known to bid on unique hunting tags at wildlife charity auctions paying upwards of $75,000 to $100,000.

Malik was found guilty in the Pinetop Justice Court on 8.29.08, of discharging a firearm within the quarter-mile limit of occupied residences while taking elk. In that case he had to pay a minimal fine and put in eight hours of community service. But it was that criminal conviction which authorized the Commission to take the latest civil action against Malik.

You may also want to review these recent related posts:
Related Headlines from Arizona:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Politico paid to gather signatures on petitions may have also invested in AtMashpee LLC

Lee Albright was an investor in Atwater Entertainment Associates LLC (Atwater) according to a web site seeking to alert former Atwater partners to possible class-action claims involving the entity's former manager. Detroiter Herb Strather originally syndicated interest in Atwater as a way to raise capital needed to promote gambling in Detroit and then establish MotorCity Casino.

AtMashpee LLC, another Strather-created Detroit-based casino syndication in which a large majority of Atwater's members are reported to have also been investors, is suddenly at the center of a Jack Abramoff-related scandal making headlines this week.

Glenn Marshall, former chairman of Massachusetts's Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and a Strather (AtMashpee) partner, admits he is guilty of all criminal activity outlined in a Department of Justice (DOJ) complaint filed this week. Marshall has also agreed to cooperate in ongoing DOJ investigations which could include AtMashpee and its investors.

It is not clear yet if Albright is one of the Atwater investors who also put money into AtMashpee LLC.

Albright is the president of National Petition Management (NPM), perhaps the leading U.S. firm paid to collect signatures on political petitions intended to qualify measures (initiatives, referenda, propositions, proposals, etc.) for the ballot. NPM has offices in Michigan and Northern California. At one time NPM's was incorporated in Michigan.

The Daily Kos reports that from 1992-2006, NPM successfully qualifed 75 measures to be on ballots in 15 states. That list included qualifying two Michigan gambling measures: (1) allowed three commercial casinos to be opened in Detroit; and then (2) virtually protects those Detroit casinos from the threat of any future gaming competition in the state. Specifically:
    1996 - Michigan First! Proposal E - gambling in Detroit (organized by Atwater investors Herb Strather and Mary Ann Dalgleish, and Dimitrios Papas, founder of Monroe Partners LLC - Greektown Casino; Strather and Papas were later disqualified from receiving Michigan gambling licenses and forced to cash-in their respective casino interests before the gambling halls opened; voters statewide narrowly approved Proposal E which provided for three commercial gaming establishments in Detroit).

    2004 - Let Voters Decide Yes on Proposal 1 (bankrolled by Detroit's three established commercial casino interests and Michigan Indian tribes with gaming interests which included MGM Grand Detroit, Marian Ilitch owner of MotorCity Casino, Kewadin Greektown Casino, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; voters approved Proposal 1which now requires a statewide vote to approve any other new/expanded gaming ventures).
Strather began working with the Mashpee tribe in 2000 and reportedly dumped some $15 million into efforts to get the Mashpee tribe federally recognized and then build a tribal casino on Cape Cod. In exchange for bankrolling the Recognition effort and casino plans, Strather's group was promised 6-6.5% of the casino's annual gaming revenues over 20 years -- a deal some have valued at more than $1.2 billion.

Strather (AtMashpee) funnelled $4 million from investors into a hidden account enabling Marshall's criminal activity.

Following criminal conviction, Malik fined nearly $15k, loses right to hunt in 32 states including Michigan


Michigan man assessed $14,995 for killing trophy elk near homes

PINETOP, AZ -- Michael J. Malik, a Michigan resident, appeared before the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at its December meeting in Casa Grande for shooting a trophy-quality, 7x7 bull elk too close to residential property without landowner permission.

After hearing his statement, the commission voted to civilly assess Malik $14,995 for the state’s loss of the 408-point, velvet-antlered elk. The commission also revoked his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in Arizona for five years, and he must successfully complete a hunter education course prior to having his license privileges restored.

The commission’s action to revoke Malik’s license for five years has far-reaching implications. Arizona is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact with 32 other states, including all western states and Malik’s home state of Michigan. Until his license privileges are restored in Arizona, he will not be able to legally hunt in any of those 32 states.

