Connecticut’s governor recently visited the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe—the state’s two federally acknowledged Indian nations—during a tour to promote jobs and tourism, only to find that he was preaching to the choir: The two nations together employ around 20,000 people.
That was one of the many economic facts Gov. Dannel P. Malloy learned about the Mashantucket’s’ and Mohegan’s staggeringly huge and irreplaceable contributions—more than $5 billion—to Connecticut’s economy over the past two decades. Malloy, who was elected the 88th governor of Connecticut last November, visited the nations on August 4. He said the state has not paid enough attention to its relationships with the tribes and casinos and the purpose of his visit was to “reinvigorate” those relationships, The Day reported.
At the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Malloy was welcomed by Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Elders Chairwoman Priscilla Colebut-Brown, and Foxwoods President & CEO Scott Butera. Mashantucket Pequot children decked out in full regalia performed a special tribal dance in the museum’s massive, glass-walled Gathering Space. The Governor was then taken on a tour of the award-winning state-of-the-art $194 million museum, which opened in 1998 and is one of the biggest tourism draws in southeastern Connecticut.
Watch a video of Gov. Malloy's visit to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum:
The next stop was the Great Cedar kitchen at Foxwoods Resort Casino where Executive Chef Duane Owen and Executive Pastry Chef Franck Iglesias greeted Malloy and treated him to an assortment of desserts. Then, a visit to Foxwoods’ Grand Pequot Casino for a chat with a roulette dealer and a tour of the new High Rollers Luxury Lanes & Lounge bowling complex, where Malloy met dozens of employees, some of whom have been with Foxwoods for more than 20 years.
Malloy learned that Foxwoods Resort Casino has contributed more than $3.2 billion to the state since it opened in 1993. The tribal-state compact gives the state 25 percent of Foxwoods’ slot revenue. Additionally, the nation spends more than $100 million a year on state-based goods and services, and has contributed more than $85 million in donations to local community organizations. Each day, 20,000 to 40,000 people visit Foxwoods.
The Mohegan Tribe, whose land is about 10 miles away from Mashantucket, does just as much for the state economy. While on tour at Mohegan with Mohegan Council Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum and others, Malloy learned that the tribe’s Mohegan Sun casino has contributed more than $2 billion in slot revenues to the state economy since opening in 1996. There are an estimated that 9.1 million visitors coming through the casino’s doors each year, according to a release from the nation. The casino also does business with an estimated 1,500 local vendors and spends $250 million annually. The Mohegan Tribe is the fourth-largest employer in the state of Connecticut with an estimated 9,000 employees in 2011. More than 1,100 of them have been with Mohegan Sun since the first day of operations. Employee Health Care benefits are estimated to be paid out at $75 million annually.
They went to the Mohegan Public Safety headquarters, where Joe Lavin, the department’s Executive Director joined with members of the Tribe’s police and fire departments to give the governor an extensive look at the equipment and facilities available in case of significant events and emergencies on reservation property. Malloy rode on an employee bus and stopped for lunch at the free center for employee dining, then toured Ballo restaurant, which is still under construction in Mohegan Sun’s Earth casino, the Seasons Buffet, the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Shops at Mohegan Sun, and Geno’s Restaurant where owner and UConn’s celebrity basketball coach Geno Auriemma shared news about his business venture at Mohegan Sun.
On several occasions during the tours, Malloy also criticized former Gov. M. Jodi Rell's decision to reduce the budget for state tourism marketing to $1, according to The Day. "The clearest sign of that is going to a dollar promotion budget for the state of Connecticut when every other state in New England - and just about every other state in the nation - is spending money to promote itself," Malloy said of Rell's cut to tourism marketing. "That's the rough equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face." He said the state will spend between $9 million and $15 million in the next two years to promote Connecticut and help draw more tourists.