Wednesday, November 6, 2013


The chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa discussed her tribe's long-standing dispute with the City of Duluth in a lengthy feature article appearing in the Sunday, November 3 edition of the Star-Tribune.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Minneapolis newspaper, Chairwoman Karen Diver explained that the 1984 profit-sharing agreement between the Fond du Lac Band and and the City of Duluth violated provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that require tribes to have "sole proprietary interest" in their gaming operations. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), which regulates Indian gaming, has upheld that view. A  federal appellate court recently ruled that the tribe will not be required to make payments to the City going forward, but the status of withheld back payments is still in dispute. 

The article noted that Diver is one of several women now holding the top elected positions in Minnesota tribal governments. The others include Chairwoman Carri Jones of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; and Erma Vizenor, Chairwoman of the White Earth Nation. 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Tribal leaders of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) have reconfirmed their strong opposition to off-reservation tribal casinos in the wake of a decision by the Department of Interior to approve the Menominee Tribe's proposal for a casino at Kenosha, about 160 miles from the tribe's Wisconsin reservation.

A guest commentary signed by eight MIGA tribal leaders appeared in the October 27 Star-Tribune. In it, tribal leaders said that the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was designed to promote jobs and economic development on Indian reservations, but not to encourage widespread development of tribal casinos beyond reservation borders. Following is the complete text of the published column:

Don't let tribal gaming off the reservation

By Charlie Vig and Keven Leecy

The U.S. Department of the Interior recently approved an application by the Menominee Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin to open a casino in Kenosha, 160 miles away from the Menominee reservation. As tribal leaders, we have grave concerns about the implication of this decision for tribes in Minnesota and across the nation.

By passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, Congress intended to stimulate economic development and job creation on Indian reservations, which in turn would move tribal governments closer to self-sufficiency. Few people really expected Indian gaming to succeed, given the inexperience of tribes and the remote location of most reservations. However, tribal governments surprised the skeptics, building clean, well-managed, successful gaming operations that do exactly what they were intended to do — improve the lives of Indian people.

Congress also clearly intended to limit tribal gaming to reservation land and allowed off-reservation expansion only under very special circumstances. The Interior Department’s decision and its rationale suggest a dramatic change in policy far beyond the intent of IGRA.

Congress never expected or intended that all tribes, given their diverse geographic locations, would find equal success from tribal gaming operations. Historically, federal funding and other resources available to tribes have never been distributed equally. Because of factors such as location, size of land base, type of natural resources, and tribal population, some tribes have more resources available to them than other tribes.

Every Indian tribe in America lives with the history of broken treaties and promises perpetuated by the non-Indian power brokers who controlled state and federal government over the years. Tribes have learned too well the corrosive effect of unchecked greed for tribal resources. Tribal history is a history of lands and resources taken by force or swindle and lost forever.

That is why the member tribes of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) have consistently opposed the expansion of off-reservation gambling by tribes as well as by the State of Minnesota.

We know that off-reservation gambling is a slippery slope. States begrudgingly tolerate tribal gaming within their borders. As long as gaming stays on the reservation, there is less pressure on states to compete with us aggressively. But when one tribe moves off-reservation to compensate for its remote location, inevitably others will follow. And we know that even one off-reservation tribal casino will spark demands on state politicians to allow major non-Indian gambling expansion that will effectively put all tribal gaming in danger. The market in most states simply isn’t big enough to sustain healthy tribal gaming trying to compete with new state authorized or sponsored nontribal gaming.

No matter how well-intended the Department of Interior’s decision, it pits tribe against tribe. Consider Wisconsin. Some tribes endorse the Kenosha plan, while others strenuously oppose it. At least two of the tribes endorsing the plan reportedly have off-reservation applications in the works themselves. Where will it end? Open warfare among tribes has always benefited those who oppose all Indian tribes.

In Minnesota, the MIGA tribes will continue to oppose any significant expansion of gambling, whether it is proposed by the state or by another tribe. We believe Indian gaming is and should remain a reservation-based economic development tool that helps fund the vital tasks of tribal governments, create jobs for Minnesotans and improve the lives of Indian people.


Charlie Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Kevin Leecy is chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. This article was also submitted on behalf of tribal leaders Norman Deschampe, Grand Portage Band of Chippewa; Carri Jones, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Floyd Jourdain Jr., Red Lake Nation; Melanie Benjamin, Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe; Kevin Jensvold, Upper Sioux Community; and Denny Prescott, Lower Sioux Indian Community.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) will hold its 2013 golf tournament on Monday, June 17, starting at 10:00 am at The Meadows at Mystic Lake Resort & Casino. The gathering is the organization's only annual fundraising event. Proceeds help defray association operating costs. The event is co-sponsored by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Wells Fargo.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said the tournament is designed to give tribal leaders and staff an opportunity to socialize with their vendors and suppliers. MIGA tribes spend more than $539 million annually purchasing goods and services for their tribal gaming and governmental operations from vendors located in Minnesota and throughout the midwest. Those purchases are a significant part of the $2.75 billion in total economic impact generated by Minnesota Indian gaming.

"The tournament is a great chance for tribal leaders to express their appreciation to the vendors," said McCarthy, "and it also gives the vendors an opportunity to say thanks for the business, and show their support for the tribes."

The tournament is a three-person scramble with two teams on a box. The day will conclude with a social hour starting at 2 pm, and awards luncheon at 3 pm. Fees are shown on the flyer below.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The Minnesota Legislature adjourned as required by law on May 20 without having passed any of the various gambling expansion bills introduced earlier in the session, according to MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy.

