Tribe takes ‘bite’
out of Oregon gov.

Jun 20, 2006 6:52 AM

Just days after signing a new compact with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde ran TV ads attacking Kulongoski and supporting his main Democratic primary opponent, Jim Hill, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

The new compact, signed this spring, had been in the works for more than 2 years, and allows the Grand Ronde to expand its Spirit Mountain Casino, adding a potential $30 million a year to the casino’s $90 million profits.

But nearly a year before the deal was signed, the tribe invested in the ads, attacking the governor for authorizing the Warm Springs tribe’s proposed casino near Portland, which could potentially draw customers away from Spirit Mountain. Tribal leaders say the dates for airing the ads had already been set and it was a coincidence that they ran shortly after the compact was signed.

Kulongoski told the paper, "I can assure you it was never a thought to get my election involved in whether I signed a compact with the Grand Ronde or not." He said he wanted to treat the tribe fairly and had no expectations that the tribe would stop its campaign against Warm Springs.

THE MORE,

THE MERRIER

Oklahoma is a land littered with tribal gaming centers — 83 to be exact. And they’re about to get another. The Chickasaw Nation’s Riverwind casino will open next month, and promises to be the state’s largest gaming complex.

As the Chickasaw Nation’s 18th gaming facility, the 219,000-square-foot Riverwind is located across the river from Norman, Oklahoma. The complex includes an events center, theater and restaurants, and the casino itself will have 2,200 slots, more than 70 blackjack and poker tables and an off-track betting lounge.

 

HOW MUCH
IS TOO MUCH?

The National Indian Gaming Commission has issued a notice of violation to the Puyallup Tribe of Washington state, saying they are paying their members too much money. The notice came after federal regulators audited the Puyallup’s financial records, and found that each member of the tribe was receiving $2,000 a month in per capita payments. This amounted to 65 percent of the tribe’s $134 million in profits for last year.

The NIGC claims this violates the tribe’s revenue allocation plan, approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2003. The plan calls for a maximum of 35.4 percent of its net gaming revenue to go toward per capita payments. Tribal members received 84 percent of revenues in 2003 and 75 percent in 2004.

The commission has ordered the tribe to stop payments at once, and threatened to impose a fine of at least $25,000 per day if they do not. But Puyallup Tribal Attorney John Bell says the tribe’s allocation plan allows for an additional 35.4 percent of gambling revenue for the "general welfare" of the tribe. He said NIGC’s accusations are "erroneous."

Bell told The News Tribune, "Whether the commission likes our plan or not is not the issue. The issue is whether or not we’re following it, and we are." Bell says the payments to members will continue while the tribe appeals the commission’s decision.

However, some members have expressed concern with the tribe’s financial approach, which has included massive loan restructuring. A member of the group Full Circle told The News Tribune earlier this year, "There is no consideration given to long-term debt. The tribe is essentially operating on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis."