Tribe disputes media reports on Mohegan Sun deal

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Indian gaming has made headlines this summer as controversy stirs over a Connecticut casino's business dealings, but tribal officials say readers should not believe everything those stories say.

On June 14, The Boston Globe published an article by Sean P. Murphy stating that Senator John McCain, acting as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, called for an investigation into the $1 billion in profits taken by non-Indian investors in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. According to Murphy, the deal seemed to be an evasion of a 1988 federal law, partially written by McCain, that strictly limits the profits of non-Indian investors in casino developments on Indian lands. He says members of the committee may decide to analyze the 1988 law for loopholes that could have allowed non-Indian investors to take more than their legal share of the profits.

The Globe article also reports that investment firm Trading Cove Associates, in its deal with the Mohegan tribe, evaded federal law by fragmenting the investment deal into two components: one for a hotel and another for a casino. In the article, former tribal official Carlyle Fowler says that the tribe overpaid Trading Cove by as much as $450 million.

According to the article, a current tribal official, speaking to the Globe on condition of anonymity, said the tribe was forced to pay extra or go through drawn-out litigation. The latter was not advisable because it would delay the $1 billion casino expansion currently taking place, the article reports.

Cultural Survival contacted the Mohegan tribe to ascertain the tribe's stance on the reported investigation. A representative stated that there was, in fact, no probe into the casino deal and that the Globe article was incorrect. She then cited the Web site indianz.com as a more accurate source for news on Native Americans.

According to Indianz.com, a Globe reporter was observed talking to McCain during an official recess at a confirmation hearing for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Indianz.com says that the Mohegan deal was not mentioned in the official statements of any member -- McCain included -- of the Indian Affairs Committee. Indianz.com also says it found other inconsistencies with the Globe article.

The site links to a June 15 Hartford Courant article, which quotes McCain's Communications Director Nancy Ives: "He said he was interested in holding a hearing on general Indian gaming issues but he did not call for a probe of this particular [Mohegan Sun] issue in and of itself." The Courant article also reports that the "The Globe has published a series of stories and editorials since late last year trying to compel federal officials to investigate financial agreements between the Mohegan Indians and their non-Indian partners, who built and managed the Mohegan Sun Casino."

A search of other major newspapers could find no reference to McCain's request for a probe into the Mohegan Sun deal. Murphy, the Globe reporter, could not be reached for comment.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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