Friday, August 28, 2009

Brockton Enterprise Editorial: Long odds on Wampanoag casino deal

The Brockton Enterprise isn't giving the Wampanoag Indian gaming scheme good odds in securing their casino deal on behalf of their Asian gambling syndicate financial backers at Genting.  Here is what they have to say:

If we were gambling folks, we would wager that there won’t be a casino built in Middleboro any time soon — or ever.

A series of setbacks has made it clear that Middleboro officials and the Wampanoag Indians who want to build a $1 billion casino complex over 500 acres have no special standing. Their plans are no more likely to come to fruition than gambling dreams in any other community in the state. In fact, the odds may be greater.

The setbacks have been increasingly crushing — a sharp contrast from a landmark town meeting two years ago that gave approval to a deal that would allow the Indians to build their casino in Middleboro.

Both top negotiators have departed the scene: Tribal Chairman Glenn Marshall to prison for embezzlement, and former Selectman Adam Bond back to the private sector (and “optimistically” saying the odds of a casino being built “are 50-50, at best.”)

The town already has collected $1 million in payments from the tribe and is still sitting on more than half of it, debating whether to spend it on needs directly related to a casino. Our advice is to sit tight for now. Spend some of it as needed, but don’t rush to spend any more money on casino needs when a casino is looking less likely each passing day.

A report commissioned by neighboring Halifax has questioned the Wampanoag tribe’s claim to historical ties to Middleboro. The U.S. Supreme Court also threw up a major obstacle in February, ruling that newly recognized tribes — which include the Wampanoags — have no right to “sovereign” land.

That has been the key to other tribes’ ability to build casinos, and after that ruling, the Indians’ financial backers turned off the cash spigot. Their reluctance to continue pouring money into the plans also may have had something to do with the lousy economy. Casinos across the country are reporting record drops in revenues and previously booming sites like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have laid off workers — something almost unheard of.

The state now holds most of the cards in the question of whether gambling halls will come to Massachusetts. The Wampanoags have no more special status than any other group — from race tracks to international investors — who want to build a casino, or at least a slot machine parlor.

There is no special incentive for the state to grant Middleboro a casino license. A casino is just as likely to be built in New Bedford, Raynham, Revere or western Massachusetts.

The Wampanoags rolled the dice, and haven’t come up craps quite yet, but they are more likely to end up with snake-eyes than a 7 or 11.

So the question I have is, what happens when you don't deliver to your Asian bankers?  How will the Wampanoag and the elected officials benefiting from their campaign contributions pull them out of this mess?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

City Report Claims Wampanoag Have No Legitimate Land Claim

The Enterprise's Alice Elwell reports that  a $5,000 report, commissioned by Halifax selectmen, that it claims shows the Wampanoag tribe has no legitimate land claims.

“It’s yet another hurdle to cross,” said Richard Young, president of Middleboro’s CasinoFacts as well as the statewide coalition, Casino Free Mass.
John H. Bruno II, chairman of the Halifax Board of Selectmen, said his board commissioned the so-called Lynch report and submitted it in February in opposition to the tribe’s application to take land into trust.
Bruno said that besides the lack of tribal ties to the land, there are a host of other issues that should prevent the Mashpee Wampanoag from opening a casino in Middleboro.
“I hope the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) questions their claim to a right to establish a casino on that property,” Bruno said.
The town of Halifax opposes a casino in Middleboro and selectmen have joined the Southeastern Regional Task Force On Casino Impacts. Bruno said the Lynch report was paid for by his town and commissioned independently of the task force.
Aaron Tobey, vice chairman of the tribal council, said the Mashpee Wampanoag are relying on an in-depth study undertaken by New York researcher Christine Grabowski.
Tobey said Grabowski’s final report has yet to be released, but during a presentation last year, she compiled “convincing evidence” the tribe has links to the land in Middleboro.
But about the Lynch report, Tobey said, “In all honesty, if it’s true it will save us all a lot of headaches.”
The tribe is moving forward with the land-into-trust application that seeks to take more than 500 acres in Middleboro out of state jurisdiction and turn it into a reservation to be used for a casino.
Brian P. Giovanoni, former chairman of the town’s Casino Resort Advisory Committee, says he found inaccuracies in Lynch’s report from the beginning.
He said the Lynch rebuttal consists of eight key points which debunk the tribe’s ties to Middleboro and claims the Mashpee Wampanoag are a “new unique community.”
Giovanni said that claim is in direct contradiction to the tribe’s federal recognition, which found continuous tribal ties dating to first contact with the Settlers.
“He’s saying this tribe didn’t exist in 1620,” Giovanoni said. “He’s contradicting the findings of the federal government.”
What legal hurdles will Governor Patrick and Senator Murray face trying to push through this special deal for the Wampanoag now?  Will this mean Asian gambling syndicate Genting's money with the Wampanoag was a bad bet?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wampanoags sign up Genting Asian gambling syndicate as $$$ backers

What a twist.

