Mark Nichols, chief executive officer for the Cabazon Indians near Indio, is seeking a change to terms of his probation which he claims interferes with his ability to represent the 35-member tribe. However, federal prosecutors are fighting the bid, stating he must serve the complete term, which bars him from all political fund-raising or associating with those who do.
Last year, Nichols pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges after making illegal donations to 1996 re-election campaign of President Clinton and Vice President Gore. He was placed on five years’ probation and fined more than $250,000.
Nichols claims the probation impedes his work for the tribe, which operates the Fantasy Springs Casino. He claims a desire to comply, but not at the expense of giving up his First Amendment rights of speech, association and participation in the political process.
His Los Angeles attorney, Stanley Greenberg, filed court papers in U.S. District Counrt stating Nichols needs no rehabilitation, and the public needs no protection from him, since he didn’t pillage the US. Treasury or defrauded anybody.
"This was a more esoteric crime, involving ”˜public integrity,’" his attorney wrote.
But federal prosecutors countered it’s his own fault if he can’t do his job properly, and that Nichols used his position and his employees to perpetrate a criminal scheme.
"If various politicians determine that they do not wish to associate with the defendant because of his criminal conviction, that ostracism is both understandable and appropriate," stated prosecutor Jeffrey M. Rawitz, an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
The hearing on the case was scheduled for Monday.
The results of an FBI probe found Nichols and another tribal official funneled contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign through family members, casino workers and others, prosecutors said. Neither the tribe nor the candidates knew the source of the illegal donations.
Nichols had accepted responsibility for his actions with his three guilty pleas, as prosecutors then agreed to no jail time so he could run the Indian Nation, but be fined some $256,000 in exchange. The judge also imposed the maximum probation time, since the crime involved the political arena.
The State of New Mexico, unable to agree to a revised compact with Indian gaming nations, carried out its threat and has sued 12 casino-operating tribes in federal court.
State Attorney General Patricia Madrid argued that they must either share revenues with the state or shut down. The state seeks 18 percent of gaming revenues, one of the highest rates in the country.
Santa Clara Pueblo, which is scheduled to open a casino in March, will have time before making any payments until an agreement on revenue-sharing is made between the state and gaming nations. In the meantime, the pueblo will keep some of the anticipated funds in a separate account.
To counter the development of a golf resort at the nearby Barona Indian Band, the Sycuan Indian band is purchasing the Singing Hills Resort and Country Club, one of the most popular golfing venues in eastern San Diego County.
Barona is currently installing a new country club and golf course to compliment its new casino facility, which had taken business away from Sycuan in recent months. So the multimillion-dollar purchase is considered a major business accomplishment and continues the band’s goal of economic diversity.
Singing Hills includes two championship-quality courses, a par-3 executive course, and a 102-room resort with 11 tennis courts, two restaurants and a swimming pool. The 400-acre, 44-year-old facility lies in Dehesa Valley, just three miles west of the Sycuan reservation.
No terms were announced, but the figure is believed to range between $20-$30 million for the former olive ranch. Sycuan also agreed to retain all employees.
Sycuan is also expected to announce a $65 million casino expansion this week to stay on par with Barona, and the Viejas Casino to the east.
Meanwhile, the Barona Creek Golf Club hired PGA pro Don King to operate the golf course, pro shop, golf school and tournament management. King had been the head pro at Desert Hills Golf Club in Arizona.
The $225 million facility, which will also include a wedding chapel, is slated to open in 2002.
Panel workshop ”” A presentation on the social impacts of Indian gaming will highlight the panel workshops at the 99th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The convention is scheduled for Nov. 18 at the Hilton Inn and Towers in San Francisco.
The panel, titled "Re-Vitalizing American Indian Communities through Indian Government Gaming," was organized by Dr. Katherine Spilde, an anthropologist who serves as the Director of Research for the National Indian Gaming Association.
The scholars will discuss a range of cultural topics, including the politics of Indian museums funded by gaming revenues, the use of gaming revenues to strengthen tribal culture and tribal sovereignty, and the long-term impact of Indian gaming on Indian and non-Indian communities.
Research includes gaming facilities in Connecticut, Florida, Iowa and California.
The annual Rock ”˜n Rumble amateur boxing contest will be held in the bingo hall at Ute Mountain Casino on Nov. 24-25. The two-day competition has two weight classes for both men and women, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
Tickets are $15 at the door, with spectators asked to arrive early, since the event did sell-out last year. Ute Mountain Casino is located in Towaoc, near the Four Corners.
Meanwhile, the state gaming board announced the state surpassed the $10 billion in action for the fiscal year ending last June. A final total of $10.3 billion was inserted in slot action into the state’s 14,500 machines, while another $90.5 million was purchased in chips for blackjack and poker games.
The casinos pocketed a profit of $595 million, meaning the average player lost nearly 6 percent of their bankroll.
Since gaming began Oct. 1, 1991, Colorado casinos have made more than $3 billion from gambling.