Foxwoods plansInternet game

Aug 9, 2005 4:37 AM

Foxwoods officials have delayed until next Monday the start of a new promotion called PlayAway, a game that uses the Internet but does not require home players to put up fresh money.

The players, according to the operators of one of the world’s largest casinos, have already made their wager on keno at the Connecticut casino. At home, all they are doing is checking the status of their ticket and then are given the chance to play a simulated slot machine or hand of blackjack or poker that either shows a win or a loss depending on the keno ticket, according to the tribal position.

The state’s attorney general has branded the game an illegal Internet game of chance and has threatened to sue the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino, if the tribe pursues the PlayAway game. Originally, Foxwoods was going to start the game on Aug. 1 but because of the controversy postponed the start until Aug. 15.

Casino officials said they would spend the intervening time providing regulators with more information about the game. Watching closely is the National Indian Gaming Association whose members hope to implement the promotion provided Foxwoods wins its battle with the state.

Continuing its stance against Internet gambling, state Division of Special Revenue has ordered a halt to an Internet wagering site operated by Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN). The division’s executive director was quoted as saying, "In Connecticut, you cannot use the Internet for online gambling. Period. Telephone gambling is OK."

Even the tribe’s gaming commission chief agrees that the perception given players is that they are going online when playing PlayAway.

"Clearly the impression when you first went onto the Web site was that this was online gambling," Chairman George Henningsen was quoted as saying. "It looks like you’re playing. I know you’re not, but I can’t argue that it looks like it."

However, Henningsen said the game was just a variation for another game the casino has been running in which players try to guess series of random numbers. He said players could buy keno tickets at the casinos then go home, miss the drawings, check the winning numbers on their computers and return to Foxwoods to cash in their winning tickets.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal didn’t condemn the game completely. However, he said if this promotion is approved, there is nothing to stop the tribe from coming back for another slight change later.

"The software crosses the line into Internet gambling, which is illegal," he said.

There was no indication that the tribe is prepared to withdraw the game thus leaving the next step to the state authorities.