Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Wampanoag debt, more secrets

The Mashpee Enterprise received copies of "secret" Mashpee Wampanoag tribe financial documents disclosing yet more debt being accumulated by Cedric Cromwell's casino team on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag people.  Cedric has borrowed another $13 million from his casino overlords at Genting Malaysia - one of the the worlds largest casino syndicates seeking footholds in the United States.

According to the Enterprise, this brings the current tribal debt owed to Genting in the neighborhood of $40 million (not including interest).  This latest loan was taken out with a near usury rate of 15 percent and increases to 20 percent once Cedric starts borrowing more money (senior debt) to actually build his casino.  While Cedric has kept secret all the financial documents of the tribe - even refusing to share them with his own tribal members on whose behalf he's accumulated these debts - this latest leak of documents gives insight into the mess the Tribe's gotten into under the Cromwell administration.

Now these financial details are all supposed to be fully disclosed to the Massachusetts State Gaming Commission as part of the tribe's compact and casino license agreement under the state law approved by our legislators.  But, like their federal LIT application, the financial details of the tribe are less than transparent and glaringly missing.  And, diligence on the part of the Commission in complying with legislative intent when it comes to the Mashpee Wampanoag appears to be considered an unnecessary distraction from moving forward with this ill-gotten casino scheme.

Since the first $25 million borrowed by Cedric on behalf of the Tribe in 2009 council members, elders and other rank and file have asked what's happened to that money?  The budget for running the tribe has apparently skyrocketed to nearly $5 million per year - although by all accounts what minimal tribal services do exist have gotten worse and allegations of rampant malfeasance with federal grants and funds continues unabated.  This latest leak of documents suggests Cedric spent millions more on the Taunton ballot initiative than reported - nearly $2.6 million - and that money is flowing to Cromwell, lawyers and lobbyists at an unprecedented rate.

If the first $25 million loan has similar terms to the current $13 million, the tribe's debt with compounded interest before taking out the new loan would be $50.3 million.  If a casino is ever built - a big IF given the federal government has now twice rejected Cromwell applications for land in trust (LIT) - the very best possible time frame for even breaking ground (when Cedric has to start borrowing more money) is three more years. Now we've frequently noted that getting LIT approvals from BIA for unconventional applications seeking exemptions from the Carcieri Rule IF successful (the majority are not) take a minimum of seven years, but let's say we (again) give Cedric the benefit of the doubt and say he can get this approved and ready to go within three years.  By the time he breaks ground (and has to borrow another estimated $100 million to build his casino) we'll already owe Genting $96.3 million in principal and interest.  At which point, interest goes up to 20% on that loan.

Let's assume the miraculous again happens and the casino is built in record time without delays and it opens two years after groundbreaking (mind you we're already in 2017), the Genting loan debt will be at $139 million plus the $100 million construction loan (which should cost us about $108 million if we negotiate reasonable construction loan rates) - bringing the tribal debt to almost $250 million BEFORE we open the doors and start cashing in senior citizen's social security checks for chips.

The chances of the tribe EVER being able to catch up to these loans from Genting at 20 percent a year when they have accumulated to the hundreds of millions is NIL.  Each year the balances will grow, and like the casino tribes in Connecticut we'll quickly be in debt in the billions and beyond bankruptcy.  All the while hundreds of millions of Massachusetts casino money - not taxed - will be flowing to the Malaysian bank accounts of Genting.  Again, we must ask how this is possibly in the interest of the Commonwealth, the people and taxpayers of Southeastern Massachusetts or the Mashpee Wampanoag People?

As for Taunton - if a compact deal is ever reached - Mayor Hoye will be waiting forever for his share of profits which will be non-existent under the usurious debt burden accumulated under Cedric's casino scheme.  Cromwell will continue to collect his salary as casino commander in chief (until such time as the feds catch up with him and he takes over Glenn Marshall's old room) and the Tribe and community will be sucked dry by this mess. 

Don't say we didn't tell you so - over, and over, and over...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Taunton - we have a problem: BIA rejects Wampanoag casino application, again

Artfully claiming their flawed Casino Compact with the Commonwealth needs to be "renegotiated" Cedric Cromwell has written the faithful followers of his tribal missives today announcing the Bureau for Indian Affairs (BIA)  has a problem with their application.   This is the second time a Cromwell application for Land in Trust has been rejected by BIA and the second time Cedric has failed to "notify" his local government partners.

Taunton - we have a problem and don't say we didn't warn you!  Like his past rejection when his Middleboro partners learned about BIA's ruling from the local papers, Taunton officials can read about it in the Boston Globe as ole Cedric has been apparently sitting on this information until 4 p.m. on a Friday to let the world know and Mayor Hoye and our dutiful council appear to have been caught by surprise by this announcement as well.

This should be the final nail in the coffin for this latest casino scheme as the Mass Gaming Commission can no longer claim the tribe has successfully negotiated a compact with the state and has what it takes to get BIA approval for the required land in trust needed for their Indian casino complex.   We're well past the deadline set by the legislature and it's time to say bye bye Cedric.

Don't say we didn't warn you this would happen (over and over and over).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One little, two little, 2633 little Indians...

Cedric Cromwell's "most recent" application attempt for Land in Trust (LIT) submitted to the Bureau for Indian Affairs makes for amusing reading if you can wade through the typos and gaping holes for "to be submitted" tabs and data.  Of the data submitted one set of the many conflicting pieces of  information that glaringly stands out relates to the Tribe's enrollment.

Now Mashpee Wampanoag enrollment has been a contentious issue among Tribe members ever since Cedric Cromwell  took office and locked down the enrollment office records from view of other Tribes members.  You see, Cedric himself only became an enrolled member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in 2006.  As readers of this and other spaces like Reel Wamps know, Cedric Cromwell's personal credentials for membership qualification are much in question.

