Politicians don't usually condone inflation. But in Minnesota, inflation is
apparently okay with Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Indeed, Pawlenty is at it again. This time, he's in the news for his
alleged gross inflation of the revenue pulled in by Minnesota's nine gaming
tribes. According to the Oct. 9 edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune,
Pawlenty first estimated tribal gaming revenues at $14 billion annually and
later "revised" this so-called estimate to $10 billion per year.
Tribal officials vehemently insist their revenue numbers are nowhere near
Pawlenty's claims and accuse him of inflating the numbers to sway public
opinion in his drive to force revenue sharing upon the tribes. Pawlenty
then predictably called upon tribal governments to open their gaming books
for state inspection. Citing tribal sovereignty, the nine tribes, all
members of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, have refused.
"It's like telling a mugger how much money is in your wallet," MIGA's John
McCarthy told the Star-Tribune. "[Pawlenty] is deliberately misleading the
public ... He never goes to net-after-expenses, which is the only real
number to use. This is proprietary information. The tribes are not going to
release this information just because the governor is putting these
artificially-inflated figures out there. He wants people to believe there
are billions of dollars to be shared, and there isn't."
Pawlenty, according to the Star-Tribune, claims to get his figures "from a
compilation of data from state and local government sources, casino
industry reports and data from Bear Stearns, a worldwide investment
securities and brokerage firm." The governor, who has been trying since the
beginning of the year to stick his hands in tribal pockets, has once again
completely missed the boat.
If Minnesota's tribal governments do not release proprietary revenue data
to anyone, then how can the sources Pawlenty cites have any idea what that
revenue is? Sure, they can perhaps make semi-educated guesses, but that's
all they are - guesses - and nothing more. Secondly, Minnesota's gaming
tribes enjoy open-ended compacts, negotiated in good faith back in the
early days of Indian gaming. Terms of those compacts call for renegotiation
only if both sides agree to talk.
The tribes do not agree that renegotiations are necessary - they are still
rightfully using gaming proceeds as IGRA intended - the support tribal
government programs and services and to create reservation-based economic
opportunity. Pawlenty's attempts to browbeat them into giving up funds to
which the state has no right are nothing short of shameful. Apparently,
good-faith agreements mean little in the Gopher State.
Talks continue between the state of Kansas and the Kickapoo and Sac & Fox
nations regarding an Indian-owned casino/hotel complex in Wyandotte County
near the Kansas Speedway. According to an Oct. 7 Associated Press report,
negotiations "have neared completion."
Topeka of course seeks shared revenue, which estimates have pegged at $40
million to $50 million annually from both the proposed casino and the
tribes' existing casinos. The tribes, who already operate said smaller
casinos in the rural Brown County, in the northeastern corner of the state,
seek a prime casino location in a metropolitan area.
A completed compact was slated for presentation to Kansas' Joint Committee
on State Tribal Relations on Oct. 20. If the deal is accepted, other
hurdles must still be cleared, including receipt of legislative approval of
the compact and the Interior Department's approval of trust status for the
Meanwhile, the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma continues to press its claim to
gaming rights in Kansas City, Kan. The Wyandottes opened a small
50-slot-machine casino in downtown Kansas City last April, only to see it
shut down by order of the state Attorney General shortly thereafter. The
month prior, NIGC had ruled that the site was not Indian land for the
purposes of gaming, despite the fact that it had once been reservation
On Oct. 6, a federal district judge ordered Kansas to return the
Wyandottes' 50 slots and $502,000 in cash seized in the raid. Judge Julie
A. Robinson also ruled that the casino must remain closed until the status
of the land upon which it sits is determined.
Pre-contact, the Wyandotte Nation was originally located in what is now
Michigan and Ohio. After ceding land there to encroaching settlers, the
tribe relocated to the Kansas City area. Some tribal members then moved on
to Oklahoma, where their government is currently recognized.
Although Wyandotte land claims in Kansas remain unresolved, the tribe is
attempting to operate a gaming establishment in a state other than where it
is recognized, something that no tribe has succeeded in accomplishing.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma's attempts to conduct gaming in its
ancestral home in Upstate New York have thus far been thwarted. Their case
differs slightly in that the Seneca-Cayugas are a winning party to a land
claim case that remains under appeal. Several court cases, both directly
and indirectly involving the tribe, will likely have to exhaust all appeals
before the tribe is able to open a gaming facility.