Tribal casinos on fast track, except in some states

Jan 9, 2001 6:27 AM

Tribal casinos are on the fast track in Florida and near Lake Tahoe, but they’ve run into snags elsewhere.

Hard Rock Café International will pump $400 million into resorts on Seminole reservations in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla.

There’s one that will be operated by Lakes Gaming, on U.S. Highway 50, just west of Placerville, Calif., that could siphon off visitors to Lake Tahoe and Reno resorts.

The tiny Lytton Band of Pomo Indians is working with Ladbroke USA to install as many as 2,000 slot machines. California Gov. Gray Davis must approve the compact.

Elsewhere, though, Native American casinos have hit some rough spots.

Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson says the state won’t renew its gaming compact with the Oneidas because they missed a $4.85 million tax payment deadline. The compact expires in May 2003.

Oneida Bingo & Casino, near Green Bay, is one of the state’s largest. The governor wrote tribal chairman Gerald Danforth that the tribe was not acting as a responsible corporate citizen or government entity.

"This is the first communication I’ve received from his this year," responded Danforth. The Oneidas say their region doesn’t get a fair slice of the tax money they send to the state.

The U.S Department of Interior is studying an endorsement for a Menominee casino at Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wis. The Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Minneapolis has given the proposal the nod. Governor Thompson has said he would not oppose it if local and federal support is given, but he’s expected to take a post in President-elect Bush’s Cabinet. His expected successor, Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum, opposes more gambling in Wisconsin.

Other tribal casinos have been proposed in Beloit and Shullsburg, Wis., but the state and BIA haven’t studied their plans.

Nevada casino operator Don Laughlin, a Minnesota native, has again proposed a state-owned casino there. That plan could be blocked for a second time. He suggests a casino run by a private operator, with 90 percent of its profits going to Minnesota. That could give the state an extra $100 million a year, he thinks.

Key legislators oppose Laughlin’s plan. Minnesota has 18 casinos, all on reservations. However, plans for a casino at the St. Croix Meadows Greyhound Racing Park in Hudson, Wis., could change Minnesota legislators’ feeling, since it could draw visitors away from nearby tribal casinos in their own state.

In New Mexico, a dozen tribes are fighting the attorney general over payments to the state. They claim the revenue-sharing rate, 16 percent of slot machine win, is too steep. Legislators last March declined to cut that to 7.75 percent of slot proceeds.

In Louisiana, it’s a different situation. Allen Parish (county) got $1.9 million from the Coushatta tribe’s Grand Casino in Kinder, La., last year. There’s a new compact providing for a mandatory 6 percent payment to Allen Parish. The Coushattas want details on how the money is being spent. Parish officials declined.

It is the Hard Rock’s Florida ventures that put a bright face on these scenarios.

Ceremonies were held Monday morning at the Seminole reservation in Hollywood to kick off tribal casinos there and in Tampa. Both projects are expected to be completed by the end of next year

The agreement "supports our global plan to extend the Hard Rock brand name beyond our core business and into the real estate, gaming, leisure and hotel sectors," said CFO Scott Little, senior vice president for strategic planning.

The Tampa project, a four-star hotel and gaming resort, will be built near Ybor City’s entertainment district off Interstate 4. It will have 200 rooms, a Hard Rock Café and nightclub, gaming and other facilities.

The Hollywood resort, 15 minutes from the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport, will have 750 rooms, a 1,000-seat live venue, spa, restaurant and gaming.

CMA Associate

Ralph Piccirilli is the Director of Player Development for Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino. He’s been in the gaming industry for nearly 20 years with more than a dozen of those with the Boyd Corporation. Before his current post Ralph was an Assistant General Manager, and Director of Casino Operations for Primadonna Casino Resorts. He is active in the community as the Chairman of the Gold River Marketing committee, United Way, Corporate Challenge, and he is a Charter Member of the CMA and is a past Board and Advisory Member.

Ex-gov Edwards to be sentenced

For Eddie Edwards, it’s apparently over except for the sentencing. For some of the former Louisiana governor’s co-defendants, it’s not.

U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola denied Edwards’ bid for a new trial or acquittal for his part in a riverboat casino license extortion plot.

Edwards and his son, along with his former aide Andrew Martin, cattleman Cecil Brown and Baton Rouge businessman Bobby Johnson, convicted on a variety of charges in the scheme, were scheduled to have their sentencing hearings begin Monday.

They were convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from riverboat casino license applicants while and after Edwards was governor.

Meanwhile, the government isn’t through with the matter. In an indictment handed down during last weekend, cattleman Brown is charged with racketeering, extortion and fraud, bribery and conspiracy.

The government says Brown tried to milk more than $1 million from: a Texas company that wanted to build a Louisiana prison; Top Rank Inc., which tried to bring a professional basketball team to New Orleans; a Texas company that wanted a New Orleans city waste contract; and the Coushatta Indian Tribe, which wanted to run a casino in Kinder.