One key membership requirement, spelled out in the Tribe's federal recognition application, is that to be a tribe member you must live within 20 miles of Mashpee (Mashpee Ordinance 9/21/2006, 1-2).  Now Cedric grew up in Dorchester and lived in Attleboro (some 50+ miles away from Mashpee) when he found his Indian heritage sufficient to actually enroll as a formal member.  It now appears he's encouraged others to follow suit.

In 2007 when the tribe had to submit formal enrollment numbers for their federal recognition they listed 1,400 members of the Tribe.  Today, just five years hence, Cedric has submitted new enrollment numbers showing more than 2,600 members - an 86 percent increase!  And, to help make their case that the Mashpee band of Wampanoag can lay claims - both historical and current - to distant Taunton in order to build their Indian casino it appears the federally defined membership requirement of living "near Mashpee" (Mashpee Wampanoag federal tribal recognition on pg 26 states that “near Mashpee” means having a residence “within 20 miles of Mashpee”) no longer applies.  

That's certainly a lot of new Indian's in such a short time period. It certainly appears that in addition to "reservation shopping" Cedric Cromwell has been doing some Indian shopping as well to make sure he can fit his square pegged tribe into Taunton's round hole for the purposes of his LIT application.  To make his case that the Tribe has ties to Taunton he claims 2,633 members, but in his residency listing he provides data on only 1,700 - in which at least one new member resides in Taunton.

However, in other parts of his LIT application with the Tribe's detailed claim and enrollment registry of 2,633 members, the Tribe's "need" claims showing they suffer from higher health problems and lower economic opportunities are based on evaluations of fewer than 325 enrolled members. Seems like they're using some highly selective and suspect data to make their case to BIA that they meet the need requirements for being allowed a casino.

So, what is it?  Are there now 2,633 Mashpee Wampanoag's sprinkled throughout the Commonwealth well outside the tribe's own mandated rule of living within 20 miles of Mashpee as claimed in their application?  Are there 1,708 as listed in their application "Massachusetts Residency Data" section?  Or are there 324 members referenced in their "Health Status" needs claim section? Or the 399 members used to generate their median income needs assessment?

They say numbers don't lie.  But it appears the Mashpee Wampanoag just might - and their numbers simply don't add up.  Good luck collecting any shared revenue if  Taunton's Wampa Word casino uses these same accounting methods.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cromwell trades away "12,000 years" of tradition

Reel Wamps spells out the latest conflict within the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.  Cedric Cromwell, famous for proclaiming 12,000 years of Wampanoag historical rights to run a casino has negotiated away the Tribe's long-standing fishing rights in pursuit of gambling cash in his Compact with Governor Deval Patrick.  Future generations of Mashpee Wampanoag will be able to point to their defining culture of being casino cocktail waitresses and leave the messy fisher folk heritage to the fading memories of tribal elders.

How proud this will make the People of the First Light as they troll for tips instead of herring, trading fishing poles and nets for fishnet stockings and pole dancing at the proposed Taunton WampaWorld resort.

Worth the read into the sad state of affairs and dark path the true Mashpee people are being led down by Cromwell and his Malaysian gambling syndicate financial backers.  Click here to read how Cedric Cromwell has sold the soul of the People of the First Light.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is the Genting Wampanoag Taunton casino marriage on the rocks?

We all knew this was a shotgun wedding anyway, so this should be no surprise.  But, according to Reel Wamps, word is out in Mashpee - the rocky marriage between the Mashpee Wampanoag and their financiers -  Malaysian gambling syndicate Genting - may be heading for divorce court.  And Genting may be heading North to Suffolk Downs, greener pastures and a more competent partner for their gaming plans in the Bay State.

Reel Wamps tells us that Genting has informed Cedric Cromwell and the Mashpee Wampanoag Council that they are exploring options elsewhere in Massachusetts.  The reason, according to Reel Wamps, is incompetence and inability of the Council to execute the simplest of plans that complies with the law. As a result, Cromwell and crew are scrambling and the July 31st deadline for demonstrating they can pull this off AND get federal approval isn't looking good.

In addition to demonstrating that they can get land in trust in Taunton, the Tribe's compact with the state requires that they divulge and detail their financial obligations - rumored to be in the tens of millions already to Genting - and plans to finance their casino project in Taunton.  Without Genting money Taunton's Wampa World casino hasn't much hope unless Trusting Tom Hoye has a few hundred million lying about to invest.

This is one worth reading directly from the source:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mass Gaming Commission chair Crosby thumbs nose at requirements under Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 (MGL Chapter 194)

Mass Gaming Commission
continues to ignore legislature
The Cape Code Times’ George Brennan reports (Patrick expects casino deal next week, June 13, 2012) that The Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Steven Crosby plans to ignore requirements set forth by the Massachusetts Legislature in the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 194 “AN ACT ESTABLISHING EXPANDED GAMING IN THE COMMONWEALTH.”  According to the article, Crosby stated that the “Commission would presume the tribe has the ability to get land into trust if it reaches a deal with the state and it's approved by the Legislature.”  Crosby added, "We'll give the tribe whatever the appropriate amount of time is to get that decision made.”

Crosby’s statement suggesting a State compact with Massachusetts Legislative approval represents sufficient evidence for the Commission that the Tribe will likely gain federal approval for their required land-in-trust application for an Indian casino shows a complete ignorance of current federal law and the application requirements.  