Malik paid $135,000 at an auction for Arizona’s 2006-07 “special” elk tag at a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation annual convention. Special tag holders have the added privilege of pursuing their designated big game for one full year.

In the early hours of July 26, 2007, Malik, assisted by four companions, including Arizona elk guide John McClendon, shot, wounded and eventually killed the bull in a privately owned meadow in the Morgan Flat area east of Pinetop. While on patrol, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s wildlife manager in Unit 3B, Shawn Wagner, heard the initial shot and responded to investigate. He found the Malik hunting party and wounded bull in close proximity to several occupied houses where the property owners were upset with Malik hunting and shooting near their homes.

Wagner determined the homeowners had not been approached nor had they granted permission for Malik to hunt on their property. Wagner seized the bull and cited Malik for shooting violations. Shooting a firearm within a quarter-mile of an occupied building while taking wildlife without permission from the owner is a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

After several pre-trial conferences and continuances, Malik was found guilty in the Pinetop Justice Court on Aug. 29, 2008, of discharging a firearm within the quarter-mile limit of occupied residences while taking elk. The criminal conviction authorized the commission to take civil action against Malik.

“This incident is more a private property and public safety violation than it is a wildlife crime. The court and commission decisions are a strong reminder to all hunters about the importance of hunter awareness and safety and respecting the rights of private property owners and rural residents,” says Jim Hinkle, law enforcement program manager at the department’s Pinetop office.

The department donated the edible portions of the elk carcass to Shepherd’s Kitchen, a charitable organization in Snowflake. The antlers and cape remain in custody of the department pending the outcome of an appeal to the Pinetop Justice Court decision by Malik.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did principals at Goddard Clausen political firm help syndicate AtMashpee LLC too?

The Washington D.C.-based chairman of the International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC), Ben Goddard, and his Sacramento-based business partner, Rick Clausen, were among 100+ investors who helped Herb Strather originally syndicate Detroit-based Atwater Entertainment Associates LLC (AEA). It has been reported by Crain's Detroit that AEA investors made up 75% (150 investors) of those who also helped Strather syndicate AtMashpee LLC, another casino investment opportunity. Note that the name "AtMashpee" reflects such a marriage between Atwater and the Mashpee Wampanoag.

A complaint filed by Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in U.S. District Court this week indicates Strather (AtMashpee LLC) dumped $4 million into a hidden account which enabled former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn A. Marshall to engage in various fraudulent activities including a scheme that used convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others to funnel political contributions to key Members of Congress; all this was associated with efforts to win Federal Recognition of the tribe so they could build a Cape Cod casino that would reward Strather (AtMashpee) with 6-6.5% of annual gaming revenues over 20 years -- a jackpot valued by some at $1.2 billion.

Marshall agreed to plea guilty of all charges and will cooperate with ongoing DOJ investigations. His attorney, Robert Craven, told the Boston Globe, "Glenn didn't dream up the scheme himself. He was getting bad advice."

A Web site set up to inform AEA investors about possible class action claims lists Benjamin Goddard and Richard C. Clausen as investors. The pair are partners in the well-known political/PR firm Goddard Clausen.

Strather formed AEA originally to raise the capital needed to bankroll a 1996 campaign legalizing gambling in Detroit. Subsquently, AEA joined a partnership that included Las Vegas-based Circus Circus (Mandalay Resort Group) and established Detroit's MotorCity Casino.

How did Goddard and Clausen end up investing in Atwater Entertainment Associates? Did Goddard and Clausen also help Strather syndicate AtMashpee LLC too? And in doing so bankroll the tribal chairman's illegal activity? Were they also among those Marshall's attorney says gave him bad advice and political counsel?

The Goddard Clausen firm rose to prominence during the 1990s after Blue Cross paid the firm $2 million to develop the landmark "Harry & Louise" ad campaign, credited with killing President Bill Clinton's plan for universal health care. Goddard is a founder of the CATO Institute and a regular columnist for The Hill, a Washington D.C. news publication read by Capitol Hill insiders. In recent years, Goddard Clausen was a division of the international PR firm Porter Novelli (See Goddard Profile: Washington Post)

Judge ordered fast-track for Shinnecock Federal Recognition process


Casinos on the Horizon
The Shinnecocks are on the federal fast track

By Jennifer Landes

With the Shinnecock Indian Nation now under active consideration by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment of the United States Department of the Interior and Suffolk County voting to approve the naming of a task force to study the feasibility and placement of a gaming facility on Tuesday, casino gambling is closer to reality than ever on Long Island.

