Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Minnesota tribal leaders join hundreds of their counterparts from across the nation today at the 6th annual White House Tribal Nations Conference hosted by President Barack Obama. Tribal officials will advise the President and several Cabinet members on the most pressing challenges facing their communities, including rampant unemployment, high violent crime rates, and failing schools.

President Obama initiated the annual meetings as a way to improve the sometimes rocky relationship that has historically existed between tribes and the federal government. Mr. Obama was only the fourth president in U.S. history to visit an Indian reservation when he traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation earlier this year.

Each of the 566 federally recognized tribes was invited to send a representative to the conference, which will include an address by President Obama as well as listening sessions with officials from various federal government agencies and departments, and a reception at the National Museum of the American Indian.

As part of the two-day event, tribal leaders were invited to attend the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5 pm yesterday. This year's Capitol Christmas tree comes from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota, and was accompanied to Washington, D.C. by students from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Monday, November 24, 2014


The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, which announced the purchase of two St. Paul hotels over the past year as part of its economic diversification strategy, has acquired a third hotel property, this one an Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City. The Band issued the following news release on the acquisition:

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) announced today that it has closed the purchase of the 236 room Embassy Suites Oklahoma City hotel, located at 1815 South Meridian, Oklahoma City, OK 73108. The purchase represents a strategic expansion into a growing market for the company.

"We are excited to enter the Oklahoma City market with one of the strongest performing hospitality assets,” said Joseph Nayquonabe, CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. “The quality of the suites and the proximity to key attractions around the city position this hotel for exceptional performance.”

Located only six miles from downtown and less than four miles from Will Rogers World Airport, the recently renovated hotel boasts an atrium, 9,968 square feet of meeting space, a business center, fitness room, indoor heated pool and gift shop.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures will grant Greenwood Hospitality Group – a Denver based hospitality management firm – an agreement to manage the property.

“We are very excited to enter into a partnership with Greenwood Hospitality,” Nayquonabe continued. “This partnership represents a unique opportunity to combine our expertise and work together to maximize the value of this strong asset.”

In 2013, Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, issued a directive to diversify the Band’s corporate holdings and strengthen the tribal economy.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures began its long-term strategy to diversify the Mille Lacs Band’s investments beyond gaming with the purchase of the Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront hotel and the DoubleTree by Hilton in St. Paul, Minn. Since then, MLCV has further diversified by opening Sweetgrass Media, a commercial print shop and acquiring 2020 Brand Solutions. It is in the process of several other planned investments, including the rebuild of Eddy’s Resort on Lake Mille Lacs and the development of a commercial laundry facility and a medical office building in Hinckley, Minn.

“Economic diversification is critical to building a strong future for the Mille Lacs Band and I am pleased to see our corporate arm, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, acquiring assets that will benefit Band members for many generations to come,” said Benjamin.

This hospitality acquisition is the second step in a nationwide strategy to acquire hospitality assets in major markets.

“We remain confident in our decision to enter the hospitality space,” said Jeff Castillo, director of investments and economic development for MLCV. “Market fundamentals remain strong, demand seems to have fully recovered and we are anticipating record occupancy levels in both urban and airport locations.”

Nayquonabe said MLCV is continually analyzing deals in search of opportunities that meet its stringent investment criteria and will position the company for long-term success. “We’re very pleased to add the Embassy Suites Oklahoma City to our growing portfolio and we look forward to discovering our next great opportunity.”

About Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures
Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures manages all the Mille Lacs Band’s businesses, including Grand Casino Mille Lacs, Grand Casino Hinckley, the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel and the DoubleTree Hilton in St. Paul, Minn., 2020 Brand Solutions, Embassy Suites Oklahoma City and other Band-owned businesses such as a cinema, a grocery store, gas/convenience stores, a golf course, wastewater treatment plant and a print shop. It also oversees certain amount of the Band’s investments and considers new business opportunities to provide economic support for the Band’s future. Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures has over 3,500 employees and its board of directors is comprised of five members, who guide the business and investment decisions for the Band.

Friday, November 21, 2014


A gaming website is reporting that the Attorney General for the State of California has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the online bingo program recently launched by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. The online source, CaliforniaOnlinePoker.com, said the lawsuit was filed on November 18, and claims that the tribe's action in conducting online bingo violates state and federal law, as well as its compact with the state because the gaming is offered to bettors not located on tribal land.