Current federal law, reinforced by two Supreme Court decisions (Carcieri v. Salarz & Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs), and guidance from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau for Indian Affairs (BIA) clearly states the Mashpee Wampanoag do not currently qualify for land in trust

Mashpee Wampanoag tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell claims he is pursuing an “equal footing exception” to current law; however, BIA clearly states that such exceptions are extremely rare, require extensive and lengthy review, and the Mashpee Tribe, by all current independent expert reviews, fails to meet the minimum standards for such exceptions.  In fact, only one such equal footing exception has been granted in May 2012 by BIA since 2008 before the Carcieri ruling, and this was granted only after a seven year review process.  During this same time BIA has denied other applications from tribes with more qualifications for exemption than those offered by the Mashpee Wampanoag.

In addition, even if BIA were to grant the Mashpee Wampanoag an unlikely exception – the review process for which takes at least five to seven years with an existing backlog of more than 30 applications in front of the Mashpee’s– then this exception, if granted, still requires a supportive vote by the U.S. Congress to enact the land-in-trust transfer to the Tribe. Various influential Members of Congress, including Taunton and the Mashpee Tribe’s own representative Barney Frank, have publicly stated they would oppose any such votes.  Rhode Island’s legislators, including their Governor, are already moving to block the Mashpee Wampanoag application directly with BIA to protect their existing casino and Narraganset tribes’ interests located less than 25 miles away from the proposed Taunton casino.

Further, the Commissioner’s statement demonstrates that Crosby and his fellow commissioners are planning to ignore the state legislature’s intent and refuse to meet the Commission’s obligations under MGL Chapter 194, sections 67 and 91.

MGL 194, Sec. 67 clearly states:

The commission shall continue to evaluate the status of Indian tribes in the commonwealth including, without limitation, gaining federal recognition or taking land into trust for tribal economic development.

Crosby and the Commission have done no evaluation of the Mashpee Wampanoag application status and have received no expert opinions or evaluations of the likelihood of their application moving forward.  No records of any such evaluation, contracting for expert advice or reporting on this issue are found in any of the Commission’s published agendas.  By all accounts, the Gaming Commission has not even seen the elusive Mashpee Wampanoag full application Cedric Cromwell claims has been submitted to BIA.  

Yet, Mr. Crosby now states the Commission will use the successful negotiation of the Commonwealth’s Compact with the Tribe – a compact developed and negotiated for the Governor by the Gaming Commissions’ 48 hour tenure director Stan McGee before he was forced to resign his post following renewed claims about his 2007 arrest for sexually molesting a child in Florida. 

Unlike Mr. McGee’s problems - cited as an irrelevant and inconvenient distraction by Mr. Crosby -Massachusetts’ gaming law and the legislature’s intent are neither and must be addressed.  Crosby and the Governor tried to circumvent the General Court's will with regards to background checks for the likes of Mr. McGee (returning him to his high ranking policy post where he still works on casino issues for the Governor), only to be rejoined with a resounding veto override by both the Massachusetts House and Senate.  Mr. Crosby should have gotten the message then that the Legislature means business with regards to diligence and appropriate review for casino development issues in the Commonwealth.

Take note, MGL 194, Sec. 71 states that the Commission must conduct:
 (2) comprehensive legal and factual studies of the social and economic impacts of gambling in the commonwealth on: (a) state, local and Indian tribal governments; and (b) communities and social institutions generally, including individuals, families and businesses within such communities and institutions; provided, however, that the matters to be examined in such studies shall include, but not be limited to: (i) a review of existing federal, state, local and Indian tribal government policies and practices with respect to the legalization or prohibition of gambling, including a review of the costs of such policies and practices;
Apparently Mr. Crosby needs no comprehensive, legal or factual studies.  He simply wants to put the cart before the horse when it comes to granting the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe a casino, before the Commission conducts any legal or factual studies or reviews existing federal policies on this matter.  Were he to conduct such legal or factual research, the Commission would find the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe would fail to meet the requirements for acquiring lands into Trust in Taunton under the law even without the current Carcieri roadblocks.
And, most importantly, MGL 194, Sec. 91 states if the requirements, which include the determination of a tribe’s ability to successfully secure the required federal approvals for their application for lands-in-trust:
That the Commission must open up and request applications from commercial licenses “not later than October 31, 2012; provided, however, that if, at any time on or after August 1, 2012, the commission determines that the tribe will not have land taken into trust by the United States Secretary of the Interior, the commission shall consider bids for a category 1 license in Region C under said chapter 23K.
Mr. Crosby now suggests he’s ceding all responsibility for oversight of an Indian casino approval to Governor Patrick while giving an open-ended, non-defined window of time to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to find a way around current law which prevents them from taking land into trust.  “We will give the Tribe whatever amount of time to get that decision” ensures years of litigation and delays in Southeastern Massachusetts which were NEVER intended nor anticipated by the legislators who voted for this law.
This will completely circumvent the intention of the legislature establishing the Commission to make casino approval decisions and in placing a one year timeline an Indian tribe to overcome any land-in-trust issues so as to avoid multi-year delays.  
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has failed to overcome these challenges in the time allowed.  The Commission’s job now should be to move forward as prescribed by the law.  Taunton and the South Shore will otherwise be left mucking about the Wampanoag's administrative and litigation quagmire for years and years to come.  Those “urgently needed” jobs for which this legislation’s proponents claimed to be so desperately needed will never happen.  To ignore this is to admit the entire process and urgency of passing legalized gambling in Massachusetts was nothing more than a sham.
Given that the Governor and Mr. Crosby now clearly intend to thwart the intention as well as letter of the law voted on by the Massachusetts General Court, legislators should simply reject the Governor’s Tribal Compact, and demand Mr. Crosby appear before them to address why he thinks the gaming law as written is open to his whim and interpretation.  Then everyone, including the Mashpee Wampanoag people, can move on!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wampanoag "Good Faith" reveals itself in campaign expenditures

The initial campaign reporting filings for the recent Wampanoag-Genting Indian casino ballot proposal in Taunton, MA reveal what the people of Taunton can expect from the promised Wampanoag "good faith" agreement negotiated with trusting Mayor Tom Hoye (Trusting Tom) to spend and hire locally in Taunton.

