Friday, December 28, 2012


The late Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Chairman Stanley R. Crooks was named Shakopee Patch's 2012 Person of the Year on December 27, 2012. Chairman Crooks passed away August 25, 2012, of natural causes. He served as Chairman of the SMSC for twenty years.

Chairman Crooks garnered 68 percent of the vote in the poll run by the national online news outlet’s Shakopee site. He was one of three people nominated by readers of the website for their contributions to Shakopee.

Those who nominated Crooks described him as "an amazing leader, not just for his own Dakota community but for other tribes throughout Minnesota and the entire United States," and commended him for honoring the ancient Sioux tradition of generosity. Since 1996, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has donated nearly $260 million to tribes and charitable organizations in Minnesota and across the midwest, including the 2008 donation of $14.5 million to the University of Minnesota for construction of the Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza at TCF Stadium and creation of a scholarship fund for Native American students.

A staunch supporter of a diversified approach to economic development in Indian Country, Chairman Crooks was an inspiration to other tribal governments. He mentored leaders from other tribal nations and led the creation of a loan program which has been responsible for more than $523 million in loans to other tribes for economic and infrastructure development projects in recent years.

Under Crooks' leadership, the SMSC also became a driving force for employment and economic growth in Shakopee and the surrounding area. With a payroll of over $178 million in wages and benefits in its gaming and governmental operations, the tribe is the largest employer in Scott County.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Passage of an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require state-issued voter ID cards in order to vote could prevent many American Indians from voting, according to officials of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA).

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said the proposed amendment, which will appear on the November 6 general election ballot, would create unnecessary obstacles to voting, especially for elders and those who lack transportation, use post office boxes as their primary mailing address, or may not be able to afford fees associated with the new IDs. If passed, the amendment would make it impossible for tribal members to use their tribal IDs to vote in future elections.

In 2006, Minnesota tribes took legal action against then-Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, whose office refused to recognize tribal identification cards as legal IDs for voting purposes. The tribes won the fight, and tribal IDs have been recognized as equivalent to state-issued IDs for voting purposes ever since. The proposed Voter ID amendment would change that.

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will host an educational forum and rally against the Voter ID amendment on Thursday, September 20, at 10 a.m. at Northern Lights Casino in Walker, according to Leech Lake Chairwoman Cari Jones. The event is open to all.

"Many of our tribal members are unaware of how passage of this amendment could affect their voting rights," Jones said. "It would make it much more difficult for our people to participate in the democratic process. That is not acceptable to us."

"Passage of the Voter ID amendment would be a huge step backwards, not only for American Indians in Minnesota but for all those who continue to struggle against marginalization in our democracy," said McCarthy. "Our goal as a state and as a nation should be to maximize participation, not make it more difficult."

The non-partisan Minnesota League of Women Voters opposes the Voter ID amendment, according to the organization's website, because it is unnecessary, creates hurdles for eligible voters, and amounts to a costly, unfunded government mandate.

A coalition of religious leaders also has announced opposition to the Voter ID amendment, and has mounted a "Faith in Democracy" campaign to defeat it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


An estimated 1500 relatives, friends, tribal leaders and other dignitaries from across the nation gathered yesterday (Wednesday, August 29) at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) to honor the memory of beloved Tribal Chairman Stanley R. Crooks, who died Saturday, August 25.  

The funeral service at Tiowakan Spiritual Center was preceded by a traditional all night vigil and prayer service, on Tuesday night, during which dozens of relatives and friends spoke about the leader all described as quiet, unassuming, generous, devoted to his family, and dedicated to the service of his community and all Native people.

Eulogists at the funeral service included Charlie Vig, who now succeeds Crooks as SMSC Chairman; Keith Anderson, SMSC Vice Chairman; Ernie Stevens, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA); Glynn Crooks, former SMSC Vice Chairman and cousin to Chairman Crooks; and Cecelia Firethunder, former President of the Oglala Sioux Nation. Reverend Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo officiated.

Attending were representatives from more than two dozen tribal nations, including Bad River, Bois Forte, Crow Creek, Flandreau Santee, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Kickapoo, Leech Lake, Lower Sioux, Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara (Three Affiliated), Mille Lacs, Oglala Sioux (Pine Ridge), Omaha of Nebraska, Oneida of New York, Oneida of Wisconsin, Prairie Island, Red Cliff, Red Lake, Rosebud Sioux, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Spirit Lake, Standing Rock, Stockbridge-Munsee, Upper Sioux Community, and White Earth.  

