August 14, 2011

Federal Government Reverses Land Deal with Shoshone-Paiute Tribes

The federal government has retracted its decision to transfer land to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, thwarting its off-reservation economic development plans to draw money to the isolated Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Owyhee, Nevada, strapped with an unemployment rate of 40 percent among the 1,100 residents, reported the Associated Press.

On October 25, a federal judge ordered the transfer of 26 acres of land located just east of Boise, Idaho to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, the AP reported. The tribes hoped to develop an off-reservation property, possibly with gaming, agriculture or light manufacturing. The land belonged to the heirs of a deceased Indian woman, Wallace Bruce Ogg. Talks began in 2009 about transfering a portion of the 80-acre parcel, known as “restricted fee land,” to the tribes.

While documents reviewed by the AP show that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regional director in Portland, Oregon, Stanley Speaks, approved the deal last year, his BIA agency’s lawyers advised the judge that he should kill the deal, because, they argued, it violates federal law to approve such a transaction.

Thus, U.S. Department of Interior Chief Administrative Law Judge Earl Waits reversed Speaks’ order on June 1.

The broken promise has sparked mistrust in the BIA, reminiscent of the federal government not honoring Indian treaties. “It is precisely this kind of abusive conduct—in this case, informing a tribe they own certain lands and then purporting to reverse the decision—that has all too often been the hallmark of relations between the Bureau and Indian tribes,” wrote Keith Harper, the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes’ lawyer, in a July 15 letter to BIA director Larry EchoHawk seeking help, reported the AP.

“The actions of the BIA to this point paint an embarrassing picture of the government approving a land transfer to the tribe and then arbitrarily taking the land in violation of the regional director’s word,” Harper wrote.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comPoll: Sonoma County Residents Against Advisory Role for Graton Rancheria - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

September 2, 2011

BIA Approves Two Gaming Sites, Rejects Two Others

The head of the BIA has approved land into trust applications for two gaming sites in California and rejected two others in California and New Mexico.

Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk and Deputy Assistant Del Laverdure announced the decisions in a press call today, September 2, and issued a press release with links to fact sheets on each determination.

Applications for proposed gaming facilities from the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians in Yuba County, California, and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in Madera County, California, were approved while two negative decisions were issued on applications from the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians in California, and the Pueblo of Jemez in New Mexico.

“We understand gaming applications can generate strong feelings on many sides, but it is our job to focus on the law and to ensure that we have a clear, sound and thorough process for reviewing those proposals,” Echo Hawk said. “Our existing regulations provide clear and adequate standards for reviewing tribal applications. This is one of the reasons I recently rescinded what is known as the ‘commutability memo’ issued by the previous administration and announced the department would move forward in reviewing pending off reservation gaming applications under existing regulations.”  The ‘commutability memo’ Echo Hawk rescinded in June was issued in 2008 and said, among other things, that tribes could not develop casinos on off reservation land that was not within “commutable distance” of the reservation. It didn’t define “commutable.”

But commutability continues to play a factor in approving off reservation gaming applications.  “Under our regulations we look at whether a parcel is within reasonable commuting distance from its reservation,” Laverdure said. And the further away it is, the more scrutiny the applications gets, he said.

