Monday, April 24, 2017

Facing the loss of $110 million in revenue... how is Oregon going to deal with the Cowlitz Casino plague?

So, the economic casino black hole, designed to suck hundreds of millions of dollars out of the local economies around here and send them to the Mohegan Gaming Authority in Connecticut (Primary financiers of this project and 49.15% owners) the 240 member Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians in California (Buyers of part of a 43% share owned by David Barnett) and David Barnett's pockets and the Mohegan Tribe itself, which owns 7.85%... is opening their rip off.

It goes without saying that this will suck dollars out of our county even worse than the CRC/Loot Rail scam the local RINO contingent is attempting to resurrect.

But we're not the only victims.

Oregon is going to get hit even harder:
State officials have been bracing themselves for Ilani's impact. The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, which prepares budget forecasts, expects the new casino to slash lottery revenues by $110 million a year, about 12 percent of the current total. Oregon Lottery dollars go to fund education, parks and economic development.
And the Grande Rhonde Tribe also estimates huge losses.
The tribe contends the Cowlitz casino will cause a loss of just over $100 million of the Grand Ronde's estimated $244 million annual revenue stream, which is generated largely by Spirit Mountain Casino. Martin said the tribe arrived at the estimate by using a market projection based on distance from market and estimated drive time.
Now, all is not sweetness and light in Paskenta land:
Tribal Embezzlement Suit Stayed For Criminal Case
By Christine Powell 
Law360, New York (April 21, 2017, 5:13 PM EDT) -- A California federal judge hit pause Thursday on the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians’ lawsuit accusing former tribal officials of a wide-reaching, multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme while new, related criminal charges against some of the ex-officials play out, with a few exceptions. 
U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. mostly granted the former tribal officials’ motion to stay the tribe’s case alleging they violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act while parallel criminal proceedings go forward against some of them for their alleged role in embezzling... 
And given David Barnett's rather interesting legal record... that's oddly not surprising.

That said, the question is simple: what does Oregon do about the revenue loss?

Well, there doesn't appear to be all that many options.

They do nothing.

And how likely is that?  How does the State of Oregon make up for a big hit like that?  Raise taxes on an already overburdened taxpaying population?

"Doing nothing" is their least likely option.

Increases taxes to make up for the shortfall.

You already pay horrific taxes if you live or work in Oregon.  How palatable is it going to be to the taxpayers of Oregon if their government looks at them and says, in effect, "gee, another Tribe set up shop in Washington State and they're killing our lottery revenue... which YOU now have to help make up."

I can already envision heads exploding all over the state.

Allow the Grande Rhonde to set up shop not unlike the Cowlitz have.

Except have them agree to make up the massive shortfall of revenue caused by the Cowlitz scam.  After all, the Mohegan Tribe is required to pay $400 million or so per year to Connecticut every year, while the Cowlitz are required to pay.... absolutely nothing to the State of Washington.
As to the state's (Connecticut's) agreements with the Tribes, the MOUs authorize the operation of video facsimile games, particularly slot machines, at the tribal casinos in Ledyard and Uncasville, as long as the Tribes pay the State 25 percent of the gross operating revenues from video facsimile machines. 
Last year, these payments totaled over $411 million. These payments continue "so long as no change in State law is enacted to permit the operation of video facsimiles or other commercial casino games by any other person and no other person within the State lawfully operates video facsimiles or other commercial casino games." 
Connecticut currently has two Indian casinos (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun). The Foxwoods Casino operates under federal procedures; the Mohegan Sun Casino operates under a tribal-state compact. The federal procedures and tribal-state compact have the same legal effect and force under federal law. Under separate memorandum of understandings (MOU), the tribes have the exclusive right to operate slot machines and commercial casino games in the state. In return, each tribe must contribute 25% of its gross slot machine revenue to the state monthly. If either tribe's contribution falls below $80 million in any year, its rate increases to 30%.
Obviously, such an agreement can be worked out with the GR.  It would make up for.. and possibly exceed... the amount of revenue lost to Oregon as a result of the successful Cowlitz Casino scam.