Documents filed in the lawsuit begin with this statement of the case:

This action seeks appropriate injunctive relief to prevent unlawful Internet gambling; Defendant Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, also known as Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueno Mission Indians (Tribe), has begun to offer a facsimile of bingo over the Internet to bettors, who are not located on the Tribe’s Indian lands. In addition to violating state and federal law, the Tribe’s conduct materially breaches the tribal-state class III gaming compact (Compact) between the Tribe. and the State. 

According to the report, the state also asserts in the lawsuit that state officials attempted without success to meet with tribal officials to discuss their online gaming plans. In a written response to the state's request, the tribe advised that it had no plans to offer online bingo, but intended to offer online poker only.

The tribe has previously stated that it is exercising its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to regulate and conduct Class II gaming from the tribe's reservation.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


A November 18 article in The New Yorker suggests that the huge expansion of state-sponsored casinos in recent years may have saturated the gaming market and left many states scrambling to cover budget holes created by declining casino revenues.

The article, by writer John Wolfson, points to the explosion of state-authorized casinos and racinos in recent years. He writes, "Eager for new jobs and new revenues that don’t require raising taxes, states from coast to coast have turned to gambling: in 1978, only Nevada and New Jersey had commercial casinos; today, twenty-four states do."

Wolfson says market saturation is a serious problem for states that have grown to depend on gambling revenues. "This isn't an entirely free-market enterprise, and the casino operators aren't the only ones bearing the risk," he notes. "Each state that has licensed a commercial casino has become a partner in that business...The trouble starts when they become dependent on gambling revenues to pay their bills."

A case in point is Delaware, Wolfson explains. "In Delaware, gambling taxes have accounted for eight per cent of the state budget. That left the state vulnerable when the owners of its three aging racetrack casinos began demanding financial concesssions in order to preserve jobs. The legislature voted to split eight million dollars among the casinos. This year, the operators came back, seeking more money and a new deal." The state legislature voted to give the casinos $10 million this year, $11 million in 2015, and $12 million in 2016.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said the New Yorker article reinforces the experience of Minnesota's tribal casinos. "We've been saying for several years that the Minnesota gaming market is pretty well saturated," he said. "Casino revenues have been level after slight declines during the recession. We're not seeing any meaningful expansion of casino facilities; most tribes have focused on adding or expanding ancillary facilities such as hotels, golf courses and other visitor attractions."

Friday, November 14, 2014


The Department of Energy's Office of Indian Energy Policy (OIEP) is reporting that a tribally owned energy company has signed a landmark wind energy deal to provide 140 megawatts of wind power to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The energy will come from a wind farm in Northern Illinois.

In a blog posted on the OIEP website, Acting Director Pilar Thomas wrote that "the historic energy deal marked the largest wind energy purchase from a single source in federal contracting history.  It will supply GSA with all the clean energy it needs to meet the Obama Administration's 20 percent by 2020 goal for federal agencies."

MG2 Tribal Energy, a joint venture between the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians and commercial wind developer Geronimo Energy, is the first tribal entity to sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the federal government. The energy company is one of several enterprises the Band has created over the past 18 months as part of a comprehensive economic development initiative.

Mesa Grande is a non-gaming tribe located northeast of San Diego, CA. In addition to MG2 Tribal Energy, the Band has launched a call center, a training and events production company, and a waste management firm.

Tribal Chairman Mark Romero said the GSA contract represents an important step forward in the history of the Mesa Grande Band. "Few other economic development opportunities enable us to remain so true to our cultural and spiritual values. This contract is entirely consistent with our historic concern for Mother Earth and the continued availability of clean water, land and air for future generations."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


A September 25 summit meeting at Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower brought tribal, county and state officials together to collaborate on ways to address the crisis facing Indian children in Minnesota, according to Bois Forte Chairman Kevin Leecy.

Leecy said the crisis is showing up in public health statistics that paint an appalling picture. In a news release announcing the summit, Leecy reported that Minnesota's Indian babies are twice as likely as non-Indian babies to die before their first birthday. They are four times more likely to live in poverty than the state's white children. A full 53 percent of Native children are living below poverty.

While only about 3 percent of infants born in the state are Native, American Indian newborns account for 28 percent of those born addicted to drugs. Experts agreed that the recent spike in opioid abuse statewide is partly to blame for these numbers, but they say the situation in Indian country has been dire for years.

