Course change: Seneca tribe may drop NY casino plan

Jul 31, 2001 1:26 AM

Frustrated with dealing with state government, Seneca Nation leaders said last Thursday that they may pursue other options if they can’t get a casino gaming compact.

The tribal council decided to postpone a referendum scheduled for Aug. 7 on a deal to allow up to three casinos in western New York. The council’s move came in reaction to the Assembly’s delay of legislation to allow Gov. George Pataki to negotiate a gaming compact with the tribe.

Council member Arthur Montour said he is frustrated that the casino legislation, which passed the Senate, has become tangled in politics.

“We’re being used as a political pawn between the Assembly and the governor,” Montour said.

Seneca leaders said the tribe will pursue expansion of Class II gaming on its reservation. Class II gaming include bingo and some lottery-type machines that don’t require outside approvals.

“We’re going to start our Class II expansion”¦move it up to the front burner, if this (Class III) doesn’t go,” said Seneca president Cyrus Schindler.

Montour said the tribal council’s goal is to spur economic development among a tribe living in Third World conditions. The bingo hall operations, with forms of gaming machines, could bring in about half the revenue of the proposed casinos, he said, and none of it would be shared with the state or other governments.

The proposed deal between Pataki and the Seneca Nation would allow casinos on land acquired by the tribe in Niagara Falls and Buffalo and on its reservation. The state would get up to 25 percent of the revenue from gaming devices, which would include slot machines.

Court supports Tribe

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reversed its prior decision from May in pending litigation against Park Place Entertainment over the proposed $505 million St. Regis Mohawk Monticello Raceway Casino project.

The project had the potential of becoming the No. 1 casino in the world by virtue of its proximity to New York City. The $6.3 billion action was initiated last November against PPE and alleges tortuous interference and conspiracy to restrain the development of the project.

Park Place is accused in the complaint of having unlawfully induced the Tribe to terminate certain agreements and its relationships with the St. Regis.

The complaint came only one week after the U.S. Secretary of the Interior approved government acquisition of a 29-acre parcel of land adjoining the Monticello Raceway in trust on behalf of the Tribe for a gaming enterprise to be operated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

Both parties want to build the Monticello casino.

Missing revenues

Mississippi gaming revenues dropped in June after experiencing a big boost in May, according to the State Tax Commission.

Gaming revenue was down 5.5 percent last month, compared to June of 2000, according to the commission. Gross gaming revenue was $207 million for June 2001, down almost 13 percent from May’s unexpectedly high take of $237.6 million.

Brian Richard, a senior researcher at the Mississippi Gaming Association, said the fluctuations might be due to an accounting error that overestimated May and underestimated June.

Richard said that Mississippi casinos have been averaging about two percent growth over the last six months. Casinos had been averaging five to 10 percent growth before that.

Poker suit in Bayou

Louisiana Downs, a major horse racing track in Bossier City, has filed suit against state police in an attempt to get its 34 video poker machines to be turned back on. The state unplugged the devices Thursday following a dispute over a license renewal application form.

The track, local and state governments, and a horsemen’s association are losing money at the rate of about $58,000 per month, according to the suit filed last Tuesday in state district court. Part of the proceeds is used to boost racing purses.

The suit contends state police acted improperly because the request for more information was sent after June 30 and the original renewal application was postmarked June 27.

Tunica successful

Hollywood Casino Corporation announced mixed numbers for the second quarter ending June 30. Net revenue increased significantly year over year to $114.8 million.

The company reported operating cash flow decreased to $15.7 million from the $18 million earned in the same quarter last year.

The company reported strong increases in the operating cash flow of the Aurora and Tunica (Miss) casinos.

Dog days in Minny

The Grand Portage Passage in Minnesota, one of the nation’s premier dog sled races, will be scaled back because of dwindling casino revenues, according to the tribe that runs the race.

The success of a new casino in Thunder Bay, Ontario has cut into the business of a casino run by the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The casino has provided the financial lifeblood for the 315-mile race since its inception three years ago.

The purse for last year’s 12-dog race exceeded $80,000, with $15,000 going to the first-place finisher. Doug Swingley, of Lincoln, Mont., a racer who went on to win Alaska’s Iditarod as well.

Between Aug. 28, 2000, when the Thunder Bay casino opened, and Mar. 31, 2001, the business brought in revenues of more than $28 million in Canadian currency — the equivalent of about $18.1 million in U.S. currency.

Illinois bullish on Rock

The Illinois Gaming Board has approved a $2 million expansion that would increase Casino Rock Island’s slot machine total from 600 to 720.

The new games, planned to be operational this fall, are slated for a passageway leading to the casino. A second floor would be extended over the passageway, and gambling space on the riverboat also would be rearranged.

The casino’s operators hope to move it to the southwest part of the city.

Cal casino set

California business and civic leaders in Coachella showed off plans for what will be the Valley’s first permanent casino hotel.

Officials from Spotlight 29 Casino and the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians are planning a $60 million expansion of their casino.

“It is not our intention for the city of Coachella or its citizens to fund a dime’s worth of tax dollars for our expansion,” Gene Gambale, the tribe’s general counsel, told the audience.

Donald Trump, who owns casinos in Atlantic City, was existing showroom and build a 200-room hotel.

The casino portion of the project is expected to open in the spring of 2002, followed by a renovated showroom in late summer.

The hotel is slated to be ready by the end of next year.

Arizona tracks angry

Race tracks that sued the state of Arizona over Indian gaming are accusing officials of trying to undo a court ruling that said the law does not permit Gov. Jane Hull to enter new compacts or allow certain games.

The tracks stated that requiring a formal declaration of non-renewal of existing compacts will not stop gambling.

The tracks also argued that gambling could, in fact, continue for years as the court fight continues.

Hull says she wants to negotiate new compacts that would benefit both the tribes and the state.

The state asked U.S. District Judge Robert C. Broomfield to declare now that the current 10-year compacts would not renew automatically when they expire beginning in 2003.

Harrah’s deal approved

Nevada regulators approved Harrah’s purchase of Harveys, with the deal expected to close next week.

When completed, the $675 million purchase will give Harrah’s two new casinos in Lake Tahoe, two in Iowa and one in Colorado.

Regulators in Iowa and Colorado have already ratified the deal.