Also attending were state and federal dignitaries, including Governor Mark Dayton; U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum and John Kline; and numerous Minnesota legislators, city and county officials. 

The printed funeral program included a statement from the Crooks family that read, “We, the family of Stanley R. Crooks, wish to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to all the friends and relatives that have helped out during this difficult time. He was a devoted father, son, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many. He will be missed. Pidamayaye (thank you).”

Star-Tribune coverage of the funeral

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has provided additional information on parking for today's wake and tomorrow's funeral service for Chairman Stanley Crooks. Due to the limited parking available at the Tiowakan Spiritual Center, guests are asked to follow the directional signage to the designated parking areas, located in the Team Member parking lots just northwest of Mystic Lake Casino on Dakota Parkway. Shuttle service will be provided from Team Member lots to Tiowakan.


The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) released a statement today reflecting on the life and contributions of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Stanley R. Crooks, a lifetime member of NCAI and prominent leader in Indian Country, who passed away this past Saturday August 25, 2012 from natural causes.

"Chairman Crooks was a dedicated Lifetime Member of NCAI and his passion for making Indian Country stronger was only surpassed by his love for his family and community. He was bold, and he carried with him the pride and courage of the Dakota people. We are sure there will be generations of great leaders who will walk in his footsteps and continue the vision of the nation he led and the efforts he supported," said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI, and Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation.

"Chairman Crooks will long be remembered at NCAI for his many contributions to Indian Country and his steadfast support for a unified voice for Indian Country. One of his greatest gifts to NCAI - and Indian Country - was his leadership, and that of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in helping to establish the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C.  The legacy of Stanley Crooks' leadership is honored every time a tribal leader or citizen walks in the doors of our great Embassy; when a foreign dignitary or senior U.S. government official visits to build stronger ties between nations; when NCAI staff members arrive every day to work for the betterment of Indian Country. In the Embassy of Tribal Nations, his legacy will live on to the seventh generation, and beyond, and for that Indian Country should be forever grateful to Chairman Crooks and the nation he led for so many years."

In February of 2006, the Shakopee Nation, led by Chairman Crooks, became the first Eagle level donor, establishing a challenge grant in the sum of $1 million, calling on other tribes to engage in the Embassy of Tribal Nations Capital Campaign project. In 2009, the Embassy of Tribal Nations was opened in the heart of Washington, D.C.'s "Embassy Row."

In April of 2006 Chairman Crooks wrote an op-ed in which he outlined the vision for the Embassy and why it was important for Indian Country to realize the longtime vision for a home in the nation's Capital:

"The Embassy of Tribal Nations will benefit all Indian nations and all Native people for generations to come.  It will give Indian nations a permanent home in our nation's capital.  With this embassy, we can work towards increasing the status of our tribes and take our rightful place among other sovereign nations of the world - giving credence and attention to issues of importance in Indian Country. 

By working under the same roof with other national Indian organizations and tribes, our goal of working with one voice can be attained.  With a permanent home, Indian nations will have a base from which to carry out our intergovernmental relations to protect tribal sovereignty and treaty obligations.

The Embassy of Tribal Nations is an investment in the future of Indian Country.  When this building is completed, all of Indian Country will have a presence in the Nation's Capital and the halls of Congress like never before. " - Chairman Stanley Crooks, April 2006

In 2004 the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community contributed $100,000 to launch another important NCAI institution - the NCAI Policy Research Center - a tribally-driven research center dedicated to supporting Indian Country in shaping its own future.

Chairman Crooks' leadership was also instrumental to a renaissance in Native philanthropy. Under his leadership, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community members have approved community donations of more than $243 million to tribes and charitable organizations since 1996 and tribal loans of more than $450 million for economic development and community development. He served as Chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for more than 20 successive years and was reelected for a new four-year term of office in January of 2012.

Note: Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights.


Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) Chairman Norman Deschampe, who also serves as Chairman of the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, issued the following statement today on behalf of the six tribes that comprise the MCT:

"The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe grieves the loss of Chairman Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Chairman Crooks was an exceptional leader in every sense of the word. His strength of
character enabled him to transcend lingering historic differences between tribes. Many of Minnesota's Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribes have experienced the generosity of Chairman Crooks and the Shakopee Sioux
community in the forms of grants and loans for everything from economic development programs to community facilities. Stan's good will and honorable intentions were evident to all who knew him, and contributed greatly to the success of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which has an extraordinary record of success in defense of tribal interests at the State Capitol as well as in Washington DC.

