Altered Livelihoods: Shuttered Tribal Casinos in Connecticut Denied Temporary Online Gaming Licence

April 10, 2020 3 min read
by Thomas Wolf

As all parts of the economy are facing the pressure under the strain of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has now infected over 1.5 million people worldwide, stories are flooding in from individual businesses and company owners trying out new ways to keep their companies afloat.

The latest such story in the gambling world comes from The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes of Connecticut, USA.

The owners of the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino tribes agreed to voluntarily shutter up their casinos on the 16th of March.

Mohegan Sun Casino Blue Sky
The Mohegan Sun casino.

Because this move effectively cut off all revenue for two of the state’s biggest employers with over 10,000 people on their books collectively, bosses are certainly concerned.

Last week, they petitioned The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government (SCCG) to be allowed to temporarily start-up online gambling services until the pandemic is over.

The SCCG forwarded the tribe’s concerns, plus its own, to state Governor Ned Lamont.

“This public health emergency has altered their livelihood in an unprecedented way,” said the letter. “We need to do everything we can to assure that they are able to survive now and thrive again in the future.”

Significant Decisions

However, officials in the state capital Hartford were seemingly not impressed by the request’s urgency.

This was not a big surprise, considering that most efforts are currently focused on combating the local outbreak of the globally spreading respiratory disease that has already killed 300 people in the state.

The assembly is also closed until at least the 17th of April, which means that the required discussion of any emergency laws would not be possible.

“Authorizing online gaming and enabling consumers to more easily access gambling is a significant policy decision that has not yet been embraced or acted up by our legislature,” said Governor Lamont in his official reply.

The whole process was “not feasible or realistic during the current crisis period,” he finished.

However, he said he was committed to helping all businesses in Connecticut through the nationwide shutdown and had suspended license payments for both casinos during their closures.

The two tribes came up against Lamont during legislative battles last year after they petitioned the Capitol with an MGM-backed bid to jointly open a third casino and also open up sports betting facilities at their existing sites.

Between them, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have contributed more than $200 million in taxes every year for the past 20 years. They even nearly reached a $450 million tax bill back in 2007.

It’s no wonder that the Governor would like to keep them on his side, but the sweeping changes needed to even temporarily allow online gambling were just a little too much to be considered for an executive order.

No Clarity

“I know it’s not the most important thing right now,” said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots, “but I also don’t think it’s that complicated to implement.”

Butler added that the Tribes would be revisiting their request should the pandemic situation continue for much longer.

At the moment, he said, the casinos were more concerned with their employees’ welfare and when federal relief would arrive so they can keep paying wages.

“There’s no clarity,” Butler said. It’s currently unclear when the economic shutdown will end, and online gaming could play a key role in sustaining casinos through what might be many months of otherwise complete inactivity.

Even in places around the world where casinos have reopened, such as the Asian gambling hub of Macau, floors are still mostly empty, and visitors continue to stay away.

Keep checking our pages for more on the ways the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting gambling businesses and employees around the world, as well as all other online casino news—and stay safe.

Author

Thomas Wolf

217 articles

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