Third casino in Conn? Right now just words

Jul 1, 2002 3:14 AM

Before too long, a third Indian gaming hotel/casino could rise in the state of Connecticut.

The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has recognized the historical Eastern Pequots, opening up competition for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

According to a story in the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, the BIA before the end of the year will rule on two petitions from other state tribes. Last Monday’s unexpected decision to recognize two factions of Eastern Pequots as one tribe was bolstered by the long history of relations with the state.

Now, it’s up to the Eastern Pequots to form a government from two feuding factions in order to possibly become a player in the state’s lucrative Indian gaming industry.

"While our legal status is about to change, our goals and our needs are not," said Marcia Jones Flowers, chairwoman for the Eastern Pequots. "Today we begin a new journey, one which gives us the opportunity to work closely with our many neighbors in a cooperative ­­effort to address our mutual problems."

The factions share the 224-acre Lantern Hill Reservation in North Stonington, granted by the Connecticut legislature in 1683 before the colony became a state. There is opposition in North Stonington to a casino, but that doesn’t mean the Eastern Pequots couldn’t build one in another part of the state.

According to a commentary in the Connecticut-based, the people running Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods don’t seem to be worried about a possible third party entering the scene.

The lawyer for the Paucatuck faction, Eric Eberhard, said the BIA has helped many tribes get organized.

"There will be complex issues to work through, but it can be done; other tribes have done it," Eberhard said.

Net gain in Cal

Another threat to an Internet gaming ban has survived a challenge in California.

A bill introduced last year that would have banned Internet gambling died in California’s Senate Governmental Organization Committee when no member made a motion to pass the measure.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association opposed the bill. The Association is seeking an amendment to exempt tribes that operate casinos.

The decision was a defeat for a legislative group that included Assemblyman Dario Frommer, who had hoped to outlaw the sites in California.

"Internet gambling has become a billion-dollar business that does not guarantee players receive their winnings," Frommer said. "The Web sites are unregulated and growing."

Gaming rules Miss

The state of Mississippi saw its unemployment rate rise to 6.8 percent in May despite the fact that the gaming industry continues to bolster Tunica County.

Tunica, once considered the state’s poorest county, had only 3.6 percent unemployment in May. That figure was third lowest in Mississippi. The 6.8 percent average in the state is up from 5.5 percent last year.

The numbers for Tunica County are the best in almost 30 years. Nationally, the May unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.

State unemployment was at 6.5 percent last May.

In 1985, Tunica County had a 19 percent unemployment rate. The overall turnaround is credited to the 1992 opening of the casino industry.

Clarke County, owning a state-high 19.3 percent unemployment rate, was crippled this year with the loss of 816 jobs following the closing of the Burlington Industries plant in April.

Illinois bids soar

Casino regulators would like to sell the last gaming license in the state of Illinois for as much as $1 billion once the original investors back away.

The Illinois Gaming Board unveiled a new deal in the three-year Rosemont casino saga allowing for Emerald Casino investors to walk away with the cash they brought to the table.

Robert Shapiro, an attorney appointed by the attorney general’s office to represent the gaming board, said the license may be worth as much as $1 billion.

An earlier offer of $699 million was made by Las Vegas giant MGM Mirage, according to Illinois Gaming Board administrator Philip Parenti.

The board is expected to vote on the agreement this week.