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Mashantucket Pequots announce plans for Caribbean resort casino

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which
operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, said June 29 that it plans to build a
600-acre resort and casino in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the latest move by a
tribe to expand operations off tribal land.

The tribe said its plans include a 400-room hotel, a marina, casino, 160
residential lots, condominiums, two golf courses, retail shops, a
convention center and botanical gardens.

Foxwoods, which is built on tribal land in Connecticut, is one of the
largest casinos in the world. Other tribes, including the Mohegans, have
diversified. The Mohegans, operators of Mohegan Sun, recently purchased the
Pocono Downs racetrack in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in anticipation of opening a
slots facility.

The Mashantucket Pequots said they are working with William and Punch
Partners, a development group that owns waterfront property on St. Croix,
where casino gambling is legal.

Tribal spokesman Bruce McDonald said no additional information was

According to a news release issued by a lending company last year, the
developers are planning to build "The Mills of St. Croix," on the site of
one of the island's old sugar mills. The release did not mention the
tribe's involvement.

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James A.D. Francis, chief of staff to Virgin Islands Senate President
Lorraine L. Berry, said June 29 that the casino plan was in development and
believes the tribe's involvement will be viewed favorably by local

"That would be good news for St. Croix because it would mean William and
Punch had a financial backer to really assist them," Francis said.

At a Senate hearing last year, residents said they wanted the resort
project but were concerned about environmental effects and that the
developers may not obtain financing for the deal, The St. Croix Source
newspaper reported.

"St. Croix is a market that has exciting possibilities, and any
development, like our other enterprises, should respect the natural beauty
of its surroundings," Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Michael
J. Thomas said in a statement.

The nearly 600-acre site was purchased for $3.75 million, according to last
year's news release by Kennedy Funding, a lending group, which said it had
arranged a loan of $3.9 million.

Francis said casino developers must seek approval from the Virgin Islands
Casino Control Commission. Legislators generally support casino gambling to
increase tourism, he said.