More cash for
Calif. counties

Mar 28, 2006 5:52 AM

The California State Senate sent a bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to restore $20 million to cities and counties to mitigate the effects of tribal casinos. The money would come from the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, which distributes gaming revenues to local communities to pay for such expenses as police and firefighters, public safety equipment, road improvements and a district attorney specifically assigned to gaming issues. The fund was created in 1999 and is supported by 26 tribal governments.

Last year, the Legislature authorized $50 million to be distributed from the fund, but Schwarzenegger cut it to $30 million due to a lack of documentation showing where the funds were being spent. The bill will restore the additional revenue. All it needs is the governor’s signature.

Leaders rally
against McCain

Tribal leaders from across the country met last week at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota to develop consensus in opposing Sen. John McCain’s (R-Arizona) bill to amend IGRA.

McCain’s bill, S. 2078, gives the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) new authority to regulate casino-style gaming, including giving the NIGC power to approve contracts between tribes and vendors. Leaders say this violates tribes’ rights to self-determination. The bill also gives the NIGC expanded power to review revenue allocation, a move that essentially discriminates against tribes’ control over budgetary decisions—no other businesses are subject to such review.

Tribal leaders also o ppose the elimination of the two-part determination process, saying it has worked well in the past and has not led to widespread off-reservation casinos.

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens was quoted as saying, "When proposals like S. 2078 are brought forward, it is a disappointing reminder that some people think we’ve gained too much ground. Who else in American society is forced to defend their right to be successful?"

EMPIRE PARTNERs WITH
ST. REGIS MOHAWKS

Empire Resorts said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it has signed a deal with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to build and operate a casino next to the Monticello Raceway in Monticello, N.Y., the Associated Press reported.

Under the agreement, Empire Resorts will manage the operation for 30 percent of the revenue, and Monticello Raceway Development will receive 5 percent of total project costs, subject to a $600 million ceiling. The morning of the announcement, shares of Empire Resorts rose 7.4 percent.

The proposed project needs approval from the NIGC, the BIA, and the State of New York by the end of June.

HOLDING ALL
THE CARDS

In Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are trying to gain control of all gaming machines on the Flathead Reservation, including the ones they don’t own, the Great Falls Tribune reported. The effort comes at a critical time for both the tribes and the state.

The tribes’ current gaming compact expires in October, and if a new one is not negotiated by then, all Class III machines will be shut down. The tribes currently own 185 Class III machines, which brought in $11.4 million last year, compared to the 371 non-tribal machines located on the reservation, which grossed $15.7 million.

Compact negotiators for the tribe say the tribe shouldn’t have to compete with state-regulated gaming. They hope the threat of lost revenue from a total Class III shutdown will spur the state to give in.

INDIANS ONLY

Two Oregon entrepreneurs are working to get the state constitution amended to allow a non-Indian casino. Bruce Studer and Matthew Rossman of Lake Oswego proposed the amendment, in addition to a law that would allow a casino at an old greyhound racetrack.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office rejected the ballot measure, saying the proposed law could not be contingent on the proposed amendment. Studer and Rossman say they’ll rewrite the measure and try again, but it isn’t likely to be on this November’s ballot.