The Enterprise Rancheria wants to operate a gaming facility on 40 acres of land in Yuba, County, California, which is 36 miles south of the tribe’s headquarters in Oroville in Butte County.  “The gaming facility would only be 36 miles from its government headquarters, allowing the Tribe’s government to exercise governmental power over the gaming site,” Echo Hawk said. The Enterprise Rancheria has around 800 members and currently only 40 acres of land in trust, which have been held in trust since 1915 and are currently used for residential purposes, according to the fact sheet. The proposed gaming site is approximately 40 miles north of Sacramento, CA.  The Tribe originally submitted its application in 2002. The proposed facility would include 1,700 machines, and an eight-story/170 room hotel. The BIA estimates the casino would yield annual net revenues of $46.2 million by year seven, with $19.3 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is proposing to operate a gaming facility with 2,500 gaming machines and a 200-room hotel on 305 acres of land in Madera County, California – 36 miles southwest of the tribe’s headquarters in North Fork, and 38 miles driving distance from its existing trust lands. The North Fork Rancheria has 1,750 members and currently has only 80 acres of land in trust, located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, four miles east of the town of North Fork, CA. Those lands are currently used for residential purposes. The BIA estimates that the casino would generate net revenues of $53.8 million by year seven, with $19 million in cash available to the Tribe’s government in year seven.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the governor has veto power over the land into trust acquisition. The governor of California has one year to concur in Echo Hawk’s determinations on the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria before the parcels can be acquired in trust for each tribe to conduct gaming. If the governor does not concur in the Assistant Secretary’s determination for each tribe, or if he simply does not respond to a request to concur, then the tribes may not conduct gaming on the proposed site.

Commutability was a factor in the BIA’s decision to decline to take land into trust for both the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indian and the Pueblo of Jemez . The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians had sought to develop a gaming facility in Richmond, California, more than 100 miles from its existing tribal lands in Mendocino County. The Pueblo of Jemez proposed a casino in Dona Ana County near the New Mexico-Texas border almost 300 miles away from its reservation in northwest of Albuquerque.

“We have closely reviewed the proposals from the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians and the Pueblo of Jemez and have determined that they do not meet the requirements under the law necessary for approval,” said Echo Hawk. “The Guidiville Band’s application did not satisfy many of the requirements to develop a gaming facility at that particular site. With the Pueblo of Jemez, we had significant concerns about the Tribe’s ability to effectively exercise jurisdiction over a parcel nearly 300 miles from its existing reservation.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) generally prohibits tribes from conducting gaming on lands acquired after 1988 when the law was enacted, but provides a number of exceptions. The Guidiville Band was seeking land into trust under IGRA’s “restored lands” exception, but could not prove it has both a modern connection and a significant historical connection to the proposed gaming site – two of the requirements to qualify for that exception.  “The Tribe relies upon anecdotal evidence and presumptions relating to the larger Pomo cultural group, rather than historical evidence relating to its own predecessors, to support its claim of a `significant historical connection’ to the site,” Echo Hawk said. The tribe could amend its fee-to-trust application for a different purpose, or submit a new gaming application for other lands, Echo Hawk said.

Two factors doomed the Pueblo of Jemez’s application—governmental power and distance. The IGRA requires a tribe to exercise governmental power over lands in order for them to be “Indian lands” eligible for gaming. In the Jemez’s case, the tribe had enteredinto several intergovernmental agreements with local governments near its proposed casino site in Anthony, New Mexico—300 miles away from its reservation—to exercise governmental power of the proposed trust lands.  The intergovernmental agreements and the 300-mile distance between Jemez’s reservation and its proposed casino would prevent the tribe from properly exercising governmental power over the site, Echo Hawk said. In addition, the assistant secretary noted the tribe was “unlikely to demonstrate a significant historical connection to the site, which, when coupled with the great distance between the site and the Tribe’s reservation, would make it difficult to render a positive Secretarial Determination under our gaming regulations. “

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comBrazil’s Indigenous Imbira People: The Earth, Life and Water are Life, Not Money - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

October 9, 2011

Mayor Testifies Against Bill Hindering the Tohono O’odham West Valley project

Filed under: Business,Gaming,News Alerts — Tags: , , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 1:00 pm

Mayor Bob Barrett of Peoria, Arizona, testified Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C., against Congressman Trent Franks’ proposed bill before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, reported the Peoria Times.

If passed, Franks’ bill would block the Tohono O’odham Nation from building its proposed resort/casino in Glendale, across the street from the City of Peoria.