Of those Taunton residents hired to work as "campaign consultants" on the Together for Taunton campaign, solely funded by the Wampanoag's financial backers in Malaysia, all were paid significantly less than the Mashpee tribe member consultants and other non-Taunton residents hired.  In fact, non-Taunton resident employees were paid 88 percent higher wages on average by the Wampanoag for their campaign work.

Four Taunton residents received a combined $21,850 in consulting fees for their staff work on the Together for Taunton campaign - for an average payment of $5,463 for their work in the first reporting period.  Compared with $39,666 paid to four non-Taunton consultants (including two Mashpee tribe members) - for an average payment of $9,917.  Taunton resident jobs on the campaign paid 45 percent less than others hired by the Wampanoag.  If that math carries through to the casino, those $35,000 per year average salary jobs promised by Cedric "crush the competition" Cromwell will translate to $19,600 jobs for Taunton residents - or more likely, immigrants willing to do low paying hard labor work who will move into or near Taunton.  (By the way, it will be this influx of low-income wage earners and their families that will - according to Taunton's mitigation expert consulting report - increase local public school costs by more than $890,000 per year.  The City's intergovernmental agreement (IGA) negotiate by the Mayor with the Tribe secured only $360,000 in annual mitigation costs from the casino for schools - a $540,000 additional deficit which while have to come from local taxpayers.)

As for "buying local" good faith?  Other than spending a paltry 6 percent of their printing budget with a local Taunton printer (the remaining 94 percent being spent with printers in Cambridge and Stoneham), virtually no goods or services other than pizza, parking and rent were purchased in Taunton.  The campaign couldn't even be bothered to stay local for basic office and cleaning supplies.  The total goods and local services purchased in Taunton amounted to $6,650 less than 10 percent of their goods & services purchased.  Food (pizza) being a significant portion of that spend - guess they couldn't find anyone outside of Taunton willing to deliver.

If we consider the Wampanoag-owned, non-tax paying restaurants, bars, parking, hotels, stores and whatnot the Tribe's proposed Indian casino complex will include once built, we can likely kiss all those local minimum wage-paying pizza deliver jobs goodbye as well.

Trusting Tom is starting to look more like the Taunton village idiot than a Mayor entrusted to negotiate good contracts on behalf of his residents.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taunton Indian casino – Call for independent community impact statements by July 2, 2012

Taunton-Wampanoag Indian Casino
35-mile economic impact zone includes
more than 50 Massachusetts & Rhode Island communities

Make sure your elected officials act now – before July 2, 2012 - to protect your economic, community, environmental and public safety interests if you live in any of these Massachusetts locations near the proposed Taunton-Wampanoag Indian casino: 

Abington, Assonet, Attleboro, Avon, Berkley, Bridgewater, Brockton, Buzzards Bay, Canton, Carver, Dartmouth, Dighton, East Bridgewater, Easton, Fall River, Franklin, Freetown, Halifax, Hanover, Lakeville, Marion, Marshfield, Middleboro, New Bedford, Norfolk,  Norton, Norwell, Pembroke, Plainville, Plymouth, Plympton, Randolph, Raynham, Rehoboth, Rochester, Rockland, Sharon, Somerset, Stoughton, Swansea, Walpole, or Wareham.  Impacted communities in Rhode Island include: Barrington, Bristol, Cranston, East Greenwich, Lincoln, Portsmouth, Providence, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warwick and Woonsocket.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has an application for a land in trust (LIT) reservation casino complex in Taunton, Massachusetts pending before the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau for Indian Affairs (BIA).  While no one other than the Tribal Council has seen this application yet, the Tribe is required to include details on how the casino will impact surrounding communities on various fronts.  These include identifying environmental, economic, public safety, traffic and community character issues along with the Tribe’s plans for mitigation of any negative impacts.

The State of Rhode Island has begun preparing reports on the negative impact the proposed Taunton-Wampanoag Indian casino will have on jobs, local businesses and the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s interests in border communities in their state.   However, some local Massachusetts’ communities neighboring Taunton who tried to reach out to the City of Taunton and Tribe to request that they be included in impact related negotiations have simply shut-out and ignored.  Fortunately, the Bureau for Indian Affairs will not ignore these impacted communities’ input and is current soliciting community impact concern statements now. Anyone can send a comment of concern.  Those from elected officials in your community, however, will have the most weight.  Ask you local selectmen, school board members, public works officials, public safety officers, state representatives and senators and others to write BIA.

You must get your letters in by July 2, 2012.

Written comments should be sent by mail to:

Franklin Keel, Regional Director
Eastern Regional Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs
545 Marriott Drive, Suite 700
Nashville, Tennessee  37214

Or via fax to: (615) 564-6701.

Make sure you include your name, return address and the caption specifying “Scoping Comments for Proposed Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Property Trust and Development'” on the first page of your written comments.

Please (cc)share copies of your letters with the:

Massachusetts Gaming Commission
84 State Street, Suite 720
Boston,  MA  02109
Fax:  617.725.0258

Independent economic and public safety studies shows the location of casinos impacts neighboring communities’ property values, crime rates, social service costs, road and infrastructure maintenance and local businesses within 35 to 50 miles.  Traffic, environmental and community character impacts can easily be seen in any community directly bordering a casino location but the impact extends well beyond that immediate area.  Issues for elected officials and community leaders in those cities and towns which border Taunton and fall within a conservative 35 mile economic impact zone should be demanding that Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Gaming Commission and the BIA require that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe research and provide mitigation strategies to address these concerns.