"On behalf of our six member bands--Fond du Lac, Bois Forte, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, White Earth and Grand Portage--the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe extends its sincere condolences to the family of
Chairman Crooks, his colleagues on the Shakopee Business Council, community members and all those who have lost a beloved friend and colleague."

Monday, August 27, 2012


In a statement issued today, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Chairman Kevin Leecy described his friend and colleague Chairman Stanley Crooks as "a true leader on so many fronts." The full statement read:

"Stanley was a tireless defender of tribal sovereignty, which is the lifeblood of our Indian nations. He understood that sovereignty is fundamental to all of our endeavors and all of our successes, and that it must be protected at all times.

"Stanley was also a leader in philanthropy. Indian traditions emphasize the importance of  sharing, and under Stanley's direction, the Shakopee Mdewakanton became one of Minnesota's most generous entities. The tribe's philanthropy has helped  Indian people across the country, and it has benefited non-Indian people and communities as well.

"Stanley Crooks leaves behind a legacy of leadership and community stewardship that
will be felt for generations to come."


National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. has issued an official statement praising the leadership and contributions of Chairman Stanley Crooks. Here is the full text with accompanying graphic:

"This past Saturday, I was notified that Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community's Chairman Stanley R. Crooks began his journey to the spirit world. This comes only two days after my visit with him at the St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Minnesota. 

"Stanley Crooks was an outstanding leader, chief, and visionary. In his life and leadership, he exemplified the Dakota virtues of courage, respect, generosity and wisdom. Over the past twenty plus years, Chairman Crooks showed the courage to always stand up for Indian sovereignty in the Halls of Congress, the State Capitol, and at home. Stanley always stood strong for the integrity of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which he viewed as a modern day treaty. 

"Chairman Crooks respected his people, neighbors, tribal, state and Federal leaders, and they respected him. With his leadership and the Shakopee Mdewakanton's generosity are legendary. Traveling through Sioux country, one can see Shakopee's support for other Indian tribes--at Rosebud, the Turtle Creek Crossing Grocery Store; at Pine Ridge, Prairie Winds Casino, at Standing Rock, the new wing at Prairie Knights Hotel; and at Cheyenne River, the nursing home. These are just a few examples of his determination to support Indian country. 

"Chairman Crooks had a great vision for Indian country, as sovereigns we are part of the American family of governments and our children look forward to a bright future. He saw his people lifted above the constraints of poverty and instilled them with the strength and resilience that you see today for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Chairman Crooks also had the wisdom to listen to others and respect their views. 

"Over the recent years, we had direct challenges to our efforts in Washington, DC and Chairman Crooks came in to outweigh these demoralizing threats by using his own voice to share the real benefits of Indian gaming. Time and again, Chairman Crooks demonstrated his unwavering leadership in support of Indian sovereignty. He called upon tribal leaders to develop a plan to educate Congress on the benefits of Indian gaming and the strength of tribal self-determination. His leadership was the backbone of the tribal government effort to defend Indian sovereignty. 

"Under his leadership, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community members have approved community donations of more than $243 million to tribes and charitable organizations since 1996 and tribal loans of more than $450 million for economic development and community development. He served as Chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for more than 20 successive years and was reelected for a new four-year term of office in January of 2012. 

"Crooks, who became the tribe's chairman in 1992, was a national figure in Indian country, serving as the chairman of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association for many years and the tribe's representative to the National Indian Gaming Association, as well as to the National Congress of American Indians. 

"National tribal leaders selected Stanley Crooks for the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award in 2005. This award recognized his commitment to the advancement of tribal sovereignty. And in 2010, they gave him the Chairman's Leadership Award of Excellence for his environmental advocacy work. These awards are the highest honors NIGA gives to leaders dedicating their lives to making a better world for their people. Chairman Crooks has surely demonstrated that not just to his people, but also to his neighbors and other tribes. 

"Every time that I visited with the Chairman, I walked away motivated and energized. As soon as I heard of his passing, I immediately notified my son, Brandon Yellowbird Stevens Councilman at Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, who then informed our tribal officials. I then informed former Oneida Chairman Rick Hill. Chairman Hill, who previously served as Chairman of NIGA, made the introduction and developed my friendship to Chairman Crooks. 

