Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation

The Never-ending Wonder of It All—The Iconic Foxwoods Resort Casino: Past, Present & Future

Gale Courey Toensing

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s Foxwoods Resort Casino is iconic in the world of Indian gaming. Beginning as a high-stakes bingo operation in 1986, it evolved seven years later into the biggest, wealthiest, glitziest gaming facility in the country. The Nation’s rags-to-riches story was reflected in an early marketing slogan: The wonder of it all. Earning a billion-plus a year in revenue, Foxwoods has poured more than $3.7 billion into state coffers since opening. Along the way, the Nation has fought some major legal battles and forged new paths for Indian country. Among other things, it was the first to deal with labor disputes under the National Labor Relations Act and the first to face enormous debt and restructuring. It successfully changed a federal law to allow long term leases on Indian land to encourage investors, and most recently, it fought a tax issue lawsuit that it won in federal district court only to be reversed in an appeals court. Today, with casino earnings down and regional competition increasing, Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler talked to Indian Country Today Media Network about Foxwoods’ past, present and future.

Is the golden age of Indian gaming over?

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler, front left, Foxwoods Resort Casino's President and CEO Scott Butera, front right, and members of the tribal council acknowledge the employees that have been with the casino for twenty years during Foxwoods' 20th anniversary celebration at the Fox Theater Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 in Mashantucket, Conn. (AP)

There are only so many people with so many hours, and so first movers like Mashantucket and Mohegan had an advantage in the late 80s with bingo and in the 90s with gaming. We had an untapped market with tremendous potential. As time passes and more competition comes into the market you don’t necessarily see growth overall, you just see the spreading of the pie to the other facilities. In the last five years with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, the overall gaming market’s grown less than 10 percent yet the number of facilities has grown tenfold. I think the overall market will still grow, but as far as Mashantucket goes, our peak earning days for the single property are most likely behind us.

So what’s ahead?

But that doesn’t mean our overall earnings potential isn’t there in the future and we will continue to focus on growth – we’re just not going to see that growth come out of the New England gaming market.

But it’s still okay?

Yeah, it’s still a good business. You don’t realize how exceptional it was until those times are gone, but when you sit back and say ‘We still have a billion dollar market here’—that’s not bad! And it could be worse—there are tribes out there who have never had and probably will never have this opportunity.

The new Casino City Indian Gaming Report shows an increase in revenues of 2 percent to $27.1 billion for 2012. And Indian gaming is now 43 percent of the casino industry in the U.S. What do you think of that?

The overall U.S. gaming market including lottery and race tracks was $92 billion in 2007 and it recovered back to $92 billion by 2012 after substantial decline, even after all the new product in the market. If you look at casino gaming only, the US market was $64 billion in 2007 and now $65 billion in 2012.  Same point, essentially flat revenue with a lot of new product in the market making every dollar of revenue that much more competitive.  This is why we need to reinvest our current earnings wisely to preserve our economic independence for future generations. It’s absolutely incredible that Indian gaming is 43% of the casino market but I put out a cautionary tale: Let’s celebrate it, but let’s realize that we don’t want to see that peak at 43 percent and keep the party going as we’re down to 30 percent and 20 percent. We have to truly reinvest in our facilities, reinvest in our properties and make sure that we’re being very fiscally responsible as well with those earnings.


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newworldman's picture
Submitted by newworldman on
I remember reading an article several years ago describing how each member of the Pequot tribe received stipends of over $8,000 per month from the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Good for them. But such generous stipends and benefits enjoyed by federally recognized tribes with casinos have created the erroneous belief among non-Indian Americans that so-called "reparations" have adequately addressed past wrongdoings committed against all Native Americans. The truth is, less than half of native people receive stipends from casinos, so these bonanzas are enjoyed by a select minority of Indians. Many Native-American tribes (over 100) cannot open casinos and are denied any and all government benefits due to a variety of factors that prevent them from obtaining the federally recognized status that is necessary for them to open casinos or receive government benefits. There are currently no federally recognized tribes in the state of Virginia to this day, though many tribes there are state-recognized and are just as "Indian" are is the Pequot tribe. This travesty is the result of the actions of a racist Anglo, Walter Plecker, in the early 20th century. As the "Virginia registrar of vital statistics," he reclassified all non-white Virginians, including those classified at the time as "Indian," as being "colored," effectively committing "paper genocide" against all of Virginia's Native Americans. We have been trying to undo this travesty ever since then, with little success among our U.S. Congressmen who are reluctant to extend federal recognition status to any more tribes. Though we consequently receive not a single penny in benefits or reparations, we suffer from the same discrimination and bigotry experienced by other Indians in America, with many non-Indian Americans believing that their hate and intolerance for us is buffered and counterbalanced by the stipends and benefits that some Indians receive from casinos and the government. So, while some Indians indeed receive relative wealth from their gambling endeavors and from government assistance, many others do not, and the imbalance is shocking and unfair.

mnmemn3's picture
Submitted by mnmemn3 on
I really don't think much has changed because of Tribal Casinos or per-capita payments. Reservations in the USA are still pledged with alcoholism, drugs, and now a gambling addiction too. Yes it’s true some reservations have built schools, and installed a few new roads that take gamblers to the rez, yet if you look around when you’re in or at a Tribal Casino there are few Natives to be seen or working in these venues. All the upper management jobs or those jobs that require a degree still goes to Caucasians in the industry because of education reasons or lack of higher education among the young Native Americans living in the Reservation communities where these Gaming houses are built. Personally it seems like the same-thing that happened in song Sun-City or South Africa (apartheid). This is just my own opinion from my own Native American eyes.