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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 22, 2008 at 3:53 PM

Tribal gaming

What else is new?

I read with interest The Seattle Times front-page story about the Snoqualmie Tribe’s “big bet” on its I-90 casino [“Snoqualmie Tribe’s big bet: the casino that almost wasn’t,” Nov. 2].

It reminded me of the years I had spent as a lawyer representing Alaska-native corporate interests after enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1976. The difference is that the Alaska Native Corporations were actually playing with their own money.

Your story talks about the Snoqualmie Tribe’s rise from rags to potential riches in just 10 years; it describes a community effort directed at self-betterment and it dramatizes the enormous gamble of $375 million in borrowed money.

I am constrained to exclaim, “Only in America!” — to coin the words of professional-boxing promoter Don King.

Quick and dirty research informs me that Bear Stearns [previously one of the largest global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms] underwrote $330 million of the debt in question, which expanded by another $45 million with the tribe’s purchase of 1600 slot machines.

I can only guess that the tribe has already gleaned enormous benefits from our state and federal governments for having established a tribal identity in 1999 and undertaken this project, that it is gleaning other enormous benefits from private-industry interests and that the I-90 casino is now, and has always been, a “no-lose” proposition for the tribe.

Now, about that “big bet,” “large gamble,” “high-stakes venture” and the tribe’s decision to “shoot the moon” on this project — just what is the tribe’s downside? And how is this any different from any other subprime risk we taxpayers are now having to assume?

— Ramer Holtan, Mercer Island

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