"When I last saw Chairman Crooks, I assured him that we will stand united with our tribes and that his vision will continue with our leaders. He taught us well and I thank him for his knowledge and generosity. Today, you can feel the immeasurable impact he gave his people and to Indian country. 

"He was a leader for many and on behalf of the National Indian Gaming Association, we thank Chairman Stanley Crooks for his tenacity, quick wit, and passion."


Floyd "Buck" Jourdain, Chairman of the Red Lake Nation, has issued the following statement paying tribute to Chairman Stanley Crooks, who died Saturday after more than two decades of service to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and MIGA:

"It is with heavy hearts that the Red Lake Tribal Council acknowledges the passing of Chairman Stanley Crooks, who passed on August 25, 2012. Chairman Crooks was a dear friend of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

Chairman Crooks was well revered, and respected by all Minnesota Indian leaders. His leadership and genuine concern for all Indian nations will be missed. Chairman Crooks continued the legacy and mission of his father, Norman Crooks, who was a pioneer of Indian gaming. Stanley fought hard to preserve gaming for what it was intended for, to benefit Indian people who have little opportunity.

Chairman Crooks and the Shakopee tribe generously contributed millions to Indian country, asking nothing in return. Here at Red Lake, Shakopee grants helped build two Boys & Girls Clubs, a skate park, basketball courts, and provided the startup money so that the Red Lake Band could breathe life back into the Red Lake fisheries and get people working again.

It brought tears to Chairman Crooks' eyes when he observed the people at the fisheries working, feeling good and taking home a paycheck to their families. He was quoted as saying, "Now that's what it's all about! That's why we do what we do." He was equally proud of the fact that Shakopee played a part in providing a safe place for reservation kids to play and flourish at the Boys & Girls Clubs both at Red Lake and in Ponemah.

In the midst of a tough economic crisis in America, when banks would not loan money to Red Lake or wanted to gouge the tribe with high fees, Shakopee provided a loan to the Red Lake Band with low interest rates which enabled us to build the Red Lake casino, a convenience store, and a tribal justice complex. Also, the forestry greenhouse, a police substation in Ponemah and a new elderly nutrition building were projects that were completed with the help of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

Without the leadership and support of Chairman Stanley Crooks and the rest of his Tribal Council, these projects may not have come to reality as quickly and as easily as they did. Some would not have happened at all.

The Chairman was uncompromising in his belief that Indian people come first. He was a strong leader with a big heart and a good man, who led with wisdom and integrity. He will be missed.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family, the Shakopee Tribal Council, and the entire Shakopee Mdewekanton Sioux Community."

Members of the 2006 Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Business Council with Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain, right: from left, Secretary-Treasurer Keith Anderson; Vice Chairman Glynn Crooks; and Chairman Stanley Crooks, accompanied by band members and friends.


Funeral arrangements for Chairman Stanley Crooks now are confirmed. Visitation will begin at 5 pm Tuesday, August 28, at the Tiowakan Spiritual Center on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Reservation. Eulogies and remarks by guests will begin at 7 pm. The visitation and traditional vigil will continue through the night. The funeral service will be held at Tiowakan at 11 am on Wednesday, August 29. 

Since Tiowakan Spiritual Center has limited seating capacity, covered overflow seating will be provided adjacent to the Center, where video and audio feed of the service will be available. No parking will be available at the Center, so please follow directional signage on Highway 83 to designated parking areas, where shuttle service will be provided. 

The Star-Tribune and Pioneer Press obituaries for Chairman Crooks include an on-line Guest Book for those wishing to leave messages of condolence.


Long-time MIGA lobbyist Andy Kozak, who worked closely with Chairman Stan Crooks for more than twenty years, posted this comment and photo on his Facebook page yesterday. It is a heartfelt tribute, and one that expresses what many who worked with Stan Crooks are feeling today.

"This quiet, unassuming man, Stanley Crooks, for 22 years led the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe that tendered more financial help to other Native American tribes than any tribe in American history. And when thanks were offered to Stan, his reply was always the same: the thanks belongs to the tribal members who elected him to serve.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) issued the following statement yesterday on the death of Chairman Stanley Crooks:

“The passing of Chairman Stanley Crooks is a tremendous loss for Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, for all tribal Nations, and for anyone who worked closely with him.  Chairman Crooks’ leadership transformed his community and made him a highly respected national figure.

Chairman Crooks touched many, many lives in a way that gave hope, opportunity, and dignity to Native American families and communities in need.  He was a visionary and a proud leader for whom I have tremendous appreciation, respect, and fondness. I would like to extend my prayers and deepest sympathies to Chairman Crooks’ family, the entire Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and all who encountered his generosity and profound spirit.”