Such an agreement SHOULD have been worked out with the Cowlitz, but the Native American lobby in Olympia owns the democrats even more than the WEA... so it's not surprising that tribal casinos get away with what amounts to financial murder in this state.

Revisit the effort to change the Oregon Constitution to allow non-tribal gaming.

The Grande Rhonde solution wouldn't be a piece of cake.

Under the arcane laws concerning "initial reservations," such as the one the Cowlitz lied themselves into with the behest of Barrack Obama, there is no test for negative financial impacts on other Tribes.

The governing law here is known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  Buried within that Act is Section 20.  And if a Tribe's reservation is designated an "initial reservation," then a critical part of the law does not apply to the Tribe in question, in this case, the Cowlitz.

And that part of the law is referred to as Section 20, Subpart C and D: the "detrimental to the surrounding community" part of the test.
Perhaps more controversial are the criteria for evaluating tribal applications for a two-part determination made by the Secretary under 25 U.S.C. § 2719(b)(1)(A), which criteria are found in Subpart C. Under this exception, gaming may occur on off-reservation trust lands if the Secretary, after consultation with appropriate state and local officials, including officials of nearby tribes, makes a determination that a gaming establishment would be (1) in the best interest of the applicant tribe and its members and (2) would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. The regulations clarify that a governor in an affected state must concur in any Secretarial two-part determination, set forth how consultation with local officials and nearby tribes will be conducted, and articulate the factors that Interior will consider in making the two-part determination. Under the regulations, an affected governor has up to one year to concur from the date of the Secretarial two-part determination, with an additional 180-day extension at the request of either the governor or the applicant tribe. 
Subpart D of the Section 20 regulations clarifies that the regulations do not disturb existing decisions made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Although the Cowlitz initial application for recognition, granted in 2000, claimed that their southern border was, effectively, the northern border of Longview, (Historically and factually, the Reservation where the Casino scam has been set up was NEVER a part of Cowlitz Tribal Lands) the availability of large tracts of land zoned agricultural next to the I-5 freeway here locally (Reservation shopping at its finest) along with willing sellers at highly inflated prices made the reservation shopping scam ideal.

That said, while the Cowlitz did NOT have to contend with the two-part test... the Grande Rhonde most likely WOULD be required to contend with that test, since any such construction in the Portland area would be viewed as "detrimental" to the Cowlitz casino, now part of the "surrounding community."

Thus, there would be a great likelihood that such an effort would be challenged in federal court if they attempted to build a Vegas-style casino complex to actually compete with the Cowlitz/Mohegan/Paskenta/Barnett project.

This brings us to the 4th possibility:

Revisiting the question of non-tribal gaming.

Currently, most non-tribal gambling is prohibited under the Oregon Constitution.

An effort was made... and crushed... a few years ago to modify that part of the Oregon Constitution to enable non-tribal gaming at Portland Meadows.  Those behind that effort pledged to give the state of Oregon 25% of their take, an amount estimated at the time to cover the amount NOW anticipated to be sucked out of Oregon revenues by the Cowlitz Scam.

At the time, there was no known looming threat to the revenues of Oregon.

But, as they say, that was then and this is now.

The advantages are obvious: no net loss in state revenue.  No tax dollars would be required for construction.  Increasing amounts of revenue if properly negotiated.

Gambling licenses could be awarded through a bidding process, with the minimum bid required to be in at least an amount needed to cover the revenue losses caused by the Cowlitz.

Given the choice between paying even HIGHER taxes and allowing a limited number of and location(s) for Class 3 gambling to actually become realized, it's likely that such a vote would pass... PARTICULARLY if the Grande Rhonde were heavily involved... just not in a way that would trip the Bureau of Indian Affairs/IGRA Section 20 involvement.

These are but a few of the options available.  But starting today, the Cowlitz are not only going to be screwing the people of Clark County sideways... they'll also be bending the people of an entire state directly over and blowing a hole in their collective wallet.

And THAT is GOING to sting.

Governor Brown, the ball is in your court and the legislature is in session.

What are you planning on doing about it?

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