Connecticut’s Native American Casino History Continues to Evolve

Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun - a Joint Effort?

Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun – a Joint Effort?

thDo you remember that it was Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1991 that opened the door to casino gambling in CT?   At the time, Indian gambling was considered one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., and by 1997 there were 150 Indian casinos.  CT was on the cutting edge of this industry, offering the first casino experience in the northeast since Atlantic City.

Here’s some irony for you. Weicker actually wanted to ban it, “only to be outflanked by an unlikely coalition of Catholic priests, PTAs and volunteer firefighters who found common cause with a tiny Indian tribe” according to  Mr.  Pazniokas. So, then “… Weicker created the framework under which two tribal casinos have thrived, while keeping rivals from Las Vegas at bay.” Who knew these decisions made in 1991 about a small tribe’s venture into gaming would set New England on course to become a major casino destination.According to Mark Pazniokas,  the legal opening for Foxwoods was threefold

  • the federal recognition of the Pequots as an active tribe
  • the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and
  • a seemingly insignificant state law allowing charities to host gambling events.  In Connecticut’s case, that meant a law that allowed charities to raise about $80,000 annually through “Las Vegas nights” could permit the Pequots to open the first casino in the northeast outside Atlantic City.

And there it was.  The spark that has lead to this – The great Casino War of the Milleneum in New England.

Now, we come back to 2015, and Saturation Casino Station in the northeast continues to grow.
By the way, according to The National Indian Gaming Association, there are 470 Indian gaming operations in the United States. These are owned by 242 of the nation’s 565 federally-recognized tribes and operate in 28 of the 50 states.  The total annual revenue from Indian gaming is nearing $30 billion.
Eight casinos inside this radius by 2017 - not including Maine and NY Expansion!

Eight casinos inside this radius by 2017 – not including Maine and NY Expansion!

So, the Nutmeg state is scared of the threats to the once undaunted Native American Casinos in southeastern CT.  Hey – why not change the rules?  Here are the suggested changes – a new deal with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, the operators of Foxwoods Resorts Casino and Mohegan Sun.

  • The tribes would be given permission to jointly expand off tribal lands.
  • The tribes would be able to have a better chance at preserving jobs and its existing share of gambling revenues
  • The Tribes would jointly build a casino off I-91 near the Massachusetts line to intercept patrons on their way to MGM Springfield, which is due to open in 2017.

    MGM Springfield, Springfield Mass

    MGM Springfield, Springfield Mass

What will all this become?  Be patient, this story is long but over.

However, there is a sub-plot to all of this.  Connecticut still has an odd history concerning it’s tribes – those who have and those who have not.  This week, I wish to combine some articles written in the past year, with some interesting history of the Native American tribes in CT.  I suggest that the status of Indian tribes in CT in terms of recognition and the BIA is based mostly on economics and CT legislators, not on entitled sovereignty that is due.

That’s all for now.



Leave a Reply