Also yesterday, Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Zellers issued this statement:

"Today, Minnesota lost a great leader in Chairman Stanley Crooks. His legacy of helping people in need and working hard to improve the lives of American Indians will endure in Minnesota's history. Stanley was a remarkable and wise leader who did an enormous amount of good in his life, not only for his own tribe, but for many people all across the Midwest. He was not only a great individual leader, but a great Minnesotan. It was a privilege to know Stanley and I am proud to call him a personal friend. My family and I send my condolences and prayers to Stanley's family and the members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community."



Saturday, August 25, 2012


Minnesota Indian tribes are mourning the loss of Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) Chairman Stanley Crooks, who passed away today at St. Francis Medical Center in Shakopee, MN.

Crooks, 70, had led MIGA since 1992, shortly after being elected to his first term as chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. He brought unprecedented stability and continuity to his tribe and MIGA during more than two decades of service.

“It is hard to find the words to express the extent of the loss we have suffered today,” said MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy. “Chairman Crooks was one of the most respected and admired leaders in all of Indian country, but he was also a beloved friend and colleague to many of us who have worked with him over the past twenty years.”

Under Crooks’ leadership, MIGA became an influential advocate on behalf of tribes in Minnesota and nationally.

“Stan Crooks was a tireless warrior for sovereignty and tribal rights,” said McCarthy. “He wasn’t afraid to take on the tough fights, even when it meant going toe to toe with powerful politicians in St. Paul as well as Washington DC. For Stan, it was all about protecting the future so tribes wouldn’t have to repeat the past.”

Funeral arrangements are pending. 

Monday, July 23, 2012


In a rare TV interview last week, Chairman Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) told TPT "Almanac" reporter Mary LaHammer that he and Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson reached their historic joint marketing agreement after "a great conversation" that lasted only two hours. "The handlers took it from there," he said.

Despite the deal, Crooks said he thinks the pressure for expanded gambling isn't likely to go away, given the state's continuing budget deficit problems. "The racino issue may be quieted somewhat, but there's plenty of clamor still out there," he said.

LaHammer asked Chairman Crooks about the hundreds of millions of dollars his tribe has donated to charitable causes and other Native nations. "You have to remember that we didn't have a lot back in the '60s when our community was first recognized," he responded. "It's just part of our culture--you use what you need, and you share the excess." The total so far is approaching one billion dollars--about half a billion in loans, and over $200 million in grants. 

The interview also touched on the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Dakota Conflict, which led to the December, 1862 hanging of 32 Sioux warriors by order of President Abraham Lincoln. The event remains the largest mass government execution in American history. "Certainly it's on the minds of a lot of Dakota people," Crooks said. "It's very close to us."

Chief Shakopee, for whom the Shakopee community was named, was one of those hung. Crooks is a descendant of friendly Sioux who helped white settlers escape harm during the conflict, but most of those Indians were exiled from Minnesota. A handful of families remained behind or returned, forming the tiny community that eventually won federal recognition in 1969.

"People ask how we were able to set up a village next to the Twin Cities," he said. "We were always here. In hindsight, we're grateful that the Twin Cities got built; if they hadn't been, we wouldn't be so successful."

After twenty years as SMSC Chairman, Crooks commented on his legacy. "I find all we've been able to accomplish astounding, and I'm humbled to have been able to play a role. Of those to whom much is given, much is expected. That's kind of my belief anyway."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Mystic Lake Casino, an enterprise of the Shakopee Mdewkanton Sioux Community (SMSC), has entered into a long-term joint marketing agreement with Canterbury Park that takes racinos off the table for ten years, fostering growth at both properties and preserving rural jobs in gaming and the horse industry.

The agreement was described by Canterbury Park President and CEO Randy Sampson as "a milestone that will mark the rebound of Minnesota horse racing and our local equine industry." Under its terms, Mystic Lake will contribute $75 million over ten years to enhance purses at the track, and another $8.5 million over that period to fund joint marketing efforts. In exchange, Canterbury Park will no longer pursue legislation authorizing racinos in Minnesota, and will join forces with SMSC to defeat other proposals for gambling expansion that could hurt both businesses. Other joint promotional efforts will be developed as well.

SMSC Chairman Stanley Crooks said the agreement offers advantages to both parties. In addition to preserving rural jobs for Minnesota, he said, "it lets us focus on the broader interests that we share."

