Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A glimpse at the future Barnett/Paskenta/Mohegan/Cowlitz megacasino.

We haven't heard much about that lately, although I get the feeling we will. A lot.

That said, here's a snapshot of the way a local tribal casino is run. It certainly isn't that far from the reality that the arrogant, ego-driven, absentee landlords of the Barnett/Paskenta/Mohegan/Cowlitz would impose on THIS community.


The News Tribune / Tacoma, WA
Wednesday May 20, 2009 - Tacoma, WA
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Puyallup tribe: $40 million in net profit lost; employees work in state of fear, auditors’ report says

Many nights, the parking lot at the Emerald Queen Casino is full, just as it was one night in September 2008. But an audit requested by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians was critical of the ways the tribe’s two casinos are run.

Emerald Queen boss survives council vote

Frank Wright, the Emerald Queen’s general manager and perhaps the most powerful person in the Puyallup Tribe, nearly lost his job last week over allegations of financial misconduct.

The tribal council deadlocked 3-3 Tuesday on a motion to oust him. He was saved when council chairman Herman Dillon cast a tie-breaking vote in his favor.

Wright has run the tribe’s gambling operation since 1997 when it was housed in a single Mississippi-style riverboat tied up on the Blair Waterway in Tacoma’s industrial Tideflats area.

Contacted last week, Wright said he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Tribal spokesman John Weymer would not say specifically what Wright is accused of or when the investigation was likely to be finished.

“The tribe has a process in place for analyzing and investigating what has happened here, and the investigation is not complete,” Weymer said Friday.

Rob Carson, The News Tribune

Published: 05/17/09 12:05 am Updated: 05/17/09 2:58 pm
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By just about any measure, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ gambling enterprise has been an overwhelming success.

The tribe’s two Emerald Queen casinos, across Interstate 5 from each other in Fife and Tacoma, have been reliable money machines, consistently churning out $125 million or more in net profit in recent years.

The flow of casino cash has swept the tribe from poverty to affluence in just 12 years. Each of the tribe’s 3,500 members receives a $2,000 share of profits every month.

With about 2,000 employees, the gaming operation is the fourth-largest private sector employer in Pierce County. The casinos have turned the tribe into a powerful political force and a generous benefactor of local nonprofits, ranging from the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to the Daffodil Festival.

But lately, the casino picture has not been so pretty.

The recession has reduced profits, tribal leaders say, and a recent analysis by a national consulting firm delivered scathing criticism.

According to a confidential analysis by Lamar Associates, a security investigative firm based in Washington, D.C., the Emerald Queen casinos are wracked with mismanagement, poor morale, inadequate security and dismal ambiance.

Problems are so severe, the report said, that the casinos essentially throw away millions of dollars each year in potential profits.

“The Emerald Queen Casino is leaving approximately $40 million a year in revenue on the table,” the Lamar report concluded. “Immediate changes are necessary to protect the tribe’s gaming assets and to ensure that maximum revenue is generated.”


The Lamar investigation, commissioned last summer by the tribal council, was headed by Joe Manno, a former senior vice president at Caesar’s World and manager of Las Vegas’ Bally Casino.

Manno and six other investigators spent four days at the casinos last summer and several subsequent weeks poring through casino records.

Their findings were supposed to be confidential, but a frustrated casino employee leaked a copy of the final report to The News Tribune earlier this month.

Tribal council members declined to comment directly on the report, instead directing inquiries to tribal spokesman John Weymer. He said Friday he was unable to make a statement because a quorum of the council was unavailable to coordinate a response.

The Lamar report does not mention the casinos’ general manager, Frank Wright, by name, but he ultimately is responsible for their operation. When contacted last week, he said the tribal council had not authorized him to speak to the media and therefore he could make no comment.


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