Sault Tribe reports $1.7M hit from fed
Tribal Chairperson Aaron Payment said the tribe’s federal dollars are pre-paid treaty rights funds.
“We paid for these critically important services through 21,621 square miles of land cessions in 1836 that allowed the Michigan territory to become a state just a year later,” he said. “The general language in American Indian treaties calls for the United States to perpetually provide for our health, education and social welfare.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011 called for $85 billion in mandatory cuts to go into effect Jan. 2 if Congress could not agree on a budget. Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act on Jan. 2, which pushed the budget cuts back until March 1, but after that, allowed the sequestration to take place.
Since Congress did not find a remedy for the impact of sequestration, officials say the Sault Tribe is facing a $1.7 million loss of federal revenues. The tribe claims they already appropriate 100 percent of the Kewadin Casinos net gaming revenues – about $17 million – for services and governmental operations.
Through a combination of operational savings, efficiencies, changes in casino expenses, performance improvements and a better allocation of funds, Payment believes the tribe will withstand the latest challenge.
“Efficiencies will be sought and where a function is not justified or cannot sustain itself, changes will need to be made,” he said.
At the same time, Payment acknowledges that gaming revenues must improve.
“We need to make major changes in the way we operate and drive revenues,” Payment said.
Kewadin Chief Operating Officer Anthony Goetz and governmental administrative teams, with oversight from the board of directors, have been working diligently to identify savings and to drive new revenues.
The board has begun a quality improvement review process while Payment has established a Casino Oversight Adhoc Committee to report regularly to the board on revenues and trends, marketing, advertising, promotions, customer service, team member morale, staffing, performance rewards and an ongoing reflective discussion on improvement.