Mystic Lake CEO Ed Stevenson explained that the partnership would enhance the branding of the southwest metro area as "the premier entertainment and gaming destination in Minnesota and the midwest, while providing significant financial support to horse racing at Canterbury Park and much-needed stimulus to the Minnesota equine industry.”

The deal was initiated by Canterbury officials at the suggestion of Minnesota House of Representatives Speaker Kurt Zellers, who urged Sampson to contact SMSC and explore possible joint efforts.

Minnesota tribes have been fighting the racino proposals for nearly fifteen years, fearing that legalizing slot machines at race tracks would open the door to slots in bars, restaurants, shopping malls and other venues statewide. The deal between Mystic Lake and Shakopee probably takes those other options off the table for the foreseeable future, according to Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, who authored the racino bill in the 2012 session.

In a June 5 MinnPost story, Senjem said, "My sense is that discussion of a larger-scale gaming effort in Minnesota, at least at this point without racino, is probably over for a while. I don’t sense any other cause that would bring it to the floor that can’t and shouldn’t otherwise be addressed through … building a strong and robust Minnesota economy."

John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA), agreed. "Many people who wouldn't otherwise have supported gambling expansion felt obligated to support the racino because Minnesota's horse industry was in pretty bad shape and needed the boost. Now that racino is off the table, I can't think of another expansion scheme that has anywhere near enough public or legislative support to pass, at least in the near future."

For a sampling of media coverage of the story, follow these links:

MinnPost, June 5, James Nord

Star Tribune, June 6, Rachel Blount

Star Tribune, June 6, Tony Kennedy

Pioneer Press, June 4, Steve Karnowski

Friday, April 6, 2012


A racino bill passed by the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee on March 30 may be dead for the 2012 session, according to yesterday's edition of "Hot Dish Politics," a political blog written by Star-Tribune reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger.

According to Stassen-Berger, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, a racino supporter, said "the idea lacks a majority of backers in the House and Senate."

"I think we are perhaps a little short right now...the stark reality is that it would be difficult," Senjem reportedly said.

The blog also reports that the bill was supposed to receive consideration in the Senate Rules committee, which Senjem chairs, but that he "has no plans to hold a hearing on it."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


A statement issued today by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) says the White Earth Band of Ojibwe’s offer to partner with the State of Minnesota on a casino to benefit the Minnesota Vikings is “misguided,” and contrary to long-term tribal interests. Here is the full text of the statement:

The member tribes of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) continue to oppose efforts by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe to develop an off-reservation casino in the Twin Cities. White Earth has put forth similar proposals at least three times in the past, and MIGA has opposed them on numerous grounds.

First, we believe that any effort by a tribe to expand gambling into off-reservation locations is misguided and contrary to the spirit of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the federal law under which Indian gaming is conducted and regulated. IGRA was intended to create jobs and stimulate economic activity on Indian reservations, where traditional approaches to economic development have failed.

Second, White Earth’s proposal is contrary to long-term tribal interests because it compromises sovereignty, diverts tribal revenues to non-tribal purposes, in violation of federal law and the tribal government’s responsibility to its own members, and sets a dangerous precedent for unwarranted revenue-sharing. By positioning itself as a financing partner offering to develop a casino and share proceeds with the State of Minnesota outside the framework of IGRA, the tribe has waived its sovereign status and put itself on the same level as any private-sector developer.

Third, the premise of the White Earth proposal is that it would address “the extreme disparity in revenues generated by tribal casinos.” Since Indian gaming was intended as a tool for economic development on the reservation, it was never envisioned or intended that tribes would benefit equally. IGRA recognized that each tribe would be operating its gaming enterprises on tribal lands with all the benefits and limitations inherent in those locations. Moreover, the proposal as currently written would not remedy revenue disparities; it would merely increase revenue for one tribe, at the expense of others.

Fourth, the White Earth bill (Article 1, Section 1) asserts a “lack of significant direct revenue to the State of Minnesota” from tribal gaming. In fact, federal law and the rulings of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) both have reaffirmed that tribes may not divert gaming revenues to states or cities except to pay for benefits or services provided by those entities.

The intent of Indian gaming was to produce revenue for tribes, not states. The suggestion that the state has a right to tribal gaming revenues is simply wrongheaded and totally inconsistent with the stated intent of IGRA. In Minnesota, tribal casinos were developed without a nickel of state assistance. The 41,000 jobs created, directly and indirectly, by Indian gaming have not cost Minnesota taxpayers a dime.