Tribal representatives expressed the hope that a Task Force on the Protection of Children recently appointed by Governor Dayton would include Native representatives to help address the serious health disparities that continue to exist between American Indian and non-Indian children statewide.

"Taken as a whole, the situation of Indian children has reached crisis proportions, and that means the future of all Indian Country is in peril," concluded Chairman Leecy.

Listen to the MN Native News report on the story here.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Nine Native American students from Indian nations across the midwest have received scholarships from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of Minnesota, the tribe announced today. The scholarship program is designed to recruit and retain talented American Indian students with demonstrated financial need.The group includes four students from Minnesota tribes, three from Wisconsin, one from South Dakota and one from   North Dakota.

Since 2009, when SMSC donated $2.5 million to the University to create the scholarship fund, more than 190 students from 48 tribes in 18 states have received financial assistance. Eighty-three of them are enrolled this year, 59 in undergraduate programs and 24 in graduate studies, including three enrolled in the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance Program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The University of Minnesota matches the interest earned on the endowment funds, with proceeds dedicated to providing scholarships for qualified American Indian students. The SMSC has donated more than $300 million to organizations and charitable causes since 1992. In addition, it funds its own community infrastructure and contributes generously to regional governments and infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer systems, and emergency services.

Monday, September 22, 2014


The Vice-Chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) has been honored by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) with one of its most prestigious leadership awards. Keith Anderson received the John Kieffer Spirit of Sovereignty Award from NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. on September 9 at the organization's mid-year meeting in Oklahoma.

The Kieffer Award recognizes "selfless dedication to advancing the lives of Native Americans socially and economically, building self-sufficiency, and being an advocate for tribal self-determination." The award is named for John Kieffer, who was Vice-Chairman of the Spokane Tribe and served on the NIGA board from 1993 until his untimely death in 1999. Kieffer was instrumental in NIGA's development and the protection of tribal sovereignty.

Anderson has served as SMSC Vice-Chairman since August 2012, and previously served eight years as Secretary/Treasurer. He is known as a fearless advocate for tribal rights and the empowerment of tribes through economic development and policy engagement.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


The Duluth News-Tribune is reporting that the University of Minnesota Board of Regents has approved the creation of a bachelor's degree program in tribal administration at the University's Duluth campus (UMD). The action follows creation in 2011 of a master's degree program in the same field. Both programs are firsts in the nation.

The Tribal Administration and Governance (TAG) program was developed in response to a "strong need" among tribal governments in the midwest and nationwide, according to Tadd Johnson, director of graduate studies for the Department of American Indian Studies. There are 566 federally recognized Indian tribes in the U.S., including 11 each in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Much of the program will be offered online, to make it more accessible to those who are unable to travel to Duluth for their studies. The curriculum covers federal Indian law, tribal government and tribal management in key areas such as health and human services, natural resources, education, housing, finance and economic development, and human resources, Johnson said.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said the UMD program will be a tremendous resource for tribal governments. "Many people don't understand that tribal governments have responsibilities and obligations to their citizens, just like states. Whether they're spending federal funds or gaming revenues, they have to provide services and manage programs to meet the needs of the community. They need qualified, well-educated people to do that. Tadd Johnson and UMD have done a great service for Indian country by developing these degree programs, and they should be congratulated for it."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


In the wake of several major casino closings in Atlantic City, New Jersey leaders, including Governor Chris Christie, are "hoping sports betting can end Atlantic City's losing streak," according to a September 9 article in the Washington Post. The  article reports that the Governor's office has filed a motion in U.S. District Court and issued a statewide "directive" that would allow casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting "without fear of criminal or civil liability."

A statement posted on the official website of Governor Christie's office said the directive was issued after  a ruling in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that the state is free to remove restrictions against sports betting if it desires to do so. Although Governor Christie consistently has supported the authorization of sports betting, he vetoed a bill to approve the activity because he feared it would violate the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The Third Circuit decision found that nothing in PASPA would prohibit the state from removing its own prohibition against sports wagering.

A slow economic recovery and increased competition in neighboring states have been blamed for the closing of three Atlantic City casinos and the loss of 5,900 casino jobs so far this year.  Gambling revenues in the city have dropped by 45 percent since 2006, the Post reports.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel has announced that the online poker site it planned to launch earlier this month will be delayed indefinitely, according to PokerUpdate, an online gambling newsletter. Representatives of the tribe told the publication that they have not set a new launch date, pending "double and triple checking everything."