The Mashpee Tribal home and offices
are more than 50 miles away from the proposed
Taunton-Wampanoag casino site.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe offices are not within this impact zone, nor do the majority of tribe members reside within the impacted areas (Mashpee Tribe enrollment ordinances require that they live within 25 miles of the Town of Mashpee – which is more than 50 miles away from the proposed Taunton casino).  

Neighboring communities can anticipate significant traffic and potential environmental impacts from this Indian casino.  If you own or work for a business which might compete with those opening in the new Indian casino complex consider the words of Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell as reported by the Boston Herald:

We will destroy the competition because we won’t pay licensing fees or taxes!”

While Cedric was speaking then of casino competition, his remarks are equally true for restaurants, shops and attractions which will be forced to compete with the Taunton-Wampanoag Indian reservation complex.   This will be further exacerbated by the economic drain slot machines have on regional economies around casinos.

University of Illinois College of Business professor John Kindt has researched casino economics for more than 20 years and is the author of multiple reports and ongoing independent (not funded by the casino industry) research into the effects of casinos on the communities and regions in which they are located.  As to casino development promoters’ cornerstone promise of jobs, Kindt, notes: “Generally there is a bump lasting about two to three years. There are new construction jobs and a lot of activity as money is coming in.”  But Kindt warns that the bump won’t last: “Once the project is completed, and slot machines come in, [the casino] takes everything.”

The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian reservation casino for Taunton proposal includes 3,000 slot machines.  As an Indian reservation casino, state and local regulations limiting and regulating these slot machines do not apply.  The Tribe will pay no taxes or fees associated with these slot machines and may independently choose to increase the number of slot machines without any local or state approvals once their reservation application is approved.

Each slot machine costs the surrounding community one job per year, Kindt says. In an article for the Ohio Law Review, he reported that within a newly established casino’s “feeder market,” business and personal bankruptcies increase between 18 and 42 percent, while “impulse” business transactions in the area decline by 65 percent.

“When billions of dollars are going into slot machines, where are those billions of dollars coming from?” Kindt told the Biscayne Times in February of 2012. “They are no longer buying cars, refrigerators, or even food and clothing.”  In the case of the Taunton-Wampanoag Indian casino, those un-taxed billions will be going to the Tribe's financial backers in Malaysia helping improve the economy and job situation for Kuala Lumpur, not Massachusetts.

The Mashpee Wampanoag casino resort proposal includes a shopping mall, restaurants, water park and hotels.  The Tribe’s IGA with the City of Taunton conveys to them “super water rights” which will allow them to tap into the Taunton River Watershed to support their 250 million gallon per year local water drain. These Indian reservation businesses will add additional burdens to the area economies as they will pay no sales taxes, licensing fees or bear similar costs for state and local zoning and employment regulations.  Area attractions and businesses will see additional declines in revenue associated with this unfair competition.

Impact issues of concern for local communities based on Kindt’s research include:

·        The gambling drain on the economy and its net negative impact on job creation (job losses, local property and sales tax declines)
·        Addicted gambling and suicides (treatment and related costs)
·        Gambling-caused increases in bankruptcies, crime, and prostitution (public safety cost increases)
·        Gambling’s $3 in taxpayer costs for every $1 in benefits

Well beyond the borders of Taunton, communities will be impacted by casino-related competition costs, lost tax revenues and jobs will be felt at shops, restaurants and entertainment venues from the Swansea Mall to Westgate in Brockton and from Independence Mall in Kingston to Twin Rivers’ casino in Lincoln, RI.   Don’t count on the Mashpee Wampanoag representing any interests or community concerns to BIA.  If you and your local officials don’t speak now, you’ll have nobody to blame and no recourse later.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chief: Wampanoag Tribe got federal recognition through efforts tied to fraud

Former Chairman Glenn Marshall gets credit for Wampanoag
Tribe Federal Recognition by current Chief.
The current Chief of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts told the Enterprise News that were it not for former Council Chair Glenn Marshall that the Mashpee band today would not be a federally recognized tribe.  You see, Marshall is returning home today from prison on the eve of a critical vote by the citizens of Taunton on Mashpee Wampanoag plans to build an Indian casino - something only federally recognized tribes can do - and current Chief Flying Eagle, Earl Mills, Sr told the Enterprise News: 

"“Without him we wouldn’t have tribal recognition... without Glenn we would not have recognition and chances are we would have never gotten it..."

Wampanoag Chief Earl Mills
The Chief admits Glenn "made a mistake" along the way, and he's admitted that he is no fan of the current Council led by Cedric Cromwell but doesn't seem to want Cedric to forget how he got where he sits today.  While trying to distance himself as a reformer, Cromwell served as a Tribal Council member under Marshall during his "mistakes." Cromwell served on the Council which voted to shun and ban tribe members who tried to challenge and seek the tribe's financial records associated with lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Kevin Ring.

So what mistakes associated with gaining federal recognition and starting the tribe's pathway to a casino did former Chairman Marshall make?   Just five criminal counts, including making illegal campaign contributions, tax fraud, wire fraud, and Social Security fraud.  Marshall used monies lent the tribe by South African "investors" hoping to cash in on casino riches (sound familiar today? - just replace South African with Malaysian) to engage in various felonies and activities with the infamous lobbyist "Casino Jack" Abramoff which the Tribe hopes people will forget when considering them as a good partner in casino deals today.  