Fifth, the suggestion that the state would bind itself to an exclusivity agreement for thirty years in exchange for 50 percent of the proceeds of a White Earth-owned casino is patently absurd. There is not a single state in the U.S. that, having entered the casino business, has stopped at one casino. What happens when Minnesota decides it needs another casino, and then another?

MIGA member tribes take no pleasure in opposing White Earth on this matter. However, the tribe’s proposal is so inimical to the interests of the other tribes in Minnesota that we believe we have no alternative.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Calling a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about Indian gaming regulation a "superficial analysis" that "omitted key facts," Prairie Island Indian Community President Johnny Johnson took the newspaper to task in an opinion column published today. The complete text of the piece follows:

Tribal slots and casinos get abundant review

On Jan. 22, for the second Sunday in a row, the Star Tribune published a front-page article that omitted key facts about tribal government gaming in Minnesota ("Slots get little or no state review"). The superficial analysis of tribal gaming regulation leaves readers misinformed and gives tribal gaming opponents false ammunition to unfairly criticize the gaming enterprises and to disparage state regulators.

Minnesota's tribal casinos are among the most heavily regulated casinos in the United States -- that includes private casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Multiple layers of operators and regulators provide comprehensive, redundant oversight of video slot machines and table games in tribal casinos
to ensure that they are operated in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations -- tribal, state and federal.

Does the fact that the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety has only three inspectors, who may not inspect each tribal casino annually, mean they are unregulated and operating in violation of the tribal-state compacts? Of course not.

The integrity of tribal gaming is protected at all levels, not only by tribal, state and federal regulators, but also by the vendors who supply the games and by the tribal casinos that operate them. Treasure Island Resort and Casino, like other tribal casinos, purchases video slot machines only from respected vendors licensed by the Prairie Island Indian Community Gaming Commission and the state of Minnesota. Vendors who provided noncompliant machines would jeopardize not just their tribal licensure, but their licensure at every facility in every jurisdiction where they do business.

In addition, Treasure Island only purchases video slot machines that have been approved by the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division. Before any machine is placed on the floor, it is rigorously tested and certified for compliance multiple times by independent laboratories such as Gaming Laboratories International, and also by casino employees and the tribal gaming commission. All components are sealed with security
tape to prevent tampering.

Each video slot machine is constantly monitored during operation on the gaming floor and also when removed for maintenance. Treasure Island, for example, utilizes state-of-the-art surveillance and slot monitoring systems to ensure integrity of gaming operations. These sophisticated systems provide daily reporting to the gaming operation, as well as to tribal regulatory authorities, to demonstrate ongoing compliance. Any exceptions are identified and investigated, including further compliance testing, if necessary.

Two other independent layers of review -- the tribe's internal audit and its third-party external audit -- will review these reports and perform their own inspections. Machine compliance is reverified through that same multilayer regulatory structure when machines are serviced, and machines will be returned to operation only when such compliance is demonstrated. This is all over and above what any state regulators may do.

In addition, the National Indian Gaming Commission performs its own independent reviews, audits and inspections to ensure that the gaming enterprise complies with applicable laws, regulations and minimum internal control standards. Each level of operational and regulatory oversight ensures that the video slot machines and table games are fully compliant with tribal-state compacts and with all applicable laws, regulations and internal control standards.

Our efforts are thorough and exhaustive to ensure the integrity of our games for our customers. We hold ourselves to an even higher standard than the state requires. We are very proud of our gaming enterprise and regulatory oversight, and invite Gov. Mark Dayton, Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Doh, Director of Gambling Enforcement Michele Tuchner, Sen. Mike Parry, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Rep. Tony Cornish and any other interested legislator to come tour our gaming facility.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has responded to a recent story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune claiming that lax state regulation means its casinos have been unregulated. Here is the complete text of the tribe's response, published on Friday, January 27 on the news website

Tribal gaming at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community:
A heavily regulated game

Recent print news articles suggest the biggest tribal casinos in the state, including Mystic Lake Casino Hotel operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, have gone years without inspections to validate the integrity of slots and table games. Unfortunately, this information is factually incorrect and misleading.

These misleading stories report that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the state regulator with the authority to inspect tribal casinos under the Tribal-State Compacts, is lagging in its responsibility to inspect casinos. The stories are misleading because they imply that tribal casinos aren’t regulated. Such an implication misrepresents the high level of regulatory compliance that tribal casinos are subject to on a continuing basis, regardless of the activity of state regulators.