The Shinnecocks had two things going against them in previous attempts to capitalize on federal laws that allowed gaming on Native American reservations. There was never community or state support to place the facilities on the reservation in Shinnecock Hills or on land they owned in Hampton Bays, and they were not on the list of federally recognized tribes managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Department of the Interior.

But in September, a federal judge ordered the Department of the Interior to consider placing the Shinnecocks at the top of the list of tribes scheduled for consideration for placement on the list. Another federal judge had issued a decision recognizing the tribe in 2003, but it was not at the time deemed sufficient by the department to place them on the list. At the same time the tribe has had an application pending with the department since 1978.

According to a letter sent to the Shinnecocks’ trustees on Nov. 10, the Office of Federal Recognition began its “active consideration” of the application on that day. Representative Tim Bishop said the process should take about 18 months. Before the judge’s action, the tribe had expected to wait about a decade for consideration even though their application had been deemed complete by the department years ago.

“Yes, they have been bumped up in the queue, and I expect a judgment in the next year and a half. The Shinnecock gaming issue is anything but hypothetical,” Mr. Bishop said. He added that “as a layman it certainly appears to me they meet the criteria for a recognized tribe,” but he noted that their application will be thoroughly scrutinized.

Once they receive official recognition, the most significant obstacle will have been removed. The process to have a facility approved, however, will also take some time under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. To conduct gaming operations off-site of the reservation, “they have to designate a location to conduct gaming and it has to be taken into trust by the Department of the Interior.” The New York State Legislature and governor must also agree to the proposal. (
Complete Story)

Who's Who guide to complaint filed against former Mashpee tribe chairman Glenn Marshall

Who's Who guide to the five count complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney in U.S. District Court and alleging criminal wrongdoing by former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn A. Marshall including allegations of federal campaign finance violations, wire transfer fraud, tax fraud, embezzling $380,000 to pay personal expenses and fraudulently accepting payments from the Social Security Administration.

Investor A - Herb Strather; Detroit-based casino syndicator; founding member of AtMashpee LLC (see docs); has acknowledged to reporters that he is "Investor A." Herbert J. Strather is Resident Agent of AtMashpee Notes LLC, an enterprise established one year ago (12.08.07) when Strather's corporate counsel Jason Q. Wilson filed articles of organization for the LLC.

Laurence B. Deitch, an attorney at Bodman LLP, is Resident Agent and manager of AtMashpee LLC. Deitch and Strather, who lead the efforts to legalize commercial gambling in Detroit, were original partners in Atwater Entertainment Associates LLC which eventually morphed into Detroit's MotorCity Casino (a d/b/a for Detroit Entertainment LLC). Both Strather and Deitch opted to sell their interests in MotorCity Casino before it opened its doors -- Strather because he reportedly feared the Michigan Gaming Control Board might find him ineligible for a license and Deitch, a University of Michigan Regent, because reportedly he anticipated a future constantly questionning conflicts of interest.

Investor B - Floyd Gallegos; resident of Battle Creek, MI; an MIT-educated Yaqui Indian who helps tribes obtain grants and other assistance; an acquaintance of Strather's; reportedly investor in AtMashpee LLC.

Political Action Committee A - RICH PAC (Pombo's leadership PAC)

Member of Congress A - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)

Member of Congress B - former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA); then chair, House Natural Resources Committee

Member of Congress C - Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA)

Political Consultant A - Stephen Graham

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MotorCity Casino revenues down 7.1% for November


November casino revenue down from last year

By Robert Ankeny

Combined revenue for Detroit’s three commercial casinos was down 6.74 percent for November compared with the same month last year, the Michigan Gaming Control Board reported Wednesday.

MGM Grand Detroit L.L.C. was off 0.69 percent. MotorCity Casino, owned by Detroit Entertainment L.L.C., was down almost 7.1 percent and Greektown Casino L.L.C. was down almost 16.4 percent, the control board’s report showed.

Year-to-date revenue for the first 11 months of 2008 was more than $1.25 billion, up $33.7 million or 2.8 percent over 2007. That was due to MGM’s total of more than $46.4 million, 14.1 percent ahead of 2007.

