Monday, September 15, 2008

BINGO: Some blame casino for losses

By Aleasha Sandley, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer
ANDERSON — Around town, the twirl of the bingo cage might soon be replaced by the pull of a slot machine lever. The bingo hall at the city’s AMVETS Brian Simpson Post 692 has increasingly become more silent, as those who joyously yell “bingo!” when they have a winning card have left the game for higher-stakes gambling at Anderson’s new Hoosier Park Casino.
Since the casino opened in June, Post 692 has seen a decrease in bingo players, from about 250-260 players a night to 130-180, leaving the post’s operations and charity work, funded by bingo and pull-tabs, floundering for more money.
“When the casino opened in June, it pretty much just annhilated all the bingo in the area as far as making a normal profit,” said Phil Ray, financial officer for Post 692. “It put us in a tailspin.”
The Indiana Gaming Commission has not done studies on whether casinos affect the profitability of charity gaming sites, like bingo halls.
“We have at this time no statistics to support that,” said Diane Freeman, director for charity gaming at the IGC. “We definitely have not done any type of statistical analysis of that so far.”
As a not-for-profit, Post 692 depends on the money earned from charity gambling to fund its overhead costs and contribute to its charitable causes. Before the casino came, it was giving about $30,000 in scholarships a year, but since has had to withdraw from that amount and cut back on other charities as well, Ray said.
“We had to cut back any way we could,” he said. “Up until this month, we were looking at possibly even closing.”
Thanks to tireless advertising and special food and beverage deals, the post has been able to bounce back some in the past couple months, rebounding to numbers a little closer to normal. But it’s too early to tell if the rebound is a permanent fix, Ray said.
“We’re trying to get them back from the casinos, and we’re having a difficult time with it,” he said.
Chesterfield’s AMVETS Basil Barkdull Post 332 also has seen a loss due to the new casino, said post official Jan Barkdull. The post has lost $10,000 a month since May, when things started going downhill. Barkdull said the loss was a combination of the casino and poor economy.
“I think it’s probably 50/50,” she said. “I’m hoping the newness of the casino is kind of wearing off.”
Post 332’s profits go to Stepping Stones, an organization with a $350,000 to $400,000 annual operating budget that provides transitional housing for homeless veterans and women going through drug court. If losses grow, the post could have to stop giving money to the shelter.
“I keep praying that’s not going to happen,” Barkdull said.
But Bob Burns, who runs bingo operations at Anderson’s Elks lodge, said summer is a slow time for bingo anyway, with players having more options for spending their time outdoors or with their children who are home from school. The Elks bingo only has been in operation since April, so it’s too soon to tell if the casino will affect it, Burns said.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sarah Palin is not such a small-town girl after all

By James Bennett
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 09/09/2008

It is clear that few in America, let alone Britain, have any idea what to make of Sarah Palin. The Republicans' vice-presidential candidate confounds the commentators because they don't understand the forces that shaped her in the remote state of Alaska.

