Buffalo Thunder misses bond payment
Casino feeling effects of economic downturn
Kate Nash The New Mexican
6/24/2009 - 6/25/09
Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino in Pojoaque wasn't able to make a nearly $11.5 million payment this month on the $245 million bond for the resort and is working with note holders to restructure terms of the deal.
The new terms have yet to be agreed on, but Robert Moore, a financial restructuring partner with the international law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, said in a statement that the companies holding the notes "are engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Pueblo of Pojoaque, the bond issuer Buffalo Thunder Development Authority, and the bond guarantors Pojoaque Gaming and Buffalo Thunder, regarding the June 15 semi-annual coupon default."
Moore is a Los Angeles attorney for a committee that represents 90 percent of the bond holders, some of whom met at the resort June 15 to figure out a plan to go forward.
The lavish, 395-room resort north of Santa Fe opened in August. Hilton Hotels manages the resort and handles bookings while the pueblo runs the on-site casino. The facility includes a spa, several restaurants, a golf course and a $5,000-a-night Governor's Suite.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera said the pueblo has been hit hard by the economy, just like everyone else.
"We're working with our investors, we're talking about the economic conditions and trying to get through this downturn in the economy," he said.
"We're just concentrating on trying to get the market expanded for Buffalo Thunder," Rivera said.
Among other things, the pueblo is reaching out to companies including American Airlines, which has a new direct flight from Dallas to Santa Fe, to attract customers and drum up new business.
The pueblo also seems to have stepped up advertising in local markets recently, with prevalent television, Internet and billboard ads.
Pojoaque Pueblo is not alone in feeling the economy's pinch. Several big-name casinos including in Las Vegas, Nev., are suffering and Indian and non-Indian gaming revenues are down across the country. In New Mexico, even though two new casinos came online in the past year, casino net wins dropped by almost $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period last year, records show.
The net win is the amount gambled on machines minus the amount paid in cash and noncash prizes as well as fees.
For the first quarter 2009, the total net win was $173,364,770. For the first quarter 2008, it was $175,791,147, according to the New Mexico Gaming Control Board.
Between the first quarters of 2008 and 2009, both Pojoaque Pueblo and the Navajo Nation opened new casinos.
Unlike other casinos in the state, Pojoaque nearly doubled its net win, up from $6.3 million in the first quarter of 2008 to just more than $12 million this year. The pueblo also operates Cities of Gold Casino in Pojoaque.
Fourteen tribes operate gaming facilities in the New Mexico. The tribes pay a share of their gaming revenues to the state each quarter, which for the first quarter of this year was nearly $16 million.
Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at www.greenchilechatter.com.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Could this happen to the Mohegan Tribe, who owns the Mohegan Sun Casino and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs? When does the MYGA ever make a payment? Do we just pay the interest?
IF YOU KEEP DOING THE SAME THINGS OVER AND OVER AGAIN EXPECTING TO GET A DIFFERENT RESULT, IT IS INSANITY.
The present Mohegan Tribal Council, in my opinion, continues to do just that. The fact is when these people took office four (4) years ago, the MTGA was $1.2 Billion in debt, today we (the Mohegan Tribe) are $1.6 Billion in debt.
Can we afford more leadership like this? Is it time for a change? What do you think?