According to the Associated Press, the once billion-dollar Pequot casino empire has, in the past, distributed stipends of more than $100,000 annually to adult tribe members. Now, however, the Pequots join other gaming tribes, including nearby rival casino Mohegan Sun, in the pursuit of more federal aid. The pattern is getting the attention of those who opposed the law that allowed Indian tribes to develop casinos, since the law was promoted as one that would assist tribes in becoming financially self-reliant.
In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) which authorized casino gambling on Indian reservations and provided a regulatory and oversight framework for the industry in the form of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). The purpose of the law was to allow a means for tribes to become self-sufficient in developing their own economies.
‘‘The whole purpose of the 1988 law which authorized Indian casinos was to help federally-recognized tribes raise money to run their governments by building casinos on their reservations,’’ said Robert Steele, a former Connecticut Congressman. ‘‘I would argue