Conn. tribes’ casino hopes derailed

May 17, 2005 5:44 AM

Heavy lobbying from both state and federal officials has successfully blocked, for the time being, any additional casinos in Connecticut, thus leaving the market open for Foxwoods Resort and Casino and its neighbor Mohegan Sun, considered two of the world’s most successful casinos.

Announcement has come from the Interior Board of Indian Appeals that overturned the decision to recognize two Connecticut Indian tribes, the Kent-based Schaghticokes and the Eastern Pequot Indians.

Heralding the decision that in effect sends back to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs the petitions for recognition filed by the tribes was Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has led the fight against the tribes in hopes of removing the threat of additional casinos in the future. Also prominent in the lobbying was Congressman Christopher Shays who was quoted as saying, "Granting federal recognition means creating sovereign nations and it must be conducted in a fair, objective and transparent manner."

The two tribes were granted recognition in prior years but were immediately appealed by Blumenthal who argued that the tribes had substantial gaps in evidence related to their social continuity and political governance.

Also affecting a Connecticut tribe was the recent rejection of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe’s bid for federal recognition. That decision ended the hopes of the tribe to build a casino in Connecticut.

Fight in Chicago

A new twist in the saga involving the casino license held by the bankrupt Emerald Casino, whose plan to build a casino in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont has been challenged by the state for more than five years, emerged over the weekend with the announcement that a high-powered, politically connected lawyer has taken up the Emerald cause.

Chicago lawyer Robert Clifford has joined the Emerald team with the promise of a $1 million fee and a contingency fee of $75 million should he win the case.

According to the financial records of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Clifford’s law firm has donated $328,000 to his campaign fund since 2000. Also, Clifford has represented the governor’s adviser and fundraiser, Christopher Kelly, in a dispute with Blagojevich’s father-in-law.

Since 2001, the state, through its Gaming Board and its attorney general, Lisa Madigan, have tried to revoke Emerald’s license but these efforts have failed for one reason or another. The regulators plan to resume revocation hearings later this month.

THE INSIDER: Geoff Andres has resigned as president and general manager of Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center in order to return to his former employer, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET). He will be replaced temporarily by Ron Sultemeier, CEO of Delaware North Companies, owner of the Wheeling casino.

William Hill has agreed to pay $933.9 million to Stanley Leisure for its 624 betting shops throughout Great Britain. Hill currently operates 1,613 betting shops.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) is considering placing a new gambling barge at a location near Biloxi, Miss. The company already operates a casino in Vicksburg, Miss. (UBET) has received a license from the State of Washington for its Internet horse betting operation. Competitors TVG and XpressBet already are licensed in that jurisdiction.

The New Mexico attorney general has upbraided the state Racing Commission for conducting state business behind closed doors. The commission has agreed to follow the state’s open meeting law in future activities of the board.

Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR), preparing to be acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) has agreed to sell the Reno Hilton hotel/casino to Grand Sierra Resort Corp. for $150 million.

GTECH Holdings (GTK) has struck a $5.8 million deal to lease gaming machines to Harrah’s.

Andrew Economon has joined Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) as vice president of food and beverage for the corporate office. He previously was director of food and beverage at the Rio Hotel Suites in Las Vegas.

Nevada casinos won $1.03 billion in March, or 10.9% more than was won in March 2004.

Atlantic City, N.J., casinos won $423.2 million in April, a jump of 7.3% over the previous year.

MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) has chosen Perini Building Company as the contractor for its Project CityCenter.

Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS) announced the its contract with the South Carolina Lottery has been extended for one year.