Wampanoag Lobbyists Jack Abramoff
Wampanoag lobbyists
Jack Ambramoff
So were it not for these criminal acts - which included over 50 illegal political campaign contributions to elected officials who helped the Tribe gain recognition (some of whom are still in office today supporting the Tribe's reservation casino efforts) - we would not be having a vote in Taunton to consider the Tribe's casino plans.  By most accounts from the Tribe, Marshall's acts were not for self-enrichment, but were illegal none-the-less.  The inheritors of Marshall's ill-gotten booty, however, appear more bent on their personal gains versus those of the tribe.

Today's list of characters in this bizarre saga simply has grown to back fill those sent off to jail in a previous act.  They include lobbyist Bill Delahunt, understudy to Mr. Abramoff; Chairman Cedric Cromwell, understudy to Mr. Marshall; and, playing new supporting roles Deval Patrick and Stan McGee.

By all normal definitions the Mashpee Wampanoag's current application for land in trust (LIT) and plans for a casino in Taunton are fruit of a poisonous (or at least rotten) tree.  Federal recognition gained through fraud, deception and shady dealings is not exactly the foundation upon which a credible and trustworthy casino gaming business should be founded.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Facts standing in the way of a Mashpee Wampanoag casino in Taunton

Governor Deval “I don’t count every check”Patrick with the help of his casino point man Stan “no comment” McGee, along with Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric “crush the competition” Cromwell and Taunton Mayor Tom “no due diligence required” Hoye are all publicly pushing the inevitability of an Indian casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.   Much news with glowing headlines is being promoted by the Tribe claiming “wins” and momentum behind their campaign for a reservation casino complex.  

Here are a few facts to keep in mind before anybody starts cashing Wampanoag-Genting casino checks:

1.    Land in Trust (LIT) – the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s application to create an “off reservation” casino in Taunton for the purposes of gaming must first be approved by the Department of Interior, Bureau for Indian Affairs (BIA).  Federal law (Title 25 part CFR 151.3) specifically notes:

Land not held in trust or restricted status may only be acquired for an individual Indian or a tribe in trust status when such acquisition is authorized by an act of Congress. No acquisition of land in trust status, including a transfer of land already held in trust or restricted status, shall be valid unless the acquisition is approved by the Secretary.

The recent “win” proclaimed by the Tribe for NICG approval of their amended tribal gaming ordinance specifically noted (something Mr. Cromwell failed to include in his proclamation) that the approval was moot absent the Tribe’s success in getting LIT approved.  Requirements from BIA are not simple and failure on any single item can cause the Tribe’s LIT application to be rejected.  Just a few of the hurdles for the Mashpee Wampanoag LIT application include:

a.    Carcieri v. Salazar – this Supreme Court decision requires that an Act of Congress change current law to allow for tribes, like the Wampanoag, which weren’t recognized prior to 1934 to get land-in-trust reservations.  No such bill to “fix Carcieri” is up for consideration in 2012 and multiple-influential sitting U.S. senators have publicly stated they will block any attempt to pass such legislation. 

BIA allows for very limited exceptions to the Carcieri ruling in approving applications for land in trust for the purposes of gaming.  These include “off reservation” and “equal footing” exceptions.  The Wampanoag Tribe is seeking an “equal footing exemption” to the Carcieri ruling with their off reservation site.   According to a recent notification by the Secretary of the Interior, both exceptions application processes are “lengthy and deliberate,” are “granted rarely” and required additional scrutiny.  Fewer than half of such applications are approved.  Never has an “off reservation” location been granted solely under the “equal footing” exemption being sought by the Mashpee Wampanoag.

b.    Ability to self-govern – the BIA will review and make a determination as to the Tribe and tribal leadership’s ability to effectively self-govern prior to granting them land in trust for gaming purposes.  The Tribe is hampered here on multiple fronts.  The City of Taunton’s IGA with the Tribe calls for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) tied to net casino slot revenues.  Such payments tied to income of a casino have been determined to convey a propriety interest and violate the governing sovereignty of a tribe by the BIA and federal courts.  BIA will not approve a LIT based on an IGA which infringes on a tribe’s ability to self-govern.   Further, the Tribe commissioned a study from Harvard University to assess their ability to govern.  While Cedric Cromwell has tried to hide this study (along with his own personal history of loan, utility bill and tax defaults), the Harvard study results released this year found that the current leadership and tribal government lacked systems and transparency to convey legitimacy in their governance

c.    Environmental impact study – this allows for bordering communities and others with a stake in the Taunton River watershed to oppose the casino’s impact - including the conveyance of “super water rights” to the Mashpee Wampanoag who will use an estimated 250 million gallons of water per year for their resort complex – to weigh in and block BIA approval.

d.   Economic impact report – BIA requires impact on any state or local political subdivisions be addressed.  BIA has never approved an exception to Carcieri LIT application opposed by an impacted state or local government.  The State of Rhode Island started conducting economic impact studies as soon as Massachusetts legislation authorizing and giving exclusive rights to an Indian casino for Southeastern Massachusetts was being considered.  The results of the first of the Rhode Island studies were published last week and found significant negative impacts to existing employment and Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indian Tribe economic opportunities.  Elected officials in communities surrounding Taunton who requested to be included in the impact and review process and were shut out of IGA negotiations between the City and Tribe will now be able to submit concerns to BIA.

e.    Surrounding community impact – the Secretary will review and ensure that any proposed gaming establishment will not be detrimental to surrounding communities.  Any impact on social structure, infrastructure, services, housing, community character and land use in surrounding communities must be addressed including costs and corresponding revenue sources to mitigate them.  A study on the impact to Taunton schools alone shows the IGA having a $500,000 annual deficit in mitigating increased cost to public schools associated with the Wampanoag casino proposal.

f.     Off reservation acquisitions – for off reservation LIT applications the secretary must consider conflicts of land use restrictions (i.e., the current deed restriction for the proposed casino property) and distance from the Tribe’s reservation (Town of Mashpee) with greater scrutiny given the further from the Tribe’s boundaries (as noted, Taunton is over 50 miles from the Tribe’s Mashpee core governmental function offices). 

