Casino’s finances come up lemons
$2B debt curtails Foxwoods tribe’s financial windfall
MASHANTUCKET | For two decades, the Mashantucket Pequots lived like Indian gambling royalty. Luxury cars abounded on their tiny, gated reservation of Colonial and ranch-style homes in the woods of southeastern Connecticut.
The tribe’s Foxwoods casino, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, allowed members to live without concern for money, generating shared-revenue stipends that once exceeded $100,000 annually for each adult.
This month, with Foxwoods struggling with debt exceeding $2 billion, payments to members stopped. The tribe has opened a food pantry for needy families, counselors have provided guidance on how to pursue jobs, and members have been left to ponder the end of what once seemed a sure bet.
“I was poor before. I can be poor again,” tribal member Gina BrownCongdon, 59, said. “I’m not happy, but you have to deal with what life gives you.”
The money is not the only source of anxiety. FBI agents have been visiting the reservation and asking about tribal finances, according to two people with knowledge of tribal activity who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to protect their relationships with the tribe.
It all contributes to one of the most tumultuous periods in the recent history of the Pequots, who own and operate the casino that made their reservation one of the wealthiest communities in America.
The affluence vanished as quickly as it came for the tribe, which had only one person living on the reservation in the early 1970s. The Pequots won federal recognition and opened a bingo hall in the 1980s before hitting the jackpot with the start of casino gambling at Foxwoods in 1992. People who traced their bloodlines to Pequots counted in a 1900 census were allowed to join the tribe, which now has roughly 900 members.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council said it stands united and focused on success at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.
“The community is pulling together in these challenging economic times, and we are eagerly embracing our future with a strong determination to continue growing our business as a major economic force in southeastern Connecticut,” the council said in a statement.
Foxwoods Resorts Casino and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods loom behind a barn in Mashantucket, Conn. Once one of America’s wealthiest communities, the Mashantucket Pequot Indian reservation has suffered a financial reversal.