Pequots Have Come Too Far To Fail Now
Beset by financial and political problems, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is at a crossroads. Regaining its early sense of purpose and community would benefit the tribe now.
By The Day Published on 9/6/2009
The next chapter of the rags-to-riches story of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe - the precipitous fall from near the top of the gaming world's pinnacle - won't be written for months, if not years, to come.
But when it is, undoubtedly the Pequot's insatiable appetite to be the biggest - at whatever the cost - will surely be cited as a significant contributor to the bad times.
The recent disclosure that the tribe owes more than it has the ability to pay shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed the Pequot's story since former chairman Richard “Skip” Hayward led the effort in the 1970s to return the Mashantucket Pequots to their reservation on the edge of a cedar swamp in the Ledyard woods.
While the tribe's current embattled chairman, Michael Thomas, has tried to pin much of the Pequot's present financial fiasco on Mr. Hayward, who led the tribe from 1975 to 1998, that's clearly not the case.
But what may have caused the tribe's downfall is the Pequot's apparent inability to foresee the possibility of economic hard times and to save for a rainy day. Since the tribe first opened its casino in 1992, it has never stopped expanding, and gone out of its way to add more gaming space and slot machines in an obvious effort to be “bigger” than its rival across the Thames River, the Mohegan Sun.
And during much of that expansion, the economy was seemingly healthy and business was thriving. But the obsession to be the biggest - as evidenced by the tribe's decision to build the billion-dollar MGM Grand at Foxwoods as clear signs of the recession were emerging in 2007 - didn't stop them.
When “the fall from the pinnacle chapter” is written, it should probably say the Pequots shoulder much of the responsibility for financial troubles. The recession is certainly hurting them, but some of their investments over the last decade have been ill-advised and its focus on super-sizing Foxwoods has hurt it.
But the chapter could also say that the downfall of 2009 led the Pequots to not only better business decisions, but better political decisions, too. Rank-and-file Pequots have been agitating for a long time now to have more of a say in the tribe's decision-making, including its spending. And they deserve it.
Since their early success, the Mashantucket Pequots have gotten off track. When Mr. Hayward repatriated Pequots to the reservation in the 1970s, there was not only a sense of community among tribal members, but a sense of purpose. They've misplaced that.
In many ways, the tribe has become a victim of its own success. While Mr. Thomas is currently fighting to keep his seat as tribal chairman, each new day brings new disclosures of the Pequot's troubled finances and political upheaval.
In one of his last public comments made in 2002, Mr. Hayward described the Pequot's reincarnation as “an incredible story.”
”And I believe that each generation that grows here will be more powerful, will be stronger, and will be more educated and be able to make a larger contribution to the community,” he said.
The Pequots have come too far to fail, but they must reorder their priorities. It's not only in the tribe's best interest, but also the interest of the state and region, that they succeed.
This chapter is going to be incredible, too.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Notice the words "some of their investments have been ill advised."
Could this also be said of the Mohegans at the Mohegan Sun Casino, in Uncasville, Connecticut? You bet, you can. The Mohegans also over built and over spent.
In my opinion, the Mohegans didn't look to the future. They got caught up in their so called success. Paying only the interest on your loans will eventually get you.
I believe, in time it will come out that the leadership of the Mohegan Tribe messed up. They had no foresight. They blew it. What do you think?
THESE ARE THE OPINIONS OF BROKENWING