Barrett told the subcommittee the project would generate jobs for people in the West Valley—an area with “some of the fastest growth in Arizona,” that also has “suffered significantly from the recession and faces continued economic fragility.”

“Let us be clear from the outset about what H.R. 2938 really is: job-killing special interest legislation designed to protect existing Indian gaming operations and those who benefit from those operations,” Barrett said. “This bill is not about whether the Nation’s land lies within its aboriginal territory or about whether the proposed casino and resort complies with the tribal-state compact or other applicable laws. And it most certainly is not about ‘protecting’ the local community. Rather, this bill represents an attempt to circumvent ongoing litigation challenging the Nation’s project which, so far, has not gone to the established gaming interests’ liking and has upheld the right of the Tohono O’odham Nation to develop its resort project.”

Get the full story.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comOctober 10 is Native American Day in South Dakota - ICTMN.com.

November 4, 2011

Seneca Nation Seeks Arbitration in NY Gaming Compact Dispute

The Seneca Nation of Indians will seek an expedited arbitration to settle a gaming compact dispute with New York State involving more than $330 million in slot machine revenues to the state and cities that host the Nation’s casinos.

Seneca Nation of Indians President Robert Odawi Porter said November 2 that the Cuomo administration has failed to negotiate in good faith in a long-running dispute over the exclusivity provision of its 2002 gaming compact with the state and that the Nation will immediately seek an expedited briefing schedule for arbitration.

The Nation has withheld $333 million in payments to the state since 2009, charging that the state had violated the exclusivity provision of its gaming compact by allowing and promoting slot machines at private business and three state-run racinos located within the Nation’s exclusivity zone in Western New York. The funds are being held in an escrow account pending a resolution of the dispute. The nation pays 25 percent of its slot revenues from its casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to operate gaming machines in its exclusivity zone. The state then pays out around 25 percent of the revenues it receives to the host municipalities.

Concerned that the revenue loss was hurting the towns, the Nation proposed making direct payments to the cities to Cuomo’s predecessor, former Governor David Paterson, while the state and Nation worked out their differences, but Paterson denied the request. Porter renewed the offer to the Cuomo administration in a February 8, 2011 letter. Howard Glaser, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of state operations, responded on November 1, confirming that the state now supports the Nation’s proposal for direct payments to the host communities.

Porter responded in a tersely-worded letter the next day. “Thank you for your letter yesterday, responding to my (February 8) letter on the Governor’s behalf and confirming the State’s position that it is now willing to facilitate ‘through legislation or otherwise’ the nation’s ability to restore the flow of funds to the host communities through a direct payment system…. The state has yet to meaningfully respond to the Nation’s proposed terms, or alternatively, to provide the Nation with a good-faith offer to settle the matter.”

Glaser blamed the Seneca for the delay in resolving the dispute. “The State has been long committed to resolving this dispute. As you are well aware, we commenced arbitration almost eleven months ago on Dece.ber 14, 2010. Unfortunately, the Nation has failed to name its arbitrator, thus preventing a timely and effective resolution of the concerns underlying the exclusivity dispute,” Glaser wrote.

Porter responded that he was “surprised”: to read that the state had started dispute arbitration 11 months ago. “As we discussed at our August 2, 2011 meeting, the State has yet to meet and negotiate in good faith concerning the exclusivity dispute – a mandatory requirement under the Compact before proceeding to arbitration—and has never provided the Nation with a written analysis of its position on the exclusivity breach issue, notwithstanding the State’s commitment to the Nation to provide this written analysis back in October of 2010,” Porter wrote. Because of concerns that the issue “languishing and the continued lack of meaningful progress in negotiations, coupled with the adverse impacts to the host communities, we are willing to waive the requirement for good faith negotiations to allow the matter to proceed swiftly to arbitration,” Porter wrote.

Joshua Vlasto, Cuomo’s press spokesman, acknowledged receipt of an email requesting comments, but did not respond. Among the answers sought was why the state, with a $10 billion deficit, has not pursued a solution that would allow the Seneca Nation to turn over the $333 million to the state.

