Tribal Gaming

Connecticut Tribal Casinos Pan Gov. Lamont Reopening Rollbacks, But Will Adhere

Connecticut tribal casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun will adhere to Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) reimplementation of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining. That’s despite not necessarily agreeing with the science behind the decision.

Protestors in Middletown, Connecticut, demonstrate their opposition to Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision to revert back to earlier coronavirus restrictions, which includes reduced operating times for restaurants. (Image: Republican-American)

Last week, Lamont ordered all indoor food and beverage service to end each night at 9:30 pm. Restaurants are permitted to resume in-restaurant dining at 5 am.

Since Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are tribal enterprises that operate on sovereign land, they are free to reject state orders directed at commercial businesses. But the Native American groups, respectively the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe, said this week that they will respect the governor’s wishes.

That isn’t to say they fully agree with Lamont’s directives.

One of the frustrations we have is that there’s little data to support the idea that spread occurs at restaurants and businesses,” Foxwoods Interim CEO Jason Guyot told The Day. “It’s more in homes and at social gatherings where people are unmasked.”

“Some of these mandates aren’t necessarily based on science,” Guyot added. Connecticut confirmed 3,338 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with 496 patients currently hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Lamont Rollback

As of November 6, Connecticut has returned from Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan to Phase 2.1.

Along with the stoppage of indoor restaurant food and beverage service from 9:30 pm to 5 am daily, there are other rules that must be enforced. All forms of entertainment must conclude by 9:30 pm, event venues are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors, movie theaters are confined to 100 people, and churches must operate at 50 percent capacity, or a maximum of 100 people.

Guyot says that since reopening five months ago, the fact that there’s been no known outbreak of COVID-19 spread among Foxwoods employees or guests displays the tribe’s commitment to health safety.

“We’ve had over 1.5 million guests here since June 1, and have yet to see a case of transmission within the resort,” Guyot declared.

Mohegan Sun confirmed that its resort will also “be in line with the recently announced Connecticut guidelines.” Restaurants will continue to operate at a maximum 50 percent capacity, and last call for in-restaurant orders will be no later than 9:30 pm.

Mohegan Sun is also offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at its Thames Garage. The next testing dates are November 12 from 2 pm to 6 pm, and November 17 from 10 am to 2 pm.

Tribes Take Softer Stance

Connecticut’s two tribes riled the Lamont administration when they decided to reopen Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun last summer. Lamont pleaded with the tribal casinos to remain closed to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.

June 1 is too early,” a disappointed Lamont opined at the time. “You’re serving drinks, you’re inside, people have to take off their masks (to drink), they’re doing a lot of lingering. It’s not necessarily conducive to social distancing.”

The tribes went ahead and reopened their casinos on June 1. In opposition, the Connecticut Department of Transportation placed warning signs along roadways near the resorts that urged Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun travelers to turn around.

“DON’T GAMBLE W/COVID,” read the highway alerts. “AVOID LG. INDOOR GATHERINGS.”

Devin O'Connor

Gaming Legislation, Politics, Casino Business, Entertainment----Devin O’Connor’s passion for politics and background in the world of pop culture television give him insight into the gaming industry backstories that often drive news these days. After graduating from Penn State University with a theater arts degree, he worked at MTV Networks/Viacom from 2005 to 2010 as a writer and producer, where his credits included Total Request Live, New Year's Eve specials, and a special featuring poker superstar Daniel Negreanu. He later moved on to the HGTV/DIY Network, where he created, wrote, and produced three series specials: That's So House Hunters, That's So 80s, and That's So 90s. Devin came on board with Casino.org in 2014. He lives in Pennsylvania, and is an avid marathoner, having completed 15 races to date. Email: devin.oconnor@casino.org

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Devin O'Connor