Fed up: From Louisiana to Maine, gaming takes shots

Mar 12, 2002 5:00 AM

    The Choctaw Indians of Louisiana can sympathize with two Maine tribes after seeing their planned casinos crushed by legislators.

   Federal officials rejected an agreement that would let the Jana Band of Choctaws to place a huge casino near the Texas state line. The ruling, however, could be a blessing for Boyd Gaming, which recently began slot activities at Delta Downs racetrack and two nearby casinos operated by Harrah’s Entertainment and Isle of Capri.

   Proposed by the Choctaws and supported by Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster through a gaming compact, the tribe would have to spend some $750 million to build a Las Vegas-styled casino that would have been a huge attraction for the residents of Eastern Texas.

   The decision to reject the plan was made Thursday by Neal McCaleb, assistant secretary for Indian affairs. McCaleb said that the department objected to 15.5 percent of the net revenue going to the state for little in return.

   In Maine, all bets are off as to whether the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes will be able to build their planned $400 to $600 million hotel and casino in Kittery, 50 miles from Boston.

   The state legislature was unable to override a veto by Gov. Angus King that would have extended the right of the tribes to purchase land in Calais, where they wanted to build a casino. At present, casino gambling is illegal in Maine.

   Tribal officials had not lobbied to override the veto, opting to focus on gaining support for the Kittery project. However, King came out strongly against a casino in Kittery, saying that a gambling complex should not be the first thing people should see when arriving in Maine.


Another hit in Miss

   The Choctaw Indians of Mississippi marked another milestone Friday with the announcement of the new 571-room Golden Moon Hotel and Casino near Philadelphia.

   The Golden Moon, slated to open this fall, will join the Silver Star Hotel and Casino as the centerpieces of the tribe’s $750 million Pearl River Resort. The $177 million Golden Moon will feature 144 suites, five restaurants and a massive eight-story golden disc atop the building.

   The Pearl River Resort eventually will employ around 7,800 people. Mississippi lost more than 13,000 manufacturing jobs last year as companies moved or closed factories.

   The seven-year-old Silver Star is the state’s only land-based casino and the highest grossing gambling operation.


Zoned in on gaming

   The state of Arizona is counting on a unprecedented gaming boom on the Indian reservations to meet the revenue expectations laid out in Gov. Jane Hull’s agreement with the tribes.

   The number of slot machines in the Phoenix area could double almost immediately if the compact is approved by the State Legislature. Officials would not disclose how those figures were reached.

   Current compacts with Indian tribes make it illegal to release any facts about how much money tribal governments are making from their casinos.

   Mike Bielecki, a top Hull aide, acknowledged that both Phoenix and Tucson were likely to see a short-term hike in gambling activity should the agreements become law.


Mohegan on rise

   The Mohegan Sun casino’s new hotel and convention is preparing to host its first group, the 2,500 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha on April 23.

   The 100,000-square foot convention center is the first of its kind in eastern Connecticut and the sixth largest in the nation. Tourism officials say the center will add even more life to the state’s vibrant tourism industry.

   The building is the latest phase in the $1 billion Mohegan Sun Project Sunburst expansion and is poised to become “the premiere meeting space on the East Coast,” according to David Casey, the vice president for local sales and marketing.

   “All the data suggests that business people will bring their families and make it a vacation,” said Vivian Stanley, executive director of Mystic & More.”With the potential for additional large groups, more people will come from farther away who have never visited New England.”

   The convention center has received bookings almost a year in advance of their scheduled meeting dates.


Indiana dilemma

   Gov. Frank O’Bannon, a longtime opponent to gambling expansion, may be faced with a crossroads decision if a re-shaped gambling bill makes its way to his desk.

   House and Senate lawmakers got together to scale down a gambling bill in the hope of swaying enough votes in both chambers so that it would reach O’Bannon.

   The latest version would allow gamblers on riverboats to come and go at will, legalizing much larger, land-based gambling barges along Lake Michigan and pave the way for thousands of electronic pull-tab machines at horse racing venues.

            The governor has expressed a desire for more tax revenue, which the gambling bill would provide.