Both MotorCity and Greektown trail their 11-month revenue totals for 2007, by 2.4 percent and 6.9 percent respectively.

Gaming market shares in Detroit for November 2008 show MGM with 44 percent, MotorCity with 34 percent and Greektown at 22 percent.

Three-fourths of AtMashpee LLC investors were behind entity that morphed into MotorCity Casino

Detroit-based AtMashpee LLC bankrolled and directed political and lobbying activities that won Federal Recognition for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts and laid the ground work for a tribal casino resort planned for Cape Cod.

According to a 10.31.05 brief written by Robert Ankeny and published in Crain's Detroit Business:

AtMashpee LLC included $12 million syndicated through more than 200 investors.

About 150 of AtMashpee's investors are former Atwater Associates partners. The name AtMashpee, is a blend of Mashpee, as in Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe, and Herb Strather’s Atwater Entertainment Associates, organizers of what eventually became Detroit Entertainment LLC doing business as Detroit's MotorCity Casino)

AtMashpee was founded in 2000 by Herb Strather. Fellow Atwater partner and University of Michigan Regent Laurence Deitch is Resident Agent for the Strather managed limited liability company.

Another former Atwater investor, J. Ronald Slavik (J&J Slavik, Inc.), has strong ties to the Mashpee effort. He partnered with South African Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman on the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. Kezner and Wolman have assumed financing and control of any future Mashpee project.

Strather formed what appears to be a related entity, AtMashpee Notes LLC, almost one year ago on 12.18.07. Jason Q. Wilson, Strather's corporate counsel, filed the documents on Strather's behalf.

See List: Atwater Entertainment Associates Investors

Detroiters Strather, Deitch provided $4 million fund that enabled wrongdoing by ex-tribal chairman

Detroit casino syndicators Herb Strather and Laurence Deitch provided $4 million fund that enabled wrongdoing by former Indian tribe chairman.

According to details released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a Michigan-based casino syndicate controlled by Strather and Deitch dumped $4 million into a dormant tribal enterprise enabling their partner, then the chairman of a Massachusetts Indian tribe, to commit wire fraud and carry out schemes that violated federal campaign finance laws.

All this and more is outlined in the DOJ release and in charges filed in U.S. District Court against former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn A. Marshall who has admitted wrongdoing and plead guilty on all charges in order to realize reduced sentencing. Marshall also agreed to cooperate in other related investigations.

Marshall’s attorney Robert Craven told the Boston Globe, "Glenn didn't dream up the scheme himself. He was getting bad advice."

Strather formed AtMashpee LLC in 2000 to provide funding and direct legal and lobbying activity necessary to earn federal recognition for the Mashpee Tribe; ultimately paving the way to build a large casino resort on Cape Cod that was to rival Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun. In exchange for bankrolling the plans, AtMashpee LLC and Strather would get 6 to 6.5% of casino revenues over a 20 year period – a deal valued by some to have been worth up to $1.2 billion.

According to the Boston Globe, Marshall was elected Mashpee chairman shortly after Strather became involved with the tribe. And in 2005 when Marshall’s leadership was challenged, Strather took measures to ensure Marshall would be re-elected as chairman.

Strather the largest investor in AtMashpee, is noted as “Investor A” in court documents. He syndicated interest in the limited liability company with 200 other investors – perhaps some of the same individuals who invested alongside Strather and Deitch in the venture (Atwater Entertainment Associates) that eventually became Detroit’s MotorCity Casino.

It is worth noting that according to documents filed with the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth, Laurence B. Deitch, an attorney who is also a University of Michigan Regent, has been the Resident Agent for AtMashpee since 2001. While Strather has confirmed he is “Investor A” it is not clear if Deitch is the party noted in court documents as “Investor B,” a resident of Michigan and a fellow investor in AtMashpee LLC.

Another former Atwater investor and resident of Michigan, J. Ronald Slavik, is ties to the Mashpee casino scheme as well. Slavik was one of the original partners including Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman in Trading Cove Associates, which developed and managed the Mohegan Sun casino resort in Connecticut. Kerzner and Wolman have taken over controlling interest in the proposed Mashpee Casino. It's also possible Slavik is "Investor B."

