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Connecticut tribal casinos face hurdles

15 June 2007

HARTFORD, Connecticut -- As reported by the Connecticut Day: "For many of those who sat chatting over breakfast in the cavernous conference room, the presentation on the big screen surely confirmed what they already knew: The two casinos run by Native American tribal governments in southeastern Connecticut are huge and growing huger, and the state would be in dire fiscal straits without them.

"But if those familiar findings were reinforced Thursday at the Native American Economic Impact Summit in the Connecticut Convention Center, so too were the problems that have accompanied and spun off from the growth of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

"...But the discussion at this first summit meeting, organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut in conjunction with the tribes and six other chamber organizations, never strayed far from the challenges that could blunt the future economic benefit of the casinos, which are engaged in multibillion-dollar expansions, and could imperil the region's economy as a whole.

"...- An overburdened housing market grows too expensive for the working class, even as the wages of a new service-based economy drive down their ability to pay.

"- A transportation system fraught with near-missed connections and insufficient mass transit fails to move both workers and visitors efficiently through the region.

"- A state government that has grown accustomed to accepting more than $400 million per year in payments from the tribes has not — according to some, anyway — directed enough of those funds back to the towns and cities surrounding the casinos where they were generated.

"-And new competitors, including federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts and the Catskills, threaten to siphon off casino customers, putting the very industry that is being hailed with helping eastern Connecticut avoid economic disaster in the last 15 years into the position of guarding its turf in the years to come..."

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