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Foxwoods leads America's casino market


R John Hayes, Windspeaker Staff Writer, Ledyard Connecticut







Page 27

It takes only a few seconds for the magnitude of the development on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in rural Connecticut to sink in. Foxwoods, the casino that has transformed this sleepy, impoverished First Nation into the richest in America, is huge. And it is the granddaddy of all the casinos on reservations across the U.S.

With 12,500 sq. m of gaming space, Foxwoods is open 24 hours a day, and has been open every day since it opened in February, 1992. The gaming area offers more than 3,000 slot machines, from 25- and 50-cent machines to "high-limit" slots with jackpots to a half million dollars. There are hundreds of gaming tables, including blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and mini-baccarat, Hickok's six-card, big-six money wheel, acey-deucy and more; high-stakes bingo; stud and hold-'em poker tables with limits from one dollar to no-limit games; keno; and race book.

Located about half-way between Boston and New York, in an area with a huge population and no other legal gambling establishments, the growth of the casino complex has not been a surprise. Around the casino there has grown up a billion-dollar resort complex. It includes a theatre complex, retail shops, kiosk carts, a beauty salon and health spa, 15 full-service restaurants and food courts, two 300-room luxury hotels, an arcade and a bingo hall and multipurpose room, which seats 5,000 people for headline performances and boxing events. The Mashantucket Pequots host the annual Schemitzun feast of green corn and dance each September, which includes the world championship of Aboriginal song and dance.

About 10,000 people are employed by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Resort Casino. The tribe is the largest private-sector employer in the state of Connecticut, with payroll benefits totaling more than $220 million a year. The casino banks profits of about $111 million each week, according to experts.

Although Foxwoods is the only casino in New England, there are other reservation-based casinos across the U.S. One of the best-known is in the north woods of Wisconsin at Lac du Flambeau, the Lake of the Torches Resort Casino. Located on the shores of Pokegama Lake, the casino boasts many of the same things that make Foxwoods popular, including a huge buffet and full resort hotel facilities.

Another is the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Casino near Belcourt, North Dakota, which operates a mini-casino in the town. Opened in May, 1993, the big casino on the reservation boasts 344 slot and keno machines, blackjack, poker and simulcast betting, and a Las Vegas-style dice table. Special promotions are held regularly, and the casino caters specially to bus tours.