The article cited speculation that the delay is due to lingering concerns about the legality of the online venture, called PrivateTable.com. Although tribal representatives insist that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) allows the tribe to proceed, the California state legislature has not yet legalized online poker for California residents. Currently, Californians are able to play PrivateTable.com for play-money, but online gambling for real money remains illegal in the state.

However, that could change, according to a second article, this one in CardPlayer, another online news source. In an August 29 story, writer Brian Pempus reported that law professor and gambling expert I. Nelson Rose believes California will legalize online poker next year. Rose believes that "gaming interests in the state are more aligned that ever before on the internet poker issue." Tribes and commercial gambling companies have lobbied for the change, but Rose said election year politics got in the way of passage in 2014. Nevada already has approved online poker; New Jersey and Delaware have approved multiple online options, including slots as well as poker and other games.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


'The long-standing image of gambling as a no-doubt winner for state governments has quietly gone the way of a bettor's bankroll after too many hours at the tables', according to an August 10 article in the New York Times.

The report suggests that New York State's decision to "charge headlong" into the casino business may not produce the revenue and job creation benefits that supporters, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have promised as a "powerful economic jump-start" for economically stagnant regions of the state. Four regional full-service gambling resorts are expected to win approval this year and open next year.

Analysts and experts interviewed by the Times suggested that the gambling market already may have reached the saturation point in the Northeast. They cite casino closings in Atlantic City and cost-cutting measures at Foxwoods as just a few indications of shrinkage in the regional gaming market. In addition, the article notes that at least four of the state's nice racetrack casinos (racinos) could be "undercut and endangered" by the new casinos.

The article highlights another challenge for state officials: "choosing between areas in the greatest need of economic assistance and those where a casino could deliver the greatest impact for the state." The state comptroller's office has warned that most of the players in regional casinos will come from nearby communities rather than outside the state, producing no net gain in economic benefit.

Tribal casinos in New York were threatened with expansion in their own backyards unless they agreed to share revenues with the state. They agreed to the state’s terms, and now the Mohawk, Seneca and Oneida tribes are paying hundreds of millions into New York State coffers. The tribes are no longer actively opposing the state's effort to open new gambling venues.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


U. S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Eric Holder urging them to return to the previous reading of the Wire Act of 1961, reports the August 1 edition of PokerNewsDaily online. In December 2011, the Justice Department reinterpreted the Wire Act, issuing a statement that the law "no longer bans gambling over the Internet as long as the betting is not on the outcome of a sporting event."

According to the online report, the three senators say the DOJ opinion "could usher in the most fundamental change in gambling in our lifetimes by turning every smart phone, tablet and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day." The letter expresses their concern that online gambling could "open the door to money laundering and other criminal activity," and "prey on children and society's most vulnerable."

In March this year, Senator Graham introduced a bill to return the Wire Act to its original interpretation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a companion bill in the House. Neither Chamber has taken action on the proposed legislation.

The member tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) adopted a set of principles in April 2014 to guide the association's response to any significant internet gaming legislation that may be introduced in Congress. They include:

1)  Indian tribes are sovereign governments with a right to operate, regulate, tax and license internet gaming, and those rights must not be subordinated to any non-federal authority;

2) Internet gaming authorized by Indian tribes must be available to customers in any locale where internet gaming is not criminally prohibited;

3) Consistent with long-held federal law and policy, tribal revenues must not be subject to tax;

4) Existing tribal government rights under tribal-state compacts and Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) must be respected;

5) The legislation must not open up the IGRA for amendments;

6) Federal legalization of internet gaming must provide positive economic benefits for Indian Country; and,

7) Indian tribes possess the inherent right to opt into a federal regulatory scheme to ensure broad-based access to markets.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said Minnesota tribes have not taken a formal position on internet gambling, but generally support the NIGA principles, which underscore federal policies supporting Indian self-determination and the U.S. Constitution's recognition of tribes as sovereign governments.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) will host its 21st annual golf tournament on Monday, June 23 at The Meadows at Mystic Lake. The event is MIGA's primary fundraising activity, with proceeds augmenting the organization's budget for education and advocacy programs.

