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TMCNet:  Tribes: If Online Gaming Is Legalized, We Want In

[November 16, 2012]

Tribes: If Online Gaming Is Legalized, We Want In

Nov 16, 2012 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- If online gaming is legalized in Connecticut -- either by state or federal legislation -- both the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes say they want in on running the games.

Connecticut's two federally-recognized tribes -- which each own and operate a casino -- issued statements to that effect in the wake of a Courant story Wednesday about possible federal and state legislation that could make it legal to bet online from home computers. A key committee co-chairman in the Connecticut General Assembly also said that legislators "absolutely" should consider legalizing some form of online gaming when they reconvene in January, and Congress now is drafting potential legislation legalizing online poker nationally.

Under legislative language currently being discussed by U.S. Senate leaders, states could "opt in" to run online poker under the regulations of the federal program -- but they could only run online poker and not other forms of online gambling such as sports betting or other casino games. The legislation could be acted on before the end of the year.

Cheryl Allen, public affairs coordinator for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, operators of the Foxwoods Resort Casino, issued this statement: "Consumers are making many more of their spending choices online or through mobile devices, and industries that do not adapt to the digital consumer marketplace will suffer.

"The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation believes that regulation of Internet gaming, either at the state or Federal level, is inevitable. Regulation of Internet gaming will provide the much-needed player protections that are currently not available through unregulated offshore operators who are currently taking bets in the US and Connecticut. MPTN has been diligently studying the Internet gaming space and is preparing itself to be an active participant in the marketplace when regulations permit." The Mashantucket Pequots would want to run a variety of casino games online -- not just poker, Allen said, adding: "Casino operators will only be able to maintain and expand their businesses by moving their existing product sets and games into this digital marketplace." As for the Mohegan tribe, which owns the Mohegan Sun casino in Montville, it is fully prepared to jump in if online gaming is approved by Congress or the state legislature, said Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan tribe's chief of staff for governmental and external affairs. However, unlike the Pequots, the Mohegan tribe only supports legalizing online poker, and not Internet versions of other casino games, he said.

Bunnell said the tribes believe that their legal "compacts" with the state government would require that if Connecticut legalizes online gaming, the tribes would have the right to operate the program.

Casino operators have mixed feelings about online gaming. "A lot of people in the industry" feel that online gaming -- with people playing the games on their home computers, "sitting in their underwear and a dirty T-shirt" -- is "bad for business," Bunnell said. The industry would rather have them spend their money at the casinos on gaming, food and entertainment, he said. But if online gaming is to happen in Connecticut, he said the tribes are best qualified to run it.

Connecticut lawmakers considered Internet gambling early last year, but didn't act, after the U.S. Justice Department ruled in December 2011 that federal law prohibits online sports betting, but not other forms of Internet gambling. Since then other states, including New Jersey, have moved closer to instituting online wagering programs. Nevada is on the verge of starting online poker.

___ (c)2012 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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