Among the proposals that went nowhere were bills to authorize  sports betting, a racino at Running Aces harness track, a casino at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and electronic lottery terminals in lottery outlets across the state. 

MIGA tribes had been concerned that a shortfall in Vikings stadium funding might revive interest in various gambling expansion scenarios. Electronic pulltabs authorized in 2012 have failed thus far to produce the revenues needed to pay the state's portion of the Vikings stadium bill, so state leaders have been scrambling to find additional revenue sources. 

As the 2013 session drew to a close, Governor Dayton and legislators agreed on a plan to back up pulltab funding with a combination of new cigarette and corporate income taxes.

McCarthy praised the Governor and legislative leaders for resisting the temptation to rely on more gambling for stadium funding or other revenue needs.

"Most Minnesotans believe we have enough gambling already," he said. "Between the lottery, the horse tracks, the charities and tribal casinos, we have a very mature, well-saturated gaming market. There's just not much room for expanding gambling any further without harming the existing venues."

Even so, McCarthy said, it's a safe bet that many of the same expansion proposals will be back in the 2014 session. "We have to fight this battle and win every year," he concluded. "The expansion forces only have to win once." 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA), said today that MIGA tribes will oppose any effort to introduce new lottery games played on electronic monitors at numerous locations across the state.

The MIGA statement came in response to news that Minnesota State Lottery Director Ed Van Petten has proposed the introduction of keno or other electronic games to ensure adequate funding for the Vikings stadium.

“The Minnesota legislature and the Governor considered many alternatives for Vikings stadium funding last year,” said McCarthy. “We worked closely with the charities and other groups to arrive at a funding plan the tribes could live with. But we can’t live with electronic keno and other lottery games in every bar and restaurant in Minnesota.”

Although lottery officials claim to have authority to adopt the new games under existing law, McCarthy said there would undoubtedly be legal challenges if the games were introduced.

“The original lottery legislation was written narrowly to satisfy those who were uncomfortable with state-sponsored gambling,” McCarthy said. “The scratch-off games are consistent with current law; adding electronic monitors that could easily be converted to full-blown slot machines was never envisioned, and we have no doubt that it will be aggressively contested.”

McCarthy said he agrees with Governor Dayton that it’s premature to be talking about new stadium funding sources before fully tapping out e-pulltabs and the other back-up mechanisms authorized in the 2012 funding bill. 

“Every time somebody in Minnesota comes up a dollar short to pay for anything, they start talking about expanding gambling,” the MIGA director said. “We’re getting used to it, but that doesn’t mean we won’t fight back with every tool at our disposal.”

Monday, March 11, 2013


As expected, there is no shortage of gambling expansion proposals awaiting consideration by the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.

House File 522, authored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, would authorize sports betting on professional and collegiate sports and athletic events in Minnesota. The bill has been referred to the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee. Rep. Kahn has introduced similar bills in the past without success.

Rep. Kahn also has introduced HF 989, which would allow slot machines at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Similar proposals have been defeated in previous years. 
Of greater concern is HF 988, a bill to authorize racinos at Minnesota racetracks. Since Canterbury Park is not seeking a racino due to its marketing agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the only racetrack eligible for slot machines under the bill is Running Aces Harness Track, located in Columbus Township on the northern edge of the Twin Cities metro area. The bill was introduced by Rep. Tom Hackbarth, who has authored previous racino bills.

Previous racino discussions had been centered around Canterbury Park, the state's only thoroughbred racetrack, but in 2012 Canterbury officials abandoned efforts to secure a racino after signing a joint marketing agreement with Mystic Lake Casino to increase purses and pursue cooperative marketing efforts.

So far, none of the gambling expansion proposals seem to be generating broad support, but MIGA is following them closely. Minnesota has enough gambling already, and MIGA tribes will continue to oppose further expansion.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will announce the purchase of two major hotels in St. Paul at a press conference tomorrow (March 11) at 9:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront Hotel. The hotels, the 470-room Crowne Plaza on Kellogg Boulevard, and the 250-room Doubletree Hilton in the heart of downtown St. Paul, represent nearly half of St. Paul's current lodging inventory.

The acquisitions are the first in a series of planned investments by the Mille Lacs Band Corporate Commission as part of the economic development vision articulated by Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin in her 2013 State of the Band address. 

Benjamin has emphasized the importance of diversifying into non-gaming projects that will help move the Band toward greater economic self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Mille Lacs Commissioner of Corporate Affairs Joseph Nayquonabe, Jr. will anchor the press conference, discussing the business goals of the venture, planned improvements for the hotels, as well as what the Band's ownership will mean for the City of St. Paul. 
St. Paul Chamber President Matt Kramer told Kare-11 News on March 8 that the Band's acquisition of the hotels is "a fantastic thing for St. Paul." He cited the Band's twenty years of experience in the hospitality industry, and its commitment to refurbishing the properties to maximize their value as cornerstones of the core downtown.

Other dignitaries scheduled to attend the press conference include Chief Executive Benjamin, Ben Graves of Graves Hospitality, Inc., Deputy St. Paul Mayor Paul Williams; and Matt Kramer, President of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


The December 29 Star-Tribune recognized the late Chairman Stanley R. Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community as one of a dozen "Northern Lights"--Minnesotans who passed away in 2012, leaving lasting legacies of singular importance. In short profiles of each, the Strib explained why the twelve were "ordinary but extraordinary." The profile on Chairman Crooks is reproduced here. It describes the late leader's humble early life as well as his contributions at the helm of one of the most influential and philanthropic tribes in the nation.