John McCain and Sarah Palin
Thus, most coverage dwells on exotica - the moose shooting, her Eskimo husband - combined with befuddlement at how a woman can go from being mayor of a town of 9,000, to governor, to prospective VP within the space of a few years.
But, having worked with Alaskans, I know something of the challenge she has faced, and why - contrary to what Democrats think - it could make her a powerful figure in the White House.
The first myth to slay is that she is a political neophyte who has come from nowhere. In fact, she and her husband have, for decades, run a company in the highly politicised commercial fishing industry, where holding on to a licence requires considerable nous and networking skills.
Her rise from parent-teacher association to city council gave her a natural political base in her home town of Wasilla. Going on to become mayor was a natural progression. Wasilla's population of 9,000 would be a small town in Britain, and even in most American states.
Full coverage of the US Election 2008
Barack Obama goes on attack over Sarah Palin's bridge record
Sarah Palin: an Alaskan writes
But Wasilla is the fifth-largest city in Alaska, which meant that Palin was an important player in state politics.
Her husband's status in the Yup'ik Eskimo tribe, of which he is a full, or "enrolled" member, connected her to another influential faction: the large and wealthy (because of their right to oil revenues) native tribes.
All of this gave her a base from which to launch her 2002 campaign for lieutenant (deputy) governor of Alaska.
She lost that, but collected a powerful enough following to be placated with a seat on, and subsequently the chairmanship of, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which launched her into the politics of Alaska's energy industry.
Palin quickly realised that Alaska had the potential to become a much bigger player in global energy politics, a conviction that grew as the price of oil rose. Alaska had been in hock to oil companies since major production began in the mid-1970s.
As with most poor, distant places that suddenly receive great natural-resource wealth, the first generation of politicians were mesmerised by the magnificence of the crumbs falling from the table. Palin was the first of the next generation to realise that Alaska should have a place at that table.
Her first target was an absurd bureaucratic tangle that for 30 years had kept the state from exporting its gas to the other 48 states. She set an agenda that centred on three mutually supportive objectives: cleaning up state politics, building a new gas pipeline, and increasing the state's share of energy revenues.
This agenda, pursued throughout Palin's commission tenure, culminated in her run for governor in 2006. By this time, she had already begun rooting out corruption and making enemies, but also establishing her bona fides as a reformer.
With this base, she surprised many by steamrollering first the Republican incumbent governor, and second, the Democratic former governor, in the election.
Far from being a reprise of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Palin was a clear-eyed politician who, from the day she took office, knew exactly what she had to do and whose toes she would step on to do it.
The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers. This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.
In short, far from being a small-town mayor concerned with little more than traffic signs, she has been a major player in state politics for a decade, one who formulated an ambitious agenda and deftly implemented it against great odds.
Her sudden elevation to the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket shocked no one more than her enemies in Alaska, who have broken out into a cold sweat at the thought of Palin in Washington, guiding the Justice Department's anti-corruption teams through the labyrinths of Alaska's old-boy network.
It is no surprise that many of the charges laid against her have come from Alaska, as her enemies become more and more desperate to bring her down. John McCain was familiar with this track record and it is no doubt the principal reason that he chose her.
Focusing on the exotic trappings of Alaskan culture may make Palin seem a quaint and inexplicable choice. But understanding the real background of her steady rise in politics suggests that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are underestimating her badly. In this, they join two former Alaskan governors, a large number of cronies, and a trail of enemies extending back over a decade.
James Bennett is the author of 'The Anglosphere Challenge'

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Building green housing for Wisconsin's tribes

