Mohegan Sun, the casino resort operated by the Mohegan Tribe, and Foxwoods Resorts Casino, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation gaming complex, will push forward with their re-opening plans starting June 1. The tribal casinos in Connecticut are outside of the jurisdiction of the state and will re-open partially their entertainment facilities despite strong opposition from St. Gov. Ned Lamont.
Governor and Tribes At Odds
The Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot tribes have a history of clashes with the state governor, as in March St.Gov. Lamont approved a bill to allow for multiple operators to begin offering sports betting in the state, despite both tribes raising strong voices against it. Then in April, St. Gov. Lamont dismissed a request by both tribal operators to enable online gambling without revising gambling compacts and passing proper legislation.
The casino resorts operated by the tribes are the two largest employers in Connecticut, and both suffered material impact from the closures of mortar-and-brick facilities. The Mohegan Sun slot revenue for March fell 62%, to $19.5 million, from $51.1 million for March 2019, while at Foxwoods, revenue generated from slot machines posted an even bigger drop, 65%, from $40 million in 2019 to just $14 million in March 2020.
“We’re proud to partner with the Mohegan Tribe to ensure we develop the most responsible plan for helping the state of Connecticut recover swiftly and safely from the crippling economic impact of this pandemic.”Rodney Butler, Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
St. Gov. Ned Lamont labelled the re-opening of the casino resorts “risky”, but the tribal operators claim they established safety standards and operating procedures to mitigate risk in the two gaming venues that closed in March, their first closure since start of operations in 1990.
Strict Safety Procedures
Casinos will re-open utilizing infrared temperature scanners at their entrances, as well as enforce the use of masks by customers and personal protective equipment by employees, as tribal operators are determined to even exceed state’s guidance regarding phase re-opening and safety protocols. No poker rooms, buffets and concert venues will re-open in both gaming properties, while restaurants will operate for takeout only.
The casino resorts will cater only to Connecticut and Rhode Island residents and will not accept visitors from states that have a higher level of health risk such as New York and Massachusetts. Operators will also advise older customers not to come if they are a part of an at-risk group.
St. Gov. Lamont, despite recognizing that he has no power over sovereign tribes, is determined to stand his ground that re-opening is not safe, even by posting signs along the way towards the casinos to warn people.
“These are the types of warnings I think I’m obligated to tell people before they take part in risky behavior.”Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
The casino closure in March resulted into thousands of casino workers being laid off or furloughed and significantly impacted the economy in eastern Connecticut, even created a ripple effect across other businesses in Norwich and elsewhere in the region.