According to the Associated Press, Porter said that Glaser’s letter was “inflammatory.” He said the Nation had given the new administration time to pursue good faith negotiations before continuing with arbitration, only to find out this week that it wasn’t interested. “This is a very frustrating scenario, 10 months later, to finally hear that arbitration is the official position for resolving the dispute,” Porter told the AP.  “It’s wasted an awful lot of time for our nation and for the local governments who’ve been hanging out there without getting paid.”

The AP reported that Cuomo laughed at the idea that his administration has moved at a glacial pace. “Yes, that’s us, we’re known for glacial-type movement,” he told reporters. “We’re looking and have been looking to resolve the differences as quickly as possible.”

In a press release issued November 3, Seneca Nation Council Chairman Richard Nephew said the Nation has made $476 million in exclusivity payments to the state. “The Nation has reached out repeatedly to two administrations for meaningful, substantive dialogue to resolve the compact dispute.  We continue to seek that dialogue and continue to propose ways in which we can fulfill our end of the bargain, according to the terms of the 2002 compact, despite the state breach of the compact since the arrival of VLTs and slots at the racetracks, and Moxie Mania at taverns and restaurants in our exclusivity zone. We will fight vigorously to defend the terms of the compact and hold New York State to the agreement it made with the Seneca Nation back in 2002, an agreement that is still a matter of law,” he said.

Porter also restated in the press release the Nation’s long-time efforts to make direct payments to the local communities. “Our preference would be that we make these payments directly to the host communities so that these dollars are immediately made available to the host communities in Western New York and benefit our fellow Western New Yorkers, as we’ve sought all along.”

But tensions are running high, according to a source close to the Seneca administration. The Nation was scheduled to make direct payments of around $70 million to the local communities on November 3, but the proposal collapsed after Glaser’s claim that the Nation was at fault for not resolving the dispute.

“I think why there is such impatience and frustration and a level of tension is because the Nation was patient and reasonable and tried to take the high road and tried to be good little Indians and sit tight and tiptoed around. The state has turned the entire situation around to say that Seneca failed to appoint an arbitrator and they’ve done nothing but attempt to meet and it’s just not true. Why isn’t someone asking why the state would allow nine months to pass before answering a letter from the Nation? Why would NY State lend the City of Salamanca $5 million last summer instead of letting Seneca make the direct payments? Why is the state taking so long to resolve a dispute that could put more than $330 million into the state coffers when the state is supposedly so broke? Why don’t they want to take the Seneca’s money? Why don’t they want to talk to them?” the source said. The arbitration process, which is likely to take around three months, may answer some of those questions, the source said.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comNative American Film Festival Highlights History - ICTMN.com.

January 10, 2012

Who Is Behind Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow?

The Kialegee Tribal Town is building an off-reservation casino in southern Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and city and state leaders are raising objections. In addition to contesting the tribe’s jurisdiction to operate a casino on the land, they want more information on the casino’s backers.

According to public records, the Kialegee Tribal Town—a Wetumka, Oklahoma-based federally recognized tribe with 439 enrolled members and part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation—has partnered with two women who own the land as well as several out-of-state attorneys and real estate developers, reported News on 6. At least two of them face lawsuits.

One is Luis Figueredo, a Palmetto Bay, Florida attorney who claims to specialize in Indian land claims and development, reported News on 6 in a January 7 article. The city of South Miami is suing Figueredo for professional malpractice stemming from an incident when he briefly served as that city’s attorney. According to the lawsuit, Figueredo was negligent in issuing a tax-exempt bond.

Another Floridian, Clifford Shane Rolls, has also come under heat. The Miami-based real estate developer is being sued by a South Carolina tobacco company. Rolls is accused, along with several other business partners, of illegally taking over the company by scaring other bidders away, reported News on 6′s January 4 article.