According to Virgina Maddox, the Wampanoags have gotten in bed with the Asian Genting Group, the world's larges gambling syndicate to help them build a proposed $1 billion casino in Massachusetts.

According to Maddox's reporting, the tribe joined up with Genting because it wants to be prepared when the state legislature examines expanded gambling, as any legalization of slots would give the tribe the right to operate a casino featuring slots and other games.

It was bad enough when outside investors with a history of fleecing locals, like those who were previously financing the Wampanoag lobbying efforts, but now we have a foreign gambling syndicate involved.  This virtually ensures that any real financial benefits from a Wampanoag casino deal are exported to China and Malaysia where the Genting is based.

How is is possible that money from Asian gambling interests can be funneled through a local  Massachusetts Indian group into the pockets of elected state officials who will vote to give the tribe special status allowing them to set up a tax-exempt casino whose profits will then go to foreign investors tax-free?  So much for helping out the state budget coffers.

How many millions of  yuan (dollars) have been given to lobbyists like Bill Delahunt or funneled through him or other donors on the payroll of Genting?  It's already established that Senate President Therese Murray, a proponent of the Wampanoag deal, was the largest recipient of casino lobbying cash along with Governor Deval Patrick whose staff is clearly working behind the scenes on behalf of the tribe.

How twisted is that?  


Thursday, July 2, 2009

WampumGate - Outside investors exposed behind Wampanoag gaming plans

Thanks again to Peter Kenney at WampaGate for this insightful investigative report.  Kenney writes:

Glenn Marshall was busy in 2007 crafting an agreement between the town of Mashpee and his tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoags. As chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council (MWTC), it was his responsibility to act in the tribe's behalf.  Most who are familiar with Marshall's term of office -- which ended in disgrace in August of 2007 -- know that Marshall’s actions were guided more by the wishes of outsiders  (follow link to see the investors) than by those of tribe members, even members of the tribal council.  

The tribe's white spokesman and white lawyer are both based in Boston and both have been paid by outside investors for approximately six years.  Now Marshall's agreement with the town of Mashpee is important news again. 

The town of Mashpee filed comments with the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs opposing the tribe's application to place hundreds of acres of land into federal trust.  They did so because they claimed the tribe had not reached agreement with the town over two contentious issues.  Actually, the desired agreement had been written, but not approved, by the tribe.

At a meeting of the tribe's members this past Sunday, approximately two-thirds of the two hundred Mashpee who attended voted to approve the agreement.  If the Mashpee Board of Selectmen does likewise at an anticipated meeting later this week the agreement will be brought before a special town meeting for ratification.  If all this goes according to Marshall's plan, the tribe will have surrendered its rights to pursue any further land claims against the town and will also have promised never to seek a gambling operation within the town.

Felony has found a home

Marshall was a prominent presence at Sunday's meeting.  The four tribe members whose shunning he arranged last year attempted to gain entry but were turned away by individuals described as tribal security.  Some have said that what the MWTC now calls security is actually a group of questionable individuals and perhaps even a felon.  (We leave aside for the time being the question of who is paying the so-called security force.)  But felony has found a home with at least one of the tribe's elite. 

Glenn Marshall is, after all, a convicted violent felon for a rape he committed in Barnstable.  He was sentenced to five years in prison but used his fabricated experiences in the Vietnam War to gain a judge's sympathy and a full release after only two months in jail.  Marshall's past could become an issue if tribe members or outsiders decide to challenge the agreement that is apparently headed for acceptance by the town of Mashpee.

Red flags in the breeze

Consider: Glenn Marshall lied about his military record including how many combat tours he served in Vietnam, numerous wounds and what combat decorations he received.  The truth, first reported in, is that he served a few months in a non-combat post and received not one award for valor or injury. 

He even lied to Congress -- under oath -- about his glorious past and gave an entirely fictitious version of his life and times to a Barnstable High School student who recorded his recollections for inclusion in a veterans' archive organized by the Library of Congress.  Add to this the fact that Marshall is known to have been the subject of a recent federal grand jury probe in Boston by the FBI and the IRS and red flags start waving in the breeze all over Mashpee.

