Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mohegans to Blumenthal: No Smokes, No Slots

The Mohegan Indian tribe of Connecticut – for purposes of law, a sovereign nation – has written a letter to Governor Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on the subject of a smoking ban the governor and attorney general wish to impose upon the Indian owned casinos.

Following a bi-partisan passage in the state legislature of the ban, Tribe Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum wrote in a letter to the governor: "I must inform you that if this legislation is approved, that action will force us to vigorously defend our federally recognized right to govern our lands. I will be compelled to initiate legal action on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe to stop this assault on our rights. ... As you will see, legal action may put in jeopardy our slot contribution to the state of Connecticut."

And a statement from Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council spokeswoman Lori Potter expresses solidarity: "The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council agrees with the Mohegan Tribal Council that this issue concerning smoking areas is not an issue of whether or not to allow smoking. We are concerned primarily with the protection of tribal sovereignty. With respect to government-to-government relations, our tribal council is working very diligently to remedy this issue directly with the governor's office with the intent to bring about an amicable solution for the wellbeing of the tribe, the state, our employees, and our patrons."

If the tribes withhold the contributions they make to the state in lieu of taxes, Connecticut will be poorer by nearly a half million dollars annually.

The agreement the tribes made with former Governor Lowell Weicker to surrender a part of their coin operated slot machine earnings to the state, some commentators and lawyers believe, is more in the nature of a gentleman’s agreement than a legally binding arrangement.

Blumenthal's office sometimes boasts that it returns more cash to the state in money wrested from malefactors than it cost the state to run the office. But the attorney general’s budget probably falls well below half a million a year.

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