Thursday, December 3, 2009


Mass. town may seek to improve casino deal
Wampanoag tribe in talks to add Foxwoods investor.

GateHouse News Service
Posted Nov 30, 2009 @ 11:24 PM


Middleboro, Mass. — .With possible new investors on the horizon for the tribal casino planned in town, at least one public official thinks it’s time to revisit the original terms of the deal hammered out more than two years ago.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribal council announced Sunday it is working with a new partner, Arkana Limited, a wholly owned affiliate of the Kien Huat affiliates in Malaysia, collectively known as Genting. The investment company is owned by a Lim family trust, which has cash reserves of more than $3 billion. Among many financial interests, the company financed the 1992 startup of Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Kien Huat also has invested in countries around the world involved in gaming, cruise, power generation, plantations, property development, biotechnology and oil and gas.

Ex-Mohegan Sun backers

In July 2007, selectmen signed an agreement with the tribe to host a casino on more than 500 acres controlled by then-investors, the South African casino tycoon Sol Kerzner and Waterford, Conn., developer Len Wolman. Kerzner and Wolman were partners in the development of Mohegan Sun. In exchange for support, the town would get $7 million annually and a tax on the hotel rooms.

But Selectman Stephen McKinnon, a former Finance Committee member, said the contract “missed a few things” — such as the impact to schools, and adjustments for inflation. Since July 2007 the consumer price index has risen more than 5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I’m only one, but yes, it’s an opportune time to reopen the negotiations,” said Selectman Stephen McKinnon. “Will the rest of the board agree? I don’t know.”

Asian gambling giant

According to a tribal press release, the new investor is the largest casino operator in Asia, and has also bankrolled casino resorts in Australia, the Americas, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and Singapore.

The deal comes amidst a drawn-out dispute between the tribal council and TCAM, a consortium headed up by Kerzner and Wolman, who are no longer involved in Mohegan Sun.

Last month, Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell told the town’s Resort Advisory Committee that TCAM had stopped funding the tribe.

He expected to resolve the dispute within weeks, and said the tribe would move forward on the casino.

“Kien Huat and its affiliates bring the business experience and financial strength that the tribe needs to move forward aggressively with our plans for a resort-style gaming facility,” Cromwell said in a prepared statement.

In addition to disputes with the former investors, the tribe has run into trouble in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that halted the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ longtime practice of taking land into trust for the tribes.

Trust process stalled

The tribe applied to the BIA to take the Middleboro land into trust in 1997, but the process appears to be stalled.

Stephen Bingham, a tribal member, said he isn’t satisfied with the deal, and believes the tribal council should have put the project out to bid before choosing investors.

He questions whether TCAM would still be involved, saying the new investors have had several business relationships with the previous investors.

Bingham said the new investor, Lim Kok Thay, was present at a tribal meeting on Sunday in Mashpee and told members once the deal with TCAM was complete it would take two months to build a casino.

Bingham questioned how that would be possible before the land has been taken into trust.

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