From 2003-2007, AtMashpee pumped $4 million into a secret fund under the dormant Mashpee Fisherman’s Association. Those funds were used in part to pay lobbyists and political consultants. At one point, they retained the now disgraced former D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff to represent their interests and engaged him in their political contributions scheme. The tribe did receive federal recognition in early 2007 and has been pursuing controversial plans to develop a large casino resort in Middleborough, MA.

In addition to wire fraud and laundering campaign contributions, Strather gave Marshall $380,000 which he used to pay for personal expenses: groceries, jewelry, tuition payments for his daughter, vacations and his Countrywide mortgage. Strather also made other monthly payments to Marshall who failed to disclose the gifts and payments to the IRS and Social Security Administration.

DOJ Announcement
Complaint filed in U.S. District Court
Plea Agreement

Associated Press: Ex-tribal head in Mass. to plead guilty to fraud
Boston Herald: Ex-Mashpee Wampanoag chairman charged, tied to Abramoff
Cape Cod Times: Mashpee Wampanoag, Investors manipulate Cape tribe, Secretive club holding casino cards

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama's campaign advisor helped Ilitch Crew legalize gambling in Detroit

From an April 1997 article published in Campaigns & Elections and written by Laurence B. Deitch entitled "Rolling the dice in Detroit: how a land-based casino referendum beat the odds thanks to a skillful campaign."

    18-Day Campaign

    The polling provided the framework for our "yes" on E messages. Winner/Wagner & Mandabach brought in Sipple: Strategic Communications to work with them in developing television and radio ads. They also worked with the Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group, headed by Tom Shields, to target direct mail to swing voters. The media campaign focused on these themes:

    Proposal E is pro-Michigan. One set of ads used the image of a $400 million bag of money moving from Detroit to Windsor, Canada, to depict the flow of dollars to Canadian casinos located a mere five minutes from Detroit, and stated that Proposal E would bring these dollars back to Michigan.

    Proposal E is straight-forward. A "Voter Guide" television spot showed the actual ballot wording to visually reinforce the simplicity of Proposal E.

    What benefits Detroit, benefits Michigan. An ad featuring popular Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was produced by the Mayor's media consultant, David Axelrod. It aired in the final days of the campaign, and asked Michigan voters to help Detroit reduce its dependence on state aid.

Detroit casino interests behind Cape Cod casino plans


Mass. tribe gets casino help from Detroit

When Middleborough, Mass., residents voted July 29 to endorse a proposal for a $1 billion Indian casino resort in their town, there was a significant Detroit presence involved.

Entrepreneur Herb Strather and attorneys Laurence Deitch and Dennis Whittlesey are assisting the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe in its pursuit of the project.

Strather's Detroit-based AtMashpee L.L.C. aided the tribe in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs for final recognition, which became official on May 23. It owns or has options on 375 acres of land in Middleborough. Strather, who organized the founding company for MotorCity Casino, also has helped finance the Mashpee tribe's casino development efforts.

Deitch, of Detroit-based Bodman L.L.P., provides legal counsel to the tribe. Whittlesey, a gaming and Indian law attorney of Dickinson Wright P.L.L.C.'s Washington office, represents Middleborough.

“The Detroit involvement in this project is no accident,” Whittlesey said, “and don't be surprised if you see more of it around the country.”

Strather's AtMashpee LLC enabled former tribal chair with $4 million

As published 12.16.08 in the Boston Globe:

    Marshall became tribal chairman in 2000, shortly after Herbert Strather, a Detroit-based businessman who helped develop a casino there [MotorCity Casino], became involved with the Mashpee Wampanoag.

    Strather and other Michigan investors [AtMashpee LLC] formed a close bond with Marshall, at first agreeing to fund the tribal council's expenses at $10,000 a month and later upping it to $100,000 a month. In addition, the investors agreed to pay the cost of lobbyists, lawyers, and others involved in the recognition bid [a total of $4 million].

    When Marshall's leadership was challenged in 2005, Strather wrote to tribal members urging his reelection. Strather, however, sold his interest last year, when they struck a deal with the developers of Connecticut's Mohegan Sun resort, Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman. [Strather had connections with Wolman's Waterford Group through Michigan-based construction firm Slavick Inc.] That deal would give the investors 6.5 percent of the gross revenue of a casino, hotel, and convention business, according to the court documents.

