Tribal $$$ has Congress on warpath

Jul 29, 2003 3:55 AM

It doesn’t take much to get the attention of Congress regarding the gaming industry. Now it’s the Indians that have legislators on the warpath.

New figures from the National Indian Gaming Commission show that tribal gambling revenues jumped 33 percent between 2000 and 2002 to nearly $14.5 billion in annual profits.

While growth in Las Vegas and Atlantic City was stagnant, revenue grew by 13 percent last year over the totals from 2001.

"We are in a boom phase," said Merrill Lynch’s Kurt van Kuller, who predicts that Indian gaming will grow to an $18 billion business by 2005. "You have a significant number of major proposals in a number of states, which could also even give a significant boost to the growth."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, warned against allowing Indian tribes to go "reservation shopping" and build casinos on land that have little connection to the tribes.

The Hartford Courant reports that in as many as 22 states, tribes are looking to duplicate the phenomenal success of Foxwoods Resort Casino, which attracts many patrons from New York and Boston.

AC plans on hold

Despite improved second-quarter results in Atlantic City, Park Place Entertainment is still balking at major expansion plans because of New Jersey’s unstable tax environment, according to The Press of Atlantic City.

Park Place CEO Wallace Barr said he’s unconvinced that the $90 million casino-tax bill enacted July 1 is the last industry hit from New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey. As such, plans for a 1,000-room Caesars hotel tower and 3,200-space parking garage that were first suspended when the tax talk began in February are no closer to reality now.

"I don’t know that I agree with you that the tax issue is settled," Barr said in response to an analyst’s question on a conference call to discuss earnings "I’m not investing $200 million in another (hotel) tower and $75 million in a parking garage without having some understanding of the parameters of where the future years are."

Park Place reported second-quarter Atlantic City cash flow of $124 million, up 7 percent, on net revenue of $390 million, up 2 percent.

Peace pipe from Gray

Embattled California Gov. Gray Davis is trying to shore up his support among wealthy Indian tribes that are among the state’s most powerful political forces.

Davis appointed an Indian liaison, who will immediately take over the gambling-oversight responsibilities for a top aide that influential tribal officials had criticized.

Davis selected Marilyn Delgado, a member of an obscure Northern California tribe. Delgado is a 23-year state employee with no experience in gambling matters.

The governor has only a 22 percent approval rating in recent state polls and is fighting to keep his job.

L.I. casino on hold

The controversial plan to build a gambling casino in the Hamptons on eastern Long Island received another setback last week.

The New York Times reports that Indian tribal leaders agreed in court last Friday to a one-week delay in their plans to build a casino on the 79-acre site in Hampton Bays.

The Shinnecocks, claiming much of their ancestral homeland was taken by white settlers and descendants, contend they need the casino for jobs and income.

New York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer has sued the tribe, saying that the project does not have the required environmental permits. Spitzer also maintains that the Shinnecocks lack federal recognition as an official tribe.

Senecas expanding

The Seneca tribe voted last week to build a second casino near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Rickey Armstrong, Seneca Nation president, said his group doesn’t need the approval of the governor to build a casino.

Armstrong indicated the Senecas were also interested in opening a casino in the Catskills and another gambing facility near Pittsburgh. He admitted those plans face many political and financial hurdles.

Michigan approves casino

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm cleared the way for a second gaming site to be built by the Odawa Indians in Mackinaw City.

The amendment is the first by a Michigan governor since the state began limiting tribes to only one casino each in the 1990s.

Under terms of the compact amendment, a second casino would pay the state 10 percent of all electronic machine revenues up to $50 million annually and 12 percent thereafter.

Around the USA

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