Foxwoods Is Fighting for Its Life, By Michael Sokolove, The New York Times
The Pequot tribe, owners of the famous Foxwoods Resort Casino, are proud people. The tribal members built Foxwoods through hard work, keeping their population low (there are only 900 members) and by smart planning. It is amazing how this tribe almost driven to extinction, has turned itself into one of the largest American Indian conglomerates known throughout the western hemisphere. Although it appears that the tribe is in debt, they are hardly going “under”. In fact, in many ways they have gained valuable insight from this experience which will make them stronger.
Nearly everything about the Foxwoods Resort Casino is improbable, beginning with its scale. It is the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere — a gigantic, labyrinthine wonderland set down in a cedar forest and swamp in an otherwise sleepy corner of southeastern Connecticut. Forty thousand patrons pack into Foxwoods on weekend days. The place has 6,300 slot machines. Ten thousand employees. If you include everything — hotel space, bars and restaurants, theaters and ballrooms, spa, bowling alley — Foxwoods measures about 6.7 million square feet, more than the Pentagon. The owner of this enterprise is the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Once powerful and even feared, the Pequots were nearly extinguished in one day — in fact, in just one hour — when English colonists and their Indian allies attacked and torched the main Pequot village near Mystic in the spring of 1637. The survivors were sold into slavery or given over to neighboring tribes…
In the early 1970s, just one resident remained on a Pequot reservation in Ledyard, now the site of Foxwoods — an elderly woman named Elizabeth George. Her grandson was Richard Hayward (known as Skip), a pipe welder and a former short-order cook with an audacious vision, innate political skills and a flair for dealmaking. Through his efforts, the tribe won federal recognition in 1983. In 1986, it opened a high-stakes bingo hall. Full-blown casino gambling came to Foxwoods in 1992 and in the two decades since has produced not millions but billions of dollars of revenue. Not surprisingly, the casino and its largess rejuvenated the tribe, whose population is now about 900…[In the beginning] $100,000 was given to each adult member of the tribe…they built new housing, a child-development center, ballfields and tennis courts, a spacious community building with a health club and an indoor-outdoor pool…The pièce de résistance was a $225 million museum to commemorate the Pequots’ tragic history and stunning resurrection… Children began getting the disbursements when they turned 18. Luxury automobiles abounded… The payments stopped… in late 2010, and more Pequots have been going to work at Foxwoods. You had this big moneymaking enterprise with a limited amount of mouths to feed…But everything’s about austerity now. It’s no different than what a family would do. You’ve got to get rid of the cable TV. You’ve got to get rid of the Cadillac. You’re not going to go out to eat anymore.. [With strategic guidance and planning] the casino’s profits have been increasing… Foxwoods had been an early mover, built to stand astride a huge geographic area — much like the Pequot tribe once dominated a big swath of New England… Foxwoods will expand…”
A good article about the tribe, and about the casino industry in general. Kudos to the Pequots for holding their own, and for taking care of their tribal members, especially their young. They have demonstrated true leadership and sovereignty.
It was a vision that would not die, one that endured through years of hardship and loss. It was the dream of a small group of Mashantucket Pequot Indians to rebuild their nation and to bring its members home. That was the legacy of Elizabeth George, who protected the Pequots’ right to live on the Mashantucket reservation and who instilled in those around her a love for and desire to keep their land, at any cost…~Pequots Museum~