What we know:
1.    Wampanoag Chief Glenn Marshall is a violent man who has raped.
2.    Wampanoag Chief Glenn Marshall is a liar who has gone so far as to lie to Congress and the world.
3.    Wampanoag Chief Marshall's personal life style became instantly and visibly enriched when outside investors began pouring money into the tribe's recognition effort.
4.    Wampanoag Chief Marshall crafted an unknown number of agreements on behalf of the tribe with the town of Mashpee and others; agreements never shown to the tribe's general membership, some perhaps not even to the MWTC.

What many wonder:
1.    What will be the outcome of the so-called federal investigations?
2.    If Marshall is found to have accepted money or other favors from outsiders as a price for his agreeing to their demands against the tribe's interests, are the agreements he made with those who paid and/or bribed him still valid?
3.    How can anyone take Wampanoag Chief Glenn Marshall's word for anything?
4.    Are other members of the MWTC who served with Marshall likely to be included in any forthcoming federal charges? What did they know?

Should Mashpee and Middleboro be nervous?  Does either town actually care about the potential for Marshall's methods to cancel their plans or are they more concerned about protecting land titles and a glitzy new casino complex? 
Good questions indeed, thanks Peter!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rampant corruption in Indian gaming worries some Wampanoag

Do casinos equal jobs and tax revenues or just money for well healed backers and their political cronies?  Indian gaming appears to have an even higher risk of corruption and abuse which leaves intended beneficiaries in the dust.  According to Ryan's Take (an investigative news blog covering Massachusetts casino corruption concerns since 2005), some Mass legislators are voicing concerns that the Mohegan Sun Indian gaming venture in Connecticut, touted as a model and rationale for Massachusetts gaming, was paying out more money to non-Indian investors and casino executives than was going to actual tribe members.

This is worrisome for the Wampanoag rank and file as their leaders have the same financial backers helping them pursue casino development rights in Massachusetts.  Mashpee Wampanoag members who are potential downstream beneficiaries of the casino deals say they are suspicious about their leaders now that they have struck deals with the same Mohegan investors.   However, documents filed with the tribe's pending federal application for reservation status at the site failed to disclose those financial terms irking some tribal members and raising even more questions as to who is really behind the big money casino lobbying.

"They don't let us see anything," said Michelle Fernandes, a member of the tribe. "It's a big secret."

Mohegan Sun investors  Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman (members of a slightly different tribe)  received hundreds of millions of dollars by circumventing federal laws which were intended to prevent this from happening.  Kerzner, Woman and associates apparently have similar designs on Massachusetts Indian gaming via the Wampanoag.  While some Massachusetts lawmakers are raising concerns and demanding more transparency, they lack the clout carried by the likes of Governor Duval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray who are the state's top beneficiaries of Indian gaming and casino lobbying interest campaign money.

The campaign contributions answer the question as to why senior Massachusetts elected officials are apparently happy to help circumvent federal laws to allow a tribe which otherwise lacks appropriate standing via the federal Indian Gaming Regulator Act to set up gambling operations in Massachusetts - operations which, if run by any group other than a recognized tribe, would have to pay taxes on profits back to the state.  Cutting a special deal and conveying rights to the Wampanoag that other casino developers lack reduces the income the state can expect to collect.  And, as demonstrated in Connecticut, this is a good deal for the non-Indian financial backers now pocketing hundreds of millions in profits leaving actual tribe members who could use financial help fighting over scraps.  

Senator John Kerry, a top federal candidate recipient of Wampanoag and Mohegan slush money (and over $100,000 in Jack Abramoff donations), supports granting the tribe special status.   And, top state casino lobbying money recipient Governor Patrick has already made clear his interest in keeping close control through a self-appointed casino oversight board ensuring his continued access to the deep pocketed financial backers who are already lining his campaign war chest.  

If these elected officials really wanted to help rank and file Wampanoag families, they could simply put in a special state tax designation to provide gaming money to the tribe (or better yet, designate moneys for the low-income communities in which they live).  All the back room political dealings to strike special deals for the tribe simply make for a environment rife with corruption that benefit only a few top dogs.  Wampanoag members are right to be worried.  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Playing the Wampa card: Friends of Glenn

Courtesy of Wampa-Gate, a site dedicated to covering the evolving Indian gaming business in Massachusetts .  Peter Kenney investigates the big money and organized crime aspects funding casino gambling by other tribes and striking similarities involving political corruption, lobbying and payoffs.

So what hope is there for the rest of the tribe without their Wampa Card?  Even some Wampanoag Council members are in denial.

By Peter Kenney

We in Massachusetts should perhaps keep an eye on what is happening with Connecticut's Mohegan tribe and its gambling empire. 
At this time, the Mohegans have $1.2 billion outstanding in bonds -- debt that they have sold to the public as a way of raising capital for their expanding gambling operations. Yet the current issue of Forbes, as well as that ever-busy rumor mill are wondering if the Mohegans are in over their heads. 