"We're proud of MIGA's record of advocacy on behalf of all Minnesota tribes, and we have been blessed with very strong support from the vendors and suppliers who share our commitment to Indian gaming," said MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy. "Our annual golf tournament is a great way to bring everyone in the Minnesota Indian gaming community together for a day of fun and fellowship."

The Meadows at Mystic Lake is an award-winning course, named one of the top ten casino golf courses in the country by Golfweek Magazine in 2009, and one of the top ten new golf courses in the country by Golf Digest in 2006.  It is noted for its spectacular setting, surrounded by 11 acres of wildflowers and other native prairie plantings with 80 bunkers, 13 holes with water, 20 fountains, and a 2,500-foot stream with four waterfalls. The USGA has rated The Meadows as 74.7 with a slope rating of 145.

Golfers will tee off at 10 am in a three-person scramble with two teams on a box. Participation is limited to 36 teams. Vendors may sponsor a hole for $2,500, or a hole and a team for $3,100.  An awards ceremony and buffet will follow at approximately 4:00 pm

The deadline for sponsor and team registration is Friday, June 13. For more information contact MIGA by email.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed SF 2642, a bill prohibiting the sale of lottery scratch-off tickets on the internet, at gas pump terminals and at ATMs. The Governor announced his veto on Friday, May 30, in a letter to Senator Sandra Pappas, President of the Minnesota Senate. 

The bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority on the last day of the 2014 session after legislators expressed concern that Lottery officials had exceeded their authority by expanding into online ticket sales. Supporters had a strong enough majority to override a veto, but because the action came after the legislature had adjourned, they are unable to do so.

In his veto letter, Dayton rejected the argument that online lottery ticket sales represented an unauthorized expansion of the Lottery's powers. "It appears to me that the Executive Director is operating within the scope of his legislatively-established authority," wrote the Governor.

Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chanhassen) believes the governor's veto will lead to a strong anti-lottery bill next session, according to a May 30 Associated Press story by Amy Forliti. "In effect what the governor is saying is, it's OK for his lottery director, without consent of the Legislature...to sell tickets anywhere, anyhow in the state of Minnesota. I don't think that's right, and I think an overwhelming majority of the Legislature agrees with me. This will not stand," Hoppe is quoted as saying.
Anti-gambling expansion organizations, charities, gas station operators and convenience store owners were among the most active supporters of SF 2642. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) did not take an official position on the bill, but the association has opposed further expansion of gambling in Minnesota since 1992. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The Minnesota Legislature adjourned on Friday, May 16, without passing--or even considering--any measures that would have expanded gambling in the state.

The only gambling-related measure to pass was a bill prohibiting the Minnesota Lottery from selling instant scratch games online, at gas pumps and at ATM machines. The Lottery had begun selling the games online last year. Lawmakers felt the Lottery had exceeded its authority in launching the online sales without legislative approval, and the bill passed with strong bipartisan support. Governor Dayton has until May 30 to sign or veto the measure.

MIGA tribes can't afford to become complacent, though, said MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy. "The Legislature had other priorities on its plate this year, and gambling expansion wasn't on the radar screen," McCarthy said. "But the pro-expansion forces haven't given up. They'll be back when they see an opportunity to move their agenda forward."

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans believe the state should not permit online gambling, according to a recent Star-Tribune Minnesota Poll of 800 Minnesota adults. The poll results, published on February 22, reveal that opposition to online gambling is strong across the board, no matter the age, gender, income or party affiliation of respondents.

The poll results were made public just a few days before the Minnesota Legislature convened on February 25, when the session's first bill was introduced--a bill that would prohibit the Minnesota Lottery from offering online gambling. The measure was authored by Senator Karin Housley.

Lottery officials have been criticized by some legislators for moving into the online sale of lottery tickets and efforts to introduce other online games without legislative approval. Minnesota Lottery Director Ed Van Petten has told legislators that his office does not need their approval to take lottery games online.

The poll results show little support for online gambling, even among younger Minnesotans who, according to lottery officials, are the target market for internet-based games. In the 18-34 age group, only 25 percent of respondents thought the state should permit online gambling, while 58 percent opposed it.

Among registered voters, 66 percent opposed online gambling while 22 percent thought it should be permitted.

The strongest opposition came from respondents who identified themselves as Republicans, with 81 percent believing the state should not permit online gambling. Among Democrats, 54 percent were opposed, while 27 percent thought it should be permitted.  Those who identified themselves as Independents opposed online gambling, 63 percent to 28 percent.