g.    Significant historical & current ties requirement – the Mashpee Wampanoag’s historical ties to Taunton have been challenged by the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe and expert historians.  The Tribe has provided no evidence of historical ties other than alluding to “secret” documents held by the current Tribal Council, but not available to other Tribe members.  As to current ties, the Mashpee Tribe’s own federal recognition application and current tribal enrollment ordinances specifically delineate the tribe’s boundaries as within 25 miles of the Town of Mashpee.  The proposed Taunton site is more than 50 miles from Mashpee.

h.   Other Tribes’ historical connection to the land – BIA has never granted a LIT application where other tribes have territorial claim to the land being sought.  The Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe has already announced their opposition citing their historical ties and claims to Taunton.

i.     Town of Mashpee opposition – The Town of Mashpee, where the main tribal reservation and offices are located, must also submit a letter of approval and consent.  Mashpee officials opposed the last LIT application by the tribe after reviewing and finding the Tribe had made false statements about agreements with the town.   The Tribe currently has tax related disputes with the Town of Mashpee and other concerns about their local plans.

j.     State of Rhode Island opposition –  Rhode Island elected officials, including the Governor and state's two U.S. senators have started the process of research gathering to block the BIA approval by demonstrating negative economic impact to existing casinos and development at Twin Rivers and to the Narragansett Tribe.

k.    Concurrence of the Governor (of Massachusetts) -  Once all of this lengthy process – estimated to be a minimum of three to five years and taking as many as 15 years  - is completed with a favorable determination, the Governor of the state must then concur.  Since this request for concurrence can only come with a final determination by the Secretary of the Interior and after the affirmative vote by Congress, the likelihood that friend of the Tribe Governor Deval Patrick will still be serving is nil.  By the time this hits, existing state commercial casino interests will certainly have padded the campaign payrolls sufficiently to ensure no competition crushing Indian casino which pays no taxes or fees will be approved by the next sitting governor.

2.    Deed restrictions for property in Taunton -  A group of Taunton taxpayers are suing to block the deal based on the covenant deed restrictions for the proposed site which require the land be used only for "corporate headquarters, manufacturing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and jobbing or warehousing." Retail outlets and cafeterias are only permitted as "accessory uses."

3.    Commonwealth of Massachusetts Indian Casino Compact with the Tribe – This compact must be negotiated and approved by the legislature prior to July 31, 2012.   Several legislators are already unhappy with how the Governor is managing diligence with the Gaming Commission regarding the Stan McGee child sex scandal – yet, McGee remains the Governor’s Indian gaming point man who is the chief architect of the Wampanoag compact.  The longer legislators are forced to wait to see this back room cut deal, the greater likelihood it will face opposition and delays.

4.    Massachusetts Gaming Commission July 31, 2012 deadline – The commission must determine that the Tribe has a reasonable likelihood of getting federal approval for land in trust.  The Boston Globe has characterized this noting “the Tribe has immense obstacles to overcome to win federal approval for a tribal casino.”  Given the above noted hurdles and clearly articulated challenges, such a determination by the Commission would be viewed as highly unreasonable by any independent review and subject to legal challenge. 

5.      Other delaying legal actions:

a.    Town of Middleborough – Middleboro officials have sent letters of opposition to the Commonwealth and BIA opposing the Mashpee Wampanoag proposal, and they have announced they are preparing to pursue legal options to block the Tribe’s casino development efforts claiming a breach of contract with the Town.

b.    KG Urban Enterprises – This competing commercial casino developer has filed suit with an appeal pending claiming the regional tribal preference is unconstitutional.

c.    Aquinnah Wampanoag – The Martha’s Vineyard based tribe is planning multiple lawsuits to block the state from moving forward with any gaming after being shut-out of casino compact negotiations by Governor Patrick.

So what does this all mean?  Voting yes on Saturday simply dooms Taunton to a protracted march alongside the fated Mashpee Wampanoag, tying up City resources and locking in lands which could otherwise be used to generate taxes for the city and real jobs for area residents.  Vote no.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Preparing our children: What’s in store for East Taunton Elementary School & Wampanoag casino?

“East Taunton Elementary School (ETES) is a safe and well-maintained school that treats each student, family and staff member with dignity and respect!”

Dignity & Respect: That’s the value statement for one of the local Taunton schools most impacted by the proposed Wampanoag Indian resort casino for Taunton, MA.  ETES, which borders the proposed development property and is less than 300 yards from the proposed casino entrance, is not the only impacted school.  The Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical High School sits across the street to the North of the gaming complex site and City consultants also found Taunton High School, Martin Middle School, Coyle-Cassidy High School and Taunton Catholic Middle School will all be impacted to some degree by the casino location.

How are Mayor Hoye and the Mashpee Wampanoag providing dignity and respect to the children, parents and teachers of Taunton schools? 

The intergovernmental agreement (IGA) negotiated between Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye and Wampanoag Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell calls for $360,000 in annual payments to support Taunton Schools; however, the recent consultants report (confounding that it was delivered AFTER the Mayor signed off on the IGA) identifies a minimum of $890,000 in annual additional costs to the Taunton schools with the influx of lower income casino workers’ children into the system.  That's a $530,000 annual deficit and NEW burden the taxpayers of Taunton will have to bear.  But this doesn’t even take into account the full impact on children this casino will have and only accounts for costs to Taunton public schools.  Parochial and private schools will have increased burdens as well.