In fact, Moody's, the respected bond rating service, is hinting that if the Mohegans do not start generating some positive cash flow their bond rating will be lowered. Moody's is conducting a credit review and the tribe's $925 million loss is unsettling. Only one of the tribe's new ventures -- at Pocono Race Track in Pennsylvania -- is anywhere near producing income. This would mean the tribe will pay higher interest to its bond holders without seeing any compensating increase in income/profits. It could also mean that they will be unable to attract investors at all.

Dodgy doings in Dairyland

Staying away from criminals is one lesson we could all learn from the Mohegans. And, be careful about the contracts you sign. The Mohegans have signed an exclusive contract to manage a casino resort complex planned for Wisconsin. They have formed a partnership with the Menominee tribe in that state and the Menominees -- in partnership with a man named Dennis Troha -- have purchased the Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The former dog track is intended as the site for the new casino resort. But, Mr. Troha might not be available for opening day.

Far above the legal limit

Last week he pled guilty to some very nasty federal charges. It seems that Troha, through an arrangement whereby he funneled money through his family members, made contributions to politicians, one in particular, far in excess of legal limits. A $100,000 total contribution will get Uncle Sam's attention. Troha is due to be sentenced late this week. The whole Troha story, easily found all over the web, includes some very shady doings indeed.

A very expensive attitude

He made his fortune in the trucking business, where people often rub elbows with the wrong sorts of folks, even gangsters. While there are reports suggesting links between Troha and some underworld figures, his real difficulties seem to arise from allegations that he used improper and even illegal  tactics to avoid compliance with union regulations, that he paid lower-than-required wages and so on. 

Troha is clearly not a man easily impeded by trifles such as laws. And this attitude could put him in federal prison for 25 years and cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. 

Having decided not to go through a trial has Troha also decided to talk? It is reported that as many as three other individuals -- public officials  -- are on the block waiting for their own axes to fall. Presumably they were the recipients of, or couriers for, the Troha cash.

Whose mail are the checks in?

Imagine, this man was a partner of the Wisconsin Menominee. The Mohegans have saved the day by entering into a confidential contract to buy out Troha's interests in the Dairyland Greyhound Park project. But, the Mohegans themselves -- or at least some of their tribal council officers -- were also heavy contributors to Wisconsin politicians. No one from the Mohegans has been charged or implicated in wrongdoing. 

This situation does, however, remind us of all those checks written by Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council officers and family to certain politicians in Washington who held positions from which they could help the Wampanoags.

Fewer coins to pop

Gambling used to be big business in this country. Now it is huge. Several things may combine to make the picture for large scale expansion of gambling/resort development in general, and tribal gambling enterprises in particular, less appealing now and in the future than in recent  times. 

The soft economy, probably already in recession, will mean that there are fewer coins to pop into the slot machines and less disposable income generally. Then there is the issue of competition and market saturation -- how much gambling is too much? When will we reach that limit? Are we near it now? And, who is the competition for our own tribe, the Wampanoags of Mashpee?

Outfoxing the Mohegans

The Mohegans are involved in five gambling projects. Mohegan Sun is enormously profitable, but the tribe was the victim of very clever contract writing by their original partners, Len Wolman and Sol Kirzner. Wolman and Kirzner are the money men behind the Wampanoag gambling plans for Middleboro. 

Not only did they outfox the Mohegans in their original deal, they are now receiving huge annual payments ($78 million last year) from the Mohegans to buy out their interests. Being aggressive businessmen Wolman and Kirzner are putting this new money to work backing the Wampanoag efforts, efforts, which if fruitful, will compete more or less directly with the Mohegans in Connecticut.

The Mohegans are also the tribal entity behind an effort to build a billion-dollar gambling and resort complex in Palmer, Massachusetts. Many in both the Indian and the gambling world seem to think that the Mohegans are rich enough from their own Mohegan Sun enterprise to finance and build this complex without either outside financing, or even federal protection from state regulations. They could simply compete with other applicants on an equal footing as private developers.

The big “what if”

What if Glenn Marshall -- the now deposed and disgraced former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal council -- has already committed his tribe to the same type of contract with Wolman and Kirzner that allowed the two men to mine money from the Mohegan Sun development? Would the Wampanoags then be faced with a decision…to spend between half and all of a billion dollars to buy these men out? 

