Friday, November 28, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan, Pequot Seek Change In Casino Drinking Hours

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from The Day newspaper discussing the Mohegan and Mashantucket Tribe's effort to allow longer alcohol drinking hours at the two casinos.

Town officials worry about later last call at casinos
By Katie Warchut
The Day
November 27, 2008

When North Stonington First Selectman Nicholas Mullane heard there were informal talks about extending liquor sales at the casinos, all he could say was, “You gotta be kidding me.”

Officials from the towns who bear the biggest burden of casino traffic said Wednesday they would have concerns about any proposal to extend last call, which is now 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends, in accordance with state liquor laws.

A spokeswoman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation confirmed Tuesday that the tribe, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, was discussing the possibility with state officials to help the casinos compete with facilities in other states and bring in more state revenues through slot machines and the alcohol sales tax.

The compacts between the state and the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribe, operators of Mohegan Sun, commit the tribes to compliance with state liquor laws.

Mullane said he fears later drinking hours would mean more people drinking and driving, especially between the casinos, as people decide to try their luck at each one.

People already gamble all night and fall asleep at the wheel, he said, and alcohol would add another dangerous element to the mix.

”That's the worst thing they can do. I would not encourage or want to agree with anything like that,” Mullane said.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon agreed that drinking and driving would place a greater burden on the small towns' emergency services, which rely predominantly on volunteers.

He said there might be more people drinking on their way to the casinos.

”What I think you'd see ... are people leaving bars and going to the casinos to extend the party,” he said.

So the potential for drunken driving could extend far beyond the towns immediately surrounding the casinos, as people come from the Hartford area or other states to drink later, Congdon said.

Congdon said he'd like to see data on the experiences other areas have had with casinos extending the hours of liquor service.

Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn Jr. said his “initial reaction would be that it's never good to have 24 hours serving liquor.”

But he said the issue would have to be looked at carefully, and he would not oppose any proposal until he had further details.

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said police would enforce any new rules state officials set. The police's casino units constantly monitor traffic to prevent people from driving under the influence and causing confrontations, and they would continue to do that no matter how late liquor is served, he said.