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,, 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."