Yes, a careful study of the history of the Mohegans in the gambling business could be very instructive for our Indian neighbors in Mashpee.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Twisted Tales of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Gaming Claims

Who is this Mashpee Wampanoag group and what's the story behind their attempts to become casino magnates in Massachusetts?

The Wampanoag are famous for being among the first Indian tribes to come into contact with European colonists in the New World.  These colonists later fought with famed Wampanoag chief Massasoit.  However, the tribe was thought to be largely wiped out in the late 1600's during wars with the colonists.
Today the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe consists of just over 1,000 self-registered members.  They claim to have been organized since 1924 running annual powwows led by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council.  Today that council is headed by chairman Glenn Marshall.  What happened to this tribe between the late 1600's and 1924 isn't well documented (as it likely ceased to exist as an organized entity) other than to note that the few surviving descendants joined other tribes, intermarried and assimilated with various colonist groups. 
However, the current group claiming Wampanoag blood has recently gained recognition as an Indian tribal group after years of legal battles to establish their claims.  The Mashpee Wampanoag obtained provisional recognition as an Indian tribe from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April 2006.   According to the Mashpee Wampanoag "enrollment ordinance" one needs to meet one of the following elements to be eligible for membership in the tribe:
A.  Persons who trace direct lineal decent to: (1) to a Mashpee Indian identified in the Report to the Governor and Council, concerning the Indians of the Commonwealth, Under the Act of April 16, 1859 written by John Milton and published in 1861 by William  White, Printer to the State, in Boston, Massachusetts (hereinafter “Earle Report”); or (2) to the 19th Century unions of Georgina Palmer and Charles Peters or Leander Peters and Lydia DeGrasse; and,
B. Persons who demonstrate tribal community involvement, (read -'friends of the casino consortium')
C. Persons who have not publicly denounced Mashpee tribal existence or their affiliation to the Tribe; (God forbid they admit the tribe may not actually exist anymore) and
D. Persons who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts, or have had family members actively involved in tribal community affairs who have lived in or near Mashpee, Massachusetts for at least the preceding 20 years prior to application for membership (read, a tight circle of trusted friend and family...)
While restrictive from a geographic and local participation requirement, this tribal membership based on basic remote lineage to a 19th century census taken nearly 200 years after the main Wampanoag tribe was wiped out allows for people with only minute fractional Indian heritage to qualify for membership status in this tribe.  Minimal tribal membership blood line requirements for other recognized tribes typically range from 1/16 - 1/4 genetic lineage; however, the Wampanoag membership is largely based on residential longevity and ties to mixed Euro-new American heritage close-knit family group.

The current Wampanoag consortium, established in 1976 from the apparent descendants of these mixed Indian-European colonist unions, purchased land in Middleborough, Massachusetts in the 1990's - one of several locations where they have been lobbying to build a casino. However, Indian gaming operations are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission established by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  This Act contains a general prohibition against Indian gaming on lands acquired into trust after October 17, 1988.   The Mashpee Wampanoag families have no officially recognized land in trust and their attempts to gain approvals for their gaming ventures have been met with legal and government approval challenges.  Still, with significant dollar opportunities at stake, the consortium, with apparent deep pocketed backers, has persisted.
The Wampanoag's casino lobbying has included various federal charges of corruption.  In February 2009 Mashpee Wampanoag chairman Glenn A. Marshall pleaded guilty to federal charges of violations of campaign finance law, tax fraud, wire fraud, and Social Security fraud in connection with the effort to secure federal recognition for the tribe to help clear the way for the proposed casino development.
The tribe was also represented by lobbyists Jack Abramoff whose firm reportedly bilked Indian tribes, including the Wampanoag, of more than $45 million for access to elected officials to help them secure support for casino plans. The Wampanoag's casino plans have been supported by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Therese Murray  and an influential former Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt.  Delahunt left his congressional seat and turned lobbyist to represent the casino project. Both Kerry and Delahunt were recipients of campaign contributions associated with the Wampanoag Tribe campaign finance law convictions and the Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal.  Patrick, Delahunt, Kerry and current Massachusetts State Senate President Therese Murray were cites as top recipients of Wampanoag and state casino lobbying interest campaign contributions.
All of which makes for an interesting kettle of fish to say the least.   Your comments and insights here are welcomed as we explore the dealings and deeds of the Mashpee Wampanoag casino crowd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gaming lobbyists load on the campaign cash to Mass officials

In 2008, gaming lobbyists made 2,058 political campaign contributions to Massachusetts candidates totaling over $312,296 – ($121,350 – came from lobbyists representing interests outside of the state or  Indian gaming interests).  This lobbyist political money doesn’t reflect other bundled contributions or those made directly by their gaming clients to Massachusetts politicians.