For the first time today, the Kialegee Tribal Town has spoken up about its plans for the Red Clay Casino, but not about the people behind the scenes. Issuing a statement through a lawyer in Washington D.C., the tribe addressed questions about the land and the transfer of jurisdiction, reported KRMG. The Kialegee Tribal Town claims jurisdiction at the site of the planned Red Clay Casino because of its treaty rights and status as “a member of the Creek Confederacy,” reported Tulsa World.

Meanwhile, city residents are protesting the casino in the streets with signs such as “No Dice” and “Protect Our Children.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comAPTN's Rez Drama Blackstone Returns - ICTMN.com.

January 20, 2012

NIGC: Broken Arrow Allotment Not Eligible for Gaming

Construction of the controversial Red Clay Casino continues on a privately owned Indian allotment in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, but the property has been deemed not currently eligible for Indian gaming, reported the Tulsa World.

The Kialegee Tribal Town has partnered with two women who own the land as well as several out-of-state attorneys and real estate developers to build the property. Tracie Stevens, chairwoman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), said she has the right to issue a closure order, if a gaming location on Indian land has not received approval.

The Kialegee Tribal Town is a branch of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and members have status in both tribes. But Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said earlier this week that the Kialegees violated tribal law by not by beginning construction on the casino without first asking permission from the tribe.

Opponents of the proposed Kialegee casino Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) had asked Stevens and assistant U.S. Interior Secretary Larry Echo Hawk to answer questions regarding the legality of the planned casino. In the meantime, Stevens has directed her staff to provide Sullivan and Coburn with all documents and information that can be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The NIGC remains committed to ensuring that all Indian gaming occurs on Indian lands eligible for gaming under IGRA,’’ Stevens stated, reported the Tulsa World.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comTucson Book Ban Debate Hosted By Democracy Now - ICTMN.com.

January 22, 2012

Potawatomi’s Planned $150 Million Hotel in Menomonee Valley to Spur Jobs

The Forest County Potawatomi Community is building a $150 million hotel adjacent to its Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.

The addition is expected to create 230 permanent jobs and generating millions in additional revenue for the Milwaukee area. The casino already employs 2,500. Analysis shows about another 800 indirect jobs being created by other local businesses that will benefit from visitor, supplier and employee spending. An additional 995 jobs will be created during the project’s construction, states a Potawatomi press release.

The proposed hotel will be a 4-star/4-diamond level hotel with 382 rooms, a full-service spa and a casual-dining restaurant. The tribe is hoping to break ground in late spring or early summer of 2012. Construction is expected to last about two years.

“Since opening Potawatomi Bingo Casino more than two decades ago, the Forest County Potawatomi has shown a continued commitment to investing in Milwaukee,” said Mike Goodrich, Potawatomi Bingo Casino General Manager and Forest County Potawatomi tribal member. “A hotel development will strengthen the long-term sustainability of the Casino.”

The hotel development will be smoke-free and green—designed to include a number of environmentally friendly features. Measures under consideration include an innovative storm water capture system, the use of native plant species in the landscape design and other energy and water efficiency measures to aid the environment and control long-term costs.

With 3,100 slot machines, nearly 100 table games, a 1,300-seat bingo hall, four full-service restaurants and a 500-seat theater, Potawatomi Bingo Casino is the largest tribally owned and operated casino in the country without an adjacent hotel.

“We believe this hotel project is the next logical step, to not only ensure that Potawatomi Bingo Casino remains a vibrant entertainment choice, but also makes it an attractive destination on a regional level,” said Goodrich.

The project is subject to securing financing and approval of development plans. Greenfire Management Services will serve as the development’s project manager.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comNFL Playoffs: Who Ya Got? - ICTMN.com.

February 3, 2012

Entice Customers on Super Bowl Sunday With Wagers and Specials

Unless your gaming emporium has a massive catering business, you want to “entreat” players to visit on Super Bowl Sunday. And the word “entreat” is how you do it, with “treat” as the operative word.