Former tribal chairman tied to Detroit Casino Syndicators guilty of campaign finance violations, fraud

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts has announced that former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Glenn A. Marshall was charged on Monday, 12.15.08, in U.S. District Court with violations of campaign finance law and fraud in connection with efforts to secure federal recognition for the Tribe and ulitmately develop a large Indian casino. (See Official Complaint)

Marshall has agreed to plea guilty to all counts in exchange for a reduced sentence on the charges. (See Plea Agreement)

Marshall also promised to fully cooperate with federal investigators, who last year targeted his fellow tribe leaders as well as tribe lobbyists, and investors in a subpoena for financial documents. Several of them — including the tribe's original backer, Herb Strather of Detroit — are referenced blindly in the court documents.

Strather is noted in the DOJ complaint as "Investor A" the founder, manager and largest investor in Michigan-based AtMashpee LLC, a casino syndicate reportedly made up of some 200 investors. Strather was one of the original members in a syndicate behind Detroit's MotorCity Casino; however, after required investigation, the Michigan Gaming Control Board failed to grant Strather a gaming license.

The charges against Marshall specifically reference his ties to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

According to prosecutors, from 2003 to 2007, Marshall received some $4 million from Strather's syndicate AtMashpee LLC. Marshall put the funds from Strather in the dormant Mashpee Fisherman's Association which he then used to pay for lobbying efforts and campaign contributions on behalf of the tribe, but failed to disclose the fund in tribal tax returns. Marshall reportedly spent some $380,000 from the fund on personal expenses including groceries, vacations, home repairs, a mortgage payment and jewelry but failed to report any of that as income on federal tax returns.

Marshall will face 41 to 57 months in prison and will pay back any money owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Without the plea deal, Marshall could have faced 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for four of the charges and a 20-year prison sentence and a $1 million fine for the wire fraud charge.

In February 2007 the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe received Federal Recognition. The Mashpee Tribe ousted Marshall as chairman in August 2007. The Tribe has been pursuing plans to build a large casino resort in Middleborough, MA, on Cape Cod.

Strather financed and directed the tribe's efforts to win Federal Recognition and purchased property in Middleborough proposed for the casino resort. Then Strather sold controlling interest in the venture to international gaming magnet Sol Kerzner and his partner Len Wolman. That pair was behind Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino resort.

Gaming industry projected to face significant pressure in 2009; recovery unlikely until 2010

U.S. Gaming Industry Recovery Unlikely Until 2010

NEW YORK, Dec 16, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Following one of its most challenging years in recent history, the U.S. gaming industry will remain under significant pressure in 2009, with a recovery unlikely until 2010, according to Fitch Ratings...

...The gaming industry experienced a greater impact from the difficult financial conditions for consumers in 2008 than many investors expected. Generally, gaming spend per visit has been affected more than visitation levels, which can be bolstered by promotions. Considering the combined effect of recent declines in gas prices, and reductions in airline capacity and international demand, Fitch believes regional/local markets will fare better than destination markets, such as the Las Vegas Strip...

2009 Credit Outlook

Fitch believes that a prolonged U.S. recession that extends beyond 2009 and into 2010, coupled with an extremely tight credit environment, will put significant additional pressure on the balance sheets of already stressed corporate gaming operators. There was a significant tick up in high yield (HY) gaming defaults in 2008, with five issuers (French Lick, Tropicana, Greektown, Herbst, and Majestic Star) defaulting on $2.3 billion of HY market principal through November 2008. Three other issuers (Trump, Station, and Harrah's) are on the cusp of defaulting on debt obligations.

The weak fundamental trends combined with generally high leverage and tight liquidity provides the basis for Fitch's negative outlook on corporate gaming operators in terms of both operating fundamentals and credit ratings. While Native American gaming operators are feeling similar pressure on operating trends, the issuers in Fitch's rated portfolio generally maintain more conservative financial profiles relative to rating levels, so those issuers will have somewhat more ability to maintain ratings in 2009. Due to more stable free cash flow profiles, stronger internally generated liquidity positions, a less capital intensive business model, and more conservative balance sheet management, gaming suppliers have the most attractive overall credit profiles and greatest ability to weather the downturn... (Complete Analysis)

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