UW professor, local architect assisting state tribes with housing plans that combine sustainability with family customs
Anita Weier — 9/03/2008 10:08 am
Imagine a house where an extended family could live comfortably -- grandmother, parents, children and maybe an uncle or aunt. And try making that house "green" -- one that would not harm the environment or waste energy.
Wisconsin's First Nations are taking the lead in developing such houses for their members -- with a lot of help from the University-Wisconsin Madison and a local architect.
The idea emerged from Assistant Professor Sue Thering's work with several Native American tribal groups that wanted affordable, energy-efficient houses.
At first, the plan was to provide housing that was simply green and affordable. But while working with the St. Croix Ojibwa, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Superior Ojibwa and the Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwa to develop the plans, she learned that they also wanted housing where extended families could live together.
"Traditionally, Native American families have more than one generation living together. Others call it over-crowding but we call it helping out our families," explained Duane Emery, director of community development and housing for the St. Croix Ojibwa of Wisconsin.
"We want to push green codes or green principles in our design," he added. "As Native Americans, we need to do this."
The new project has its origins in an earlier partnership that Thering fostered between the tribes and Madison-based Design Coalition, which has earned national awards for green and affordable projects. Lou Host-Jablonski of Design Coalition and others began teaching green building techniques to builders in northern Wisconsin who will use them for new housing.
"We are training the three tribes -- St. Croix, Lac Courte Oreilles and Sokaogon -- in how to use the materials. They end up with two houses on the St. Croix land that they can refer back to and a group of local professionals who know how to build. We are training the trainers," explained Thering, who works in UW-Madison's Landscape Architecture Department and in community development for UW-Extension.
Construction on two 1,400-square-foot houses on the St. Croix reservation near Hertel, Wis., is expected to be completed this fall using a combination of tribal casino revenues and grant money secured by the UW. Training on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation near Hayward and construction of a model house is scheduled for next spring. A site design and master plan also has been done with the Mole Lake tribe.
What will make the next phase of the partnership highly unusual and "rather historic," Thering said, is its emphasis on multi-generational housing.
"It would be incredibly green: instead of five tiny houses there would be one large house with less impact on the environment," she said.
Thering obtained a $116,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program, and Host-Jablonski has produced technical drawings for multi-generational homes after meeting with a steering committee from the three tribes to find out what they wanted.
Existing government-issued housing is simply not adequate for the way the people have chosen to live, Host-Jablonski said. "A standard floor plan does not work. There are not enough bedrooms and the kitchen, dining room and living room are not large enough."
He added that "in an extended family situation, the kitchen is always the center. You may have two to four adults in a kitchen preparing meals and the kids associated with those adults doing homework or needing to be nearby. The dining room needs to handle 12 to 20 people in an extended family situation, including guests. They need not only a bigger room but a bigger table and more chairs."
Six to eight bedrooms are needed, he said, as well as facilities that meet the needs of different age groups. For instance, a home office, a workshop or craft area and a children's space such as a combination nursery-playroom-recreation room become requirements.
The dream house the three tribes envisioned was not an apartment building but a home. The two concept plans include one house of about 3,000 square feet in addition to a partially finished basement. The smaller home would be about 2,000 square feet plus a partially finished basement. The actual houses may differ somewhat from the plans, depending on the soil and slope and street location.
"That is actually cheaper, instead of two or three buildings on separate lots with water and sewer for this number of people. It is cheaper to build and heat and cool and light it. There is less exterior surface area," Host-Jablonski pointed out.
The hope is to finish planning this year and to start construction of one or more homes next spring. Locations have not been determined.
In many ways, the goals of energy efficiency and cultural appropriateness dovetailed.
The energy-efficient homes would use 100 percent recycled roofing with recycled cellulose insulation, and interior materials would be durable and low-toxin, with as much recycled and reused products as possible. The windows would be high quality for energy efficiency.
"The prototype is a wigwam, built of saplings covered with reed mats, barks or skins, depending on the season," Host-Jablonski said. "The entry originally faced east. A variance we found in the Lac Courte Oreilles was double wall construction, with an inner and outer layer and sphagnum moss in between for insulation.
"There was an earthen floor over stones, and a fire pit set below the level of the floor into a stone-lined pit. Combustion air was fed by a tube of birch bark sat in the ground, so there was a heat exchange system in a natural building. I thought I was smart as an architect to come up with ideas, only to discover the basic elements in their culture 150 years ago.
"Another culturally appropriate thing we tried to incorporate is having a circular or octagonal quality in living spaces. The building is not round -- which is somewhat antithetical to solar -- but we try to give the main living space a circular quality or focus, with angled walls and the way stairs and outer walls shape it. Round or oblong-shaped rooms, like the wigwams, meant that a small clan could sit equal, with no front or back hierarchy."
The cooperative effort between the northern tribes and the UW that has led to the push for multi-generational housing began in 2002, when the tribal planning office for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwa approached Thering's Department of Landscape Architecture for assistance.
"They wanted to develop a 200-acre parcel of land to build some housing, but were very concerned about protecting their natural and cultural resources," Thering recalled. "We did a participatory community planning process with the tribe. We worked with them and brought in our professional faculty and some students."
The UW helped figure out where to put the road and the tribe applied for development grants to get the roads built.
"Then I asked to see what kind of houses they were building. I wanted to make sure they knew technical assistance was available to them. Most of it was pre-manufactured homes and the energy efficiency was pretty low. I thought we could do better and asked if they wanted me to look around for something efficient, healthy, sustainable and green," Thering said.
Other tribes heard about it and the UW was asked to provide land use technical assistance for them. Thering also discovered the nonprofit Design Coalition, which had earned national awards for green and affordable projects.
"I talked them into partnering with us on a tech-transfer jobs training project in response to some of the requests we had from the tribes. Talented, experienced builders and artisans work within the tribes and want to learn about green construction and materials. So it was skill enhancement," she said.
Thering and tribal members have high hopes about the potential benefits of the new housing.
Thering said it would be one way of dealing with waiting lists for housing on several reservations. About 1,200 people live on the St. Croix reservation near Hertel, and there is a waiting list for housing, in part because people want to come back to the reservation, said the St. Croix Ojibwa's Emery. Some of them want to return to be near their families, Thering added.
Emery is also hoping that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sometimes subsidizes housing on the reservation, will provide matching funds to build multi-generational homes.
The effort to train builders in new techniques may also pay greater dividends.
A training program at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is teaching green building practices, and the UW-Madison, Design Coalition and Kelly Design Group are joining with the tribal college for its construction and training program. The college has a carpentry program and an institute for sustainable living, and faculty members participated in the building of the model houses at Hertel.
Steve Kozak, renewable energy instructor at the tribal college, said his Energy Efficiency and Green Building Practices course and a carpentry class that builds houses will benefit from what the instructors learned at the St. Croix building site.
One technique in particular that the builders are using is the use of a mixture of native straw and clay to make 12-inch thick walls that provide excellent insulation.
Enterprise Community Partners, a national organization, gave $25,000 for the training project with the St. Croix, but has also asked Thering for a proposal to expand the train and build idea through the upper Midwest by working with tribal colleges.
And Thering has started to think about expanding the concept of the green affordable housing initiative beyond Indian Country. In a time of mortgage defaults, steep fuel costs and job losses, a training program for unemployed or underemployed workers that results in environmentally sound, energy-efficient affordable housing might be a good idea statewide, she said, comparing the idea with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
Anita Weier — 9/03/2008 10:08 am

