Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Thursday, July 18, 2002
Group rallies to stop new Indian casinos
By GREG SMITH
WOODSTOCK — An anti-casino group continues to gain momentum and publicity as concern over possible casino development in rural northeastern Connecticut mounts.
About 250 people crowded the First Congregational Church Wednesday night for an informational forum sponsored by Connecticut Citizens Against Casinos.
"People are waking up and becoming nervous," group founder Mary Beth Gorke-Felice said, citing Wednesday's announcement of plans for an Indian casino in Bridgeport and the federal recognition of two North Stonington tribes.
Congressional candidate Jeff Benedict, author of a book that questions the legitimacy of the Mashantucket Pequots, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino, told the gathering there is reason for concern.
The state's two Indian casinos not only bring in 60,000 cars a day to southeastern Connecticut, but they do not have to pay taxes to help towns cope with the impact.
He cited Norwich as an impacted town, where thousands of casino workers are overloading public schools and driving up taxes.
"It's beyond me why we have a governor that has a hands-off approach," Benedict said, also criticizing what he called the ineffectiveness of current legislators.
Benedict said there were similarities between the recent Bureau of Indian Affairs decision that joined the Eastern Pequot and Paucatuck Eastern Pequot tribes in North Stonington, and two bands of Nipmucs vying for recognition in Massachusetts.
The two bands of Nipmucs are awaiting a recognition ruling from the BIA. The Hassanamisco Nipmuck band has expressed interest in Union as a possible casino site.
The best ways to fight the development of casinos, Benedict said, is to amend the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the 1983 Settlement Act that gave the Mashantuckets recognition.
Jane Dauphinais, representing the office of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, said Simmons has led the fight to reform the recognition process. She said it is difficult to get support for reform in Congress because many of the problems associated with the success of the casinos is specific to Connecticut, she said.
Dauphinais was taunted by Benedict's supporters, who questioned whether Simmons has taken money from the tribes.
Dauphinais said Simmons has received money from individuals, but has refused tribal political action committee money.
Benedict was joined by Ledyard Mayor Wesley Johnson and Ted Nikolla, a member of the Citizens' Task Force on Addictions in New London County and chairman of the Gambling Impact Committee.
"It's gambling that creates the social change and social impacts that occur," Nikolla said.
Nikolla said there are more than 200,000 gamblers in the state and a 400 percent increase in the number of people seeking treatment. The average eastern Connecticut problem gambler is $20,000 to $40,000 in debt, he said.
Residents expressed a unanimous aversion to casino development.
"Now that the Pequots are recognized, we have the possible Nipmuc issue. It becomes a big concern for northeastern Connecticut — the Quiet Corner. That's too close for comfort," Thompson resident Cathy Thomas said.
Connecticut Citizens Against Casinos plans another meeting July 23 in Stafford.
The stereotype here is that there's something wrong with Indians, that their presence will somehow taint the countryside.
If Connecticut's citizens don't like Indians nearby, maybe they should move somewhere else. After all, the Indians were there first. It's undemocratic to try to control other people, especially when they're on their own land.
All this semi-racist worrying over nothing. The Nipmuc aren't federally recognized. If they were federally recognized, they wouldn't necessarily build a casino. If they did build a casino, it would provide jobs and help the local economy, just like most Indian casinos have done.
The facts about Indian gaming
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