Schaghticoke Tribal Nation: Chief Richard Velky

Richard Velky: Schaghticoke Tribal Nation left behind once again

A Plan for Predictable Failure
The same old tribes play Bridgeport and Connecticut the same old tune.
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation

Attention City of Bridgeport and Connecticut legislators: The real reason there is no casino in East Windsor, or in Bridgeport, is because the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes don’t really want another casino in Connecticut.

These two tribes have been attempting to play Bridgeport and the state like a one-stringed ukulele.

Let’s look at the facts. In the mid 1990’s the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe convinced Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Governor Rowland to support their casino proposal for Bridgeport, instead of the proposals from other proven major developers, like Wynn Resorts.

The Wynn proposal was valued at $1.3 billion dollars. The Mashantucket’s? $500 million—less than half the Wynn proposal. Still, for some reason, the Mashantucket got the bid—and as we all now know, Bridgeport got nothing.

In 2004, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, after decades of hard work, gained federal recognition. We were the third tribe in the state to do so, along with the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes. This recognition would have given the Schaghticoke the same rights as the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes, including gaming rights and the same right to build a casino.

One of the locations the Schaghticokes was considering at the time was Bridgeport, which sits in the area of the Schaghticoke’s historic lands. However, the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes lobbied to have the Schaghticoke’s recognition decision reversed, and with the help of then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, it was.

Of note, this is the first time in the history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs that a reversal had ever been done.

The purported reason for why the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes lobbied against their own Native Americans was that “Connecticut didn’t need a third casino.” Once again, Bridgeport got nothing.

Fast forward to 2017. The state legislature gave the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes an unprecedented “exclusive right” to build a casino off of tribal lands as a “commercial entity.” These tribes chose East Windsor, not Bridgeport.

Next, the state legislature, and Governor Dannel Malloy, ignored Attorney General George Jepsen’s warning that this off-tribal-land commercial entity could be unconstitutional, and would be subject to numerous legal challenges brought for by other parties. Attorney General Jepsen was correct, and the East Windsor project has been on hold for over two years.

Today, East Windsor has no casino, and there is no third casino in Bridgeport or anywhere else in the State. Do you see a pattern here?

Just last week, a bipartisan group of legislators who represent Southeastern Connecticut (host to the state’s two casino), East Windsor and Bridgeport offered a plan to build a casino in Bridgeport. This proposed “penny arcade” casino would supposedly involve a mere $100 million investment and would give the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes the exclusive right to operate sports betting and online gaming.

Two questions: Do you want those two tribes owning all Connecticut gaming? And more immediately, how does that proposal compare with one developer’s proposed $700 million world-class resort and casino in Bridgeport, instead of a penny arcade?

The answer is clear—not only does the proposed penny arcade proposal woefully pale in comparison to the $700 million project, but it involves the same players who have historically failed to deliver anything more than hollow promises.

If this latest proposal goes forward—and fortunately, it appears many officials recognize the potentially problematic issues the proposal raises—then the people of Bridgeport, and the entire state, should expect this same old tune to end the way it always has. With nothing. Nothing but years of litigations and lost opportunity.

Richard Velky serves as Chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, an Indian nation recognized by the state of Connecticut.

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