From the Day:
Times were flush when the Mohegans sought the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval of the tribe’s plan for distributing gaming revenues.
After ensuring that the plan provided adequate funding for tribal government and economic development, among other things, the deputy commissioner of Indian Affairs signed off on the plan on July 16, 2001. It calls for 40 to 50 percent of the tribe’s net gaming revenues from Mohegan Sun to be distributed to the tribe’s adult members on a quarterly basis.
More recently, on Jan. 4, 2008, the office of the secretary of the Department of the Interior approved a Gaming Revenue Allocation Plan submitted by the Mashantucket Pequots. Under the plan, up to 30 percent of the net gaming revenues generated by Foxwoods Resort Casino (including MGM Grand at Foxwoods, which opened in May 2008) are to be distributed to tribal adults “to help advance their personal health, safety and welfare.”
The plans, which the BIA requires of tribes that choose to make so-called per capita payments to members, have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly in the case of the Mashantucket Pequots, who are seeking to restructure a debt load of more than $2 billion. Gaming industry analysts and the Mashantuckets’ creditors are more interested than ever in how the tribe distributes its gaming revenue.
The creditors were alarmed in late August when Mashantucket Chairman Michael Thomas, addressing tribal members about the “dire financial times” facing the tribe, vowed to protect funding for tribal government and per capita “incentive” payments from further cuts. The pledge, which many within and without Indian Country considered irresponsible, cost Thomas his chairmanship. Placed on administrative leave and facing a tribal council vote to expel him from the council, Thomas announced he would not seek re-election Nov. 1.
“He’s not that relevant at the moment,” Jane Pedreira, a gaming analyst with Rye, N.Y.-based Clear Sights Research, said last week.
With Thomas out of the picture, the investment world is keen to learn about the tribe’s funding of its tribal operations and the payouts its members receive. If they’re having trouble finding such information, “it’s not for our lack of looking,” one investor said.
Plans’ percentage breakdowns
Copies of the revenue-allocation plans, which The Day obtained from the BIA through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, detail the percentage breakdown of the tribes’ allocation of their net gaming revenues. The Mohegans’ 10-page plan specifies that 30 to 40 percent of the tribe’s revenue is to be dedicated to tribal-government operations and programs, including investments and education; 5 to 15 percent to the general welfare of tribal members, including investments, health, housing, social services and youth services programs; and 10 to 20 percent to economic development, both gaming and non-gaming related. Continue reading