Safe & Well Maintained Schools: What else is in store for East Taunton children, parents and teachers as they come to and from school each day with a new resort casino complex next door?  One new treat, in addition to dodging the 21,000 cars and delivery trucks coming into the casino daily, will be the changed landscape surrounding the complex.  Next to high traffic (and significant increases in DUI cases) what do all casinos bring with them which currently don’t exist in East Taunton?  Check cashing stores and pawn shops of course! 

Do a Google maps search of any urban or suburban casino site (Atlantic City, Reno, Las Vegas, etc…) and “search nearby” for pawn or check cashing.  The routes to and from casinos are littered with the cash convenience stores where casino goers can turn those social security checks or grandma’s silver into casino coin to feed the slots.

Pawn shops thrive around Indian casinos according to this May 21, 2012 media report on the Seneca New York Indian casino.   You know what else comes with pawn shops?  Property crime!   Currently there are no check-cashing outlets or pawn shops near the schools and neighborhoods – MoneyTree and Fall River Pawn being the current closest sources, and they are responsibly located outside of residential neighborhoods.

An independent study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2008 found that pawn shops were associated with an increase in crimes – specifically robberies, burglaries and larcenies in the neighborhoods where they were located.  This report found:
“Increases in the number of pawnshops are shown to raise the rate of those crimes in which pawnable property is stolen and to have no impact on the rates of those crimes in which such property is not taken.  The results support the hypothesis that pawnshops trade in ill-gotten merchandise…. robbery, burglary, and larceny are crimes in which pawnable property is generally taken…   an increase in the number of pawnshops raises the incidence of these types of crimes…"
Research by Florida police found the pawn industry contributes to increased rates in property crimes.    Further, simply to manage that increased crime local police resources must be devoted to monitoring activities at area pawn shops.  

So parents, kids and teachers - let's start preparing our kids to dodge traffic and deal with increase crime as the WampaWorld Indian Resort Casino Complex comes to Taunton.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shhhhhh! It’s a secret (Wampanoag-style)

Lawyers for the City of Taunton admitted at last week’s Municipal Council meeting that Cedric Cromwell and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe required that “some documents” associated with the City’s negotiated intergovernmental agreement (IGA) be kept secret from the City and public.  But what documents? 

Are they talking about the Tribe’s rumored new application for land in trust (LIT) – which will be a public document if and when it is ever produced?  Or are they referencing the Tribe’s negotiated Casino Compact with the Commonwealth?  That too will be a public document open for inspection.  Since both are named  of the IGA which Taunton will be bound to support they should be available to the voters and the Municipal Council BEFORE they are asked to ratify the IGA and vote for a casino.

Are there other “secret documents” to which the Mashpee may refer once they have a signed IGA with the City?  Is Cedric Cromwell holding back the alleged historical documents and deeds he claims are in his possession which somehow link Taunton land to Mashpee Wampanoag ownership?   Even though no prior evidence of such Mashpee Wampanoag claims to Taunton lands have been recorded in the hundreds of years of state history annals will Cedric claim their existence but say they cannot be produced because they are tribal secrets?  Such documents will likely be required evidence when the Tribe seeks Department of Interior approval for their off-reservation casino LIT application review.  Will such secret documents, unavailable for public inspection, lay claim to other lands in Taunton the tribe intends to take into trust-related protections from local taxes and oversight once they have their foot in the door?

Now, this isn’t the first time the Tribe has invoked its alleged sovereign but mystical right to secrecy in dealing with local government to get what they want without having to produce documents that normal business entities would otherwise be required to share.  Should Taunton expect to be treated like the Town of Mashpee’s elected officials who, when trying to determine which local town lands the Mashpee were claiming rights to take into trust and remove from local tax rolls, asked the tribe for the locations of historically significant burial grounds cited in their various claims, applications and tax-exemption appeals.  The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s response – we can't tell you, it’s a secret. 

Town of Mashpee record:

Mr. Nelson read the following article which appeared in the March 23, 2012 Mashpee Enterprise: “Typically, nonpayment of property taxes would present a roadblock for obtaining building permits in Mashpee.  Since the Tribe has appealed its tax bill to a state panel, a “stay” goes into effect, allowing it to apply for permits and enabling construction of the government center to move forward, according to Ms. Mason”.  

To Mr. Nelson’s inquiries of the location of ancestral burial places on the site, Mr. Mark Harding, Treasurer of the Tribe, explained that the location of the remains of their ancestors are not spoken of outside the Tribe.  He said that the Tribe maintains internal records.  Mr. Nelson said that “ancestral burial places – that could bring this thing to a screeching halt”.  Mr. Harding reiterated that the location of the burial places of the ancestors is a sacred secret of the Tribal Commission.  Mr. Cromwell stated that the Tribe has federal protection on the graves and the Tribe’s ancestors are re-interred on Tribal property.  He assured the Board that the Tribe would not build either on top or near the burial grounds and their ancestors’ remains would not be disturbed in any way.

Mr. Harding, Cedric Cromwell’s business partner and tribe treasurer, wasn’t being 100 percent truthful here suggesting the burial ground locations are secrets known within the Tribe.  Tribe members, you see don’t even have access to the “records” cited by Harding and Cromwell and many Wampanoag tribe members have questioned the existence of various “secret” documents claimed by Cromwell in his quest for land in trust and a casino.

If the Tribe currently refuses to pay Mashpee Town taxes and fees and declines to follow local building codes that others must obey claiming sovereignty based on secret documents, what future does that present for Taunton, MA and what other secret documents will Cedric Cromwell insist we trust "exist" while he declines to produce them?

One thing is no secret. The Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell has a history of defaults on his local taxes, bank loans and utility bills, and under his leadership the Tribe has also not paid its local tax bills to the Town of Mashpee.  Why do Mayor Hoye and Taunton casino proponents believe all this will change when the Wampanoag move to Taunton?