This is the Sunday where the world stands still, awaiting football hoopla—all the new ads on the TV, the cheerleaders, the half-time show, and, lest we forget, the legendary battle on the turf. Most crave the intimacy of others while watching this spectacle—taverns will be crowded, living rooms morphed into fan stands and tailgate parties. Fans will be laughing, snacking, and jubilant or cursing, depending upon team performance. Car horns will be blaring—this really is quite a day in America. Just consider the names of the teams: the Patriots and the Giants—a classic struggle (even a replay from several years ago). What tension!

So, how do you parlay all this energy and excitement into crowds for your casino business? Some of your plans may be time-zone impacted, as the National Football League title game kicks off on February 5 at 6:30 p.m. EST in Indianapolis. Your goal is to get patrons inside before the game and have them stay afterward. This is where the “treat” comes into play. The “treat” is indeed the “trick.”

It goes without saying that you have televisions strategically placed throughout the facility—the bigger the better. Almost everyone will want to see some action during game time. And nearly everyone will wager something on outcomes—whether it be who wins, the final score, the number of first downs, who fumbles, the longest punt, the best touchdown dance—whatever.

Start those pools and pack those sport books with options. While operating sports books outside of Nevada is not necessarily protocol, it’s regularly done. If not within the law, do it like a 50/50, giving a portion to a local charity.

This aspect is very obvious, but you can also create some big winners: a trip for two to the winning city, including airfare, hotel and $500 spending money, for example. Additionally, you can announce winners every quarter to keep the interest level high.

Naturally, your facility should reflect this excitement. Turn the casino into a stadium for a few hours. Offer special drinks named for players or teams. Cocktail waitresses and dealers can sport team sashes across their chests. Offer special rewards for those who wear a team jersey or paraphernalia. Cook some franks, hand out popcorn or cotton candy—you get the drift. And, as a caveat, consider a quiet corner for those who hate football. Lastly, when the game is over, move into a “blush mood,” perhaps offering a limited buffet, a special series of drinks. Bring ten dollar tables down to five for two hours. Hand out some free tokens to get the players back on course. Of course, have something extra special for your loyalty club members.

This is the day to be adventuresome, creative and bold, recognizing that your competition is really the living room Super Bowl parties, the crowded taverns and those just glued to their televisions. This is a day that many are joyous with high hopes for a favorite team. And they will bet you that theirs will win. Make sure that wager gets laid down with you!

For the past 10 years, John Hendrie has served as the president of Hospitality Performance in Merrimac, Massachusetts. He provides strategies to better define product/service, contain costs, increase productivity and enhance profitability within the hospitality industry, where success is measured by customer satisfaction.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comYelawolf Releases a Free Download - ICTMN.com.

March 9, 2012

Nearly 20,000 ‘Suspicious Activities’ Reported in Indian Gaming 2004-11

American Indian casinos filed 26 percent of all gaming suspicious activity reports (SARs) to the federal government during the years 2004 to June 30, 2011, and 16 percent of the dollar amounts allegedly involved, a new report shows.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) a unit of the U.S. Treasury, said tribal-licensed gaming institutions (excluding Class I gaming, over which the federal government does not have jurisdiction) filed 19,090 SAR-Cs (the “C” is for “casino”) between 2004 and the first half of 2011, an average of more than 2,000 per year. Nationwide, there were some 75,000 SAR-Cs filed by gaming institutions (casinos and card clubs).

The Indian gaming institutions alleged $290 million in financial crimes, out of a nationwide total of about $1.8 billion.

FinCEN also said an unidentified tribal casino was third in the number of filings by an individual institution at 972 (the leader, a state licensed casino, filed 1,483).

New Jersey led the states in SAR-Cs during the time period, with 16,382. The dollar amounts alleged in this one state, $293.6 million, are more than the total for all Indian casinos.