The fact is that the Mystic Lake and Little Six Casino properties of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community are two of the most highly regulated operations in Minnesota and across the United States. For these regulatory efforts, Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos are recognized as the gold standard for regulatory compliance throughout Indian Country.

Mystic Lake Casino, Little Six Casino and other Indian casinos in Minnesota are regulated by multiple entities other than the State of Minnesota. This includes the National Indian Gaming Commission, their respective tribal gaming commissions, internal compliance departments, and independent testing laboratories. The State of Minnesota does not have the primary regulatory authority over these federally authorized gaming operations.

Through the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), an independent federal regulatory agency within the Department of Interior, Minimum Internal Control Standards have been promulgated setting forth the regulatory standards to be complied with by all Tribes in the conduct of gaming. The NIGC conducts independent regulatory inspections; Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino were subject to three on-site inspections in 2011 by the NIGC, with no problems or exceptions noted.

In addition to NIGC regulatory oversight, the Tribal governments have their own gaming commissions, responsible for regulatory oversight. Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino are subject to the regulatory oversight of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Commission, an independent gaming regulatory entity of the tribal government that employs 27 experienced regulators.

The sole responsibility of the Gaming Commission and its staff is to regulate and inspect gaming operations to ensure the integrity of slots and table games, and compliance with all federal, state and tribal regulatory standards. At Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos, various Gaming Commission staff are on-site daily performing inspections of all gaming operations.

At Tribal casinos, the game program software in all slot machines is required to be certified by an independent gaming test laboratory. It is through such testing and certification that there are assurances the slot machines comply with the standards of the Tribal/State Compacts and other promulgated regulatory standards regarding operations and payout percentages.

The Gaming Commission staff regulating Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos randomly inspects 30 percent of all slot machines yearly to verify the validity and integrity of the game software programs. Furthermore, with any new game or a program change to an existing game, prior to such games being placed into play, the Gaming Commission inspects the games and verifies the software.

In addition to the role of the Gaming Commission, within the operations of Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino is the existence of a Compliance division that operates independently of management and reports directly to the Board of Directors. Within Compliance, the departments of Internal Audit, Surveillance, and Security are entrusted to monitor and enforce regulations and operating standards as they pertain to the conduct of gaming.

Internal Audit with a staff of 10, comprising over 90 years of Internal Audit experience and nearly 140 years of gaming experience, independently examines and verifies slot and table game procedures to ensure on-going regulatory compliance. This regulatory review includes the independent inspection of 10 percent of all slot machines yearly. Additionally, Internal Audit conducts monthly inventory inspections of game program chips.

Between the Gaming Commission and Internal Audit, 40 percent of slot machines are inspected yearly; in addition to on-going inspections of table games. In contrast, the Star Tribune article mentions the State of Wisconsin’s Division of Gaming uses 15 staff members to inspect 10 percent of machines and observe table games activities for five days at each Indian casino in Wisconsin every 18 months.

To further complement the compliance regulatory activities of the operations at Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino is the Surveillance department. With more than 50 trained specialists, the Surveillance Department monitors slot and table gaming activity with the latest technology; 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.

Surveillance staff do not just watch cameras; they are highly skilled and trained in all casino operations and procedures to identify incidents of wrongdoing and ensure compliance with regulations. Such specialized skills include being certified card counters, in an effort to detect cheat and scam attempts regarding the play of blackjack.

The regulatory efforts in place at Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino have been successful in identifying and apprehending individuals, which have attempted to perpetrate actions to defraud or cheat gaming operations. In these instances, actions are taken to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law. Any efforts to adversely affect the integrity of gaming will not be tolerated.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, as do other Tribal governments, recognizes that gaming is the economic engine that allows for the funding of the goods, services, and other activities supporting their members and communities. It is further recognized that for gaming to prosper, the highest standards of integrity must be maintained by the Tribes.

To maintain integrity, and to perpetuate public trust and confidence in Tribal gaming, the Tribes comply with, and have invested in resources, enacted regulatory standards and developed compliance programs that far exceed any state regulatory program. While the State of Minnesota may need to re-focus its regulatory authority under the Tribal-State compacts, the fact is that the Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community are highly regulated. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is recognized throughout the gaming industry for its commitment to regulatory compliance and operating gaming within the highest standards of integrity. Any suggestion to the contrary is not based in fact.