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Conference hears feedback, anticipates gaming revenue : ICT [2008/09/02]

Conference hears feedback, anticipates gaming revenue : ICT [2008/09/02]:
"A cloud on the horizon for some tribes was a proposed change in National Indian Gaming Commission rules that would return more money from casino gaming to state coffers and with which the Chickasaws, among other tribal nations, disagreed. While the harshest changes appear to have been discarded, revisions could be made that would affect electronic versions of Class II games, which include pull tabs, bingo and others.

Under the Chickasaw compact with the state of Oklahoma, 6 percent of casino gaming revenues - calculated on an amount that Anoatubby said falls between net and gross casino profits - goes to the state."

Worthington's Legion post struggling to keep going |  Worthington Daily Globe  | Worthington, Minnesota

Worthington's Legion post struggling to keep going Worthington Daily Globe Worthington, Minnesota:
"WORTHINGTON — Post 5 has occupied a role in the Worthington community ever since its organization after World War II and the post name became Calvin-Knuth. The post was active for a number of years. It moved from the church located at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street, and built a structure on the present grounds. Post 5 supported many activities in the present structure, referred to as the Post Home. Sources of income were from the lounge and other fundraising activities like steak fries, pork chop dinners, etc. Gambling activities, such as Bingo and pull tabs, became a source of income for the post.
It would seem that Post 5 would be able to exist with the income sources stated. However, those sources weren’t sufficient to meet all of the obligations. Post 5 began to cut back on its activities. The fundraising activities weren’t always profitable, and if there was income, it became a stop-gap."

The Resident » Blog Archive » Foxwoods Bingo Is Now and Forever

The Resident » Blog Archive » Foxwoods Bingo Is Now and Forever:
"Bingo veteran of 22 years and Tribal member, Michael Holder, VP Operations, Mashantucket Pequot High Stakes Bingo at Foxwoods, is a Day Two employee of Bingo. So, why not Day One?
“I was transitioning from my previous employer, Electric Boat, to High Stakes Bingo at Mashantucket,” states Mike with a gleam in eyes. “Calling bingo was my first job and eventually, I worked every job on the floor, including admissions, selling pull tabs, even washing and waxing the floor.” Mike continues, “Probably the only job I didn’t do was to work in the kitchen.” Though Mike admits to grilling himself a burger a time or two especially, after the long hours spent on the floor in the early days.
If you were around in the early days of MPTN High Stakes Bingo, you know that it all started with this game of chance. The first location for the Tribe’s lucrative enterprise was a 1200-seat hall and is now the home of Festival’s slot room. Mike gazes down into the original hall from his office windows and remembers the excitement created by this very popular game."