Types of suspicious activity reported to FinCEN included bribery, check, debit and credit card fraud, theft, large currency exchanges, minimal gaming with large transactions, money laundering, structuring, unusual use of checks, use of multiple credit or deposit accounts, unusual wire transfers, unusual use of counter checks or markers, false or conflicting IDs, and terrorist financing.

FinCEN said “structuring” was the largest category of suspicious activity. Structuring involves “patron attempts to reduce the dollar amount received from chip redemptions, apparently to avoid a CTR-C (Currency Transaction Report by Casinos) filing.”

The report, called “Suspicious Activity Reporting in the Gaming Industry,” said “casinos often detected these (structuring) activities at the time of redemption through pit/cashier communication, cashier familiarity with the patron, or surveillance.”

“Minimal Gaming with Large Transactions” was the next specific category of suspicious activity, after “Other.”

“The types of suspicious activities reported reflected known money laundering and criminal techniques,” the report said. “As reports of these activities have increased, casinos have expanded the amount of useful information available to FinCEN and its law enforcement customers seeking to deter and detect criminal abuse of the gaming industry.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comToddlers Can Learn Lakota With New App - ICTMN.com.

April 5, 2012

Crowd Control: Trained Security, Surveillance Aid Casinos’ Quick Response Time

As state-of-the-art surveillance technology continues to advance, so does security at Indian-owned casinos across the country.

For the proprietors of one of the largest gaming facilities in the world, Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, high-tech security with cutting-edge surveillance was an investment they were happy to make. It’s also one that seems to have paid off, with quicker response times by highly trained security staff who are ready for any situation that may arise.

Foxwoods’s six casinos cover 4.7 million square feet, with 340,000 square feet of gaming space. With an area that large, the Mashantucket Pequots make security a top priority. Director of Security Operations Russell Adams said that security at Foxwoods is state-of-the-art, but that doesn’t stop him from constantly being on the lookout for ways to improve the systems with the latest technology.

Because Foxwoods is such a large facility, its security team averages between 350 to 370 total staff members. Security officers come from all walks of life; among them are former homemakers, high school graduates, senior citizens, ex-police and -corrections officers, teachers and even shipbuilders. Newly hired officers attend a 40-hour class where they learn report writing, CPR, automated external defibrillator (AED) techniques, emergency procedures, alcohol-awareness training, methods of nonviolent-intervention, safety procedures and an overview of each post and its duties and responsibilities.

Though each security officer is trained to perform CPR, the security department has between 15 and 20 trained emergency medical response technicians (EMTs) and medical response technicians (MRTs) on staff.

“Our security department has the most lives saved in the state of Connecticut right here in our casino buildings because of our talented staff of EM and MRTs,” Adams said. “I am very proud of that. Security staff and our EMTs and MRTs work as a team to treat thousands and thousands of guests a year, and they do a phenomenal job. Our security team has even won awards from the American Heart Association for its outstanding work.” The casino has taken the additional step of contracting with a local ambulance company to have an advanced life-support unit with a paramedic on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Adams estimates that between 40,000 and 75,000 guests visit Foxwoods each day. It is therefore to be expected that an occasional scuffle will break out or a guest will sometimes require immediate medical attention. Negative publicity may result, said executive director of security Amondo Sebastian, but it is easily outweighed by his team’s successes in containing the situation.

FoxwoodsSecurityCommandCenter e1333560170611 Crowd Control: Trained Security, Surveillance Aid Casinos’ Quick Response Time

Surveillance technology inside the Foxwoods Security Command Center monitors the resort's 6 million square feet including six casino floors. (Courtesy of Foxwoods Resort Casino)

“A quick response and mitigation of the situation results in minimal press coverage, if any,” he said. “If there is an event, we contact our public relations department immediately to quickly and accurately disseminate information to the press.”

Foxwoods’s most recent high-profile incident occurred in February when rapper Jim Jones was arrested after attending Sean “Diddy” Combs’s party on the property; Jones allegedly assaulted an officer during a brawl involving at least five people in the foyer of the MGM Grand casino, the Associated Press reported. Because both the Connecticut state police and tribal police are located on-site within the casino complex, Sebastian said, they can respond to an emergency at any location on the casino complex within minutes.

“We send available personnel and supervisors to the area to minimize the problem and perform crowd control,” he added. “Since we respond so quickly and get the problem off the gaming floor, these types of scuffles are quickly contained and do not disrupt business or guests. We actually received letters complimenting our prompt response to the most recent situation.”

Adams urges casinos that have endured bad publicity as the result of altercations to consider that such incidents are, generally speaking, relatively rare. As it is, Adams believes that because his security team constitutes such a large presence at Foxwoods, and because it has established a good relationship with patrons, people feel secure and understand when unfortunate happenings break out.

“Our surveys confirm that our level of security and the patrons’ comfort level was the number-one thing people like about Foxwoods,” he said.

Adams said that casinos can usually head off most confrontations and damaging publicity before they happen by knowing the number of people in the complex, what special events may be going on, the types of acts performing and what kind of crowds those acts will draw. Or, to put it another way, forewarned is forearmed.

Fraud, external and internal theft and what security professionals call “slip and falls” are also under constant monitoring by casino security staff. Casino security departments throughout the country maintain communication in touch with one another, Adams said, and share information on shoplifting or fraud taking place by individuals or teams so they can be prepared in case those same people target their casinos.

“The technology is amazing today,” said Sebastian. “We have almost 7,000 cameras throughout the Foxwoods property, so there isn’t much we don’t see. You can’t pick your nose without somebody knowing it.”

FrankSantamorena 270x403 Crowd Control: Trained Security, Surveillance Aid Casinos’ Quick Response Time

Frank Santamorena (AP)

If there is an Achilles’ heel in casino security, it appears to be—perhaps not surprisingly—the loading dock. Such is the opinion of security professional Frank Santamorena, president of Security Experts, Consulting & Design, LLC. In his 25 years on the job, Santamorena has managed and designed safety and security measures for federal, state and local governments, Fortune 500 companies, entertainment and sporting venues, stadiums, hospitality, health care, educational facilities and pharmaceutical firms. More recently, he was the principal at Ducibella Venter & Santore Security Consulting & Engineering, responsible for the business development activities of the firm.

Santamorena, who was the security expert and advisor on the Discovery Channel series It Takes a Thief, has found it surprisingly easy to access many buildings, including casinos, through their loading dock or freight areas. “I think that addressing vehicle scheduling and vehicle security is really going to change the way many security directors secure their loading docks,” he said. “There has been an awareness of the problem, but nobody has really had a good solution.”

Indeed, Santamorena has found, the security industry has barely scratched the surface of truly securing buildings by leaving out the most dangerous possibility: truck bombs. “Establishing a trusted vehicle and vendor program protects people and property from some of the most damaging of threats: truck bombs, theft and uninsured vendors,” he said. “Generally, when it comes to analyzing security concerns, vehicles pose the greatest potential risk. Managing vehicles and controlling their access is an essential component to a safe workplace.”

A trusted vehicle program, Santamorena said, answers some important questions for every guard at a loading or freight dock: Who owns the truck? Who is in the truck? What is supposed to be in the truck? Where is the truck going? Where did it come from? How long should it be here? When should it be leaving? He estimated that with the right software, such as that offered by Shortpath, a vehicle can be identified and processed in less than 30 seconds. And with the addition of a license-plate reader, that time can be reduced to 10 seconds. His suggestion to security directors?

“Do your research on loading-dock systems, vehicle security and vendor management,” Santamorena said. “It’s a growing segment in the industry and provides all integrators a tremendous opportunity to extend their services.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comCrowd Control: Trained Security, Surveillance Aid Casinos’ Quick Response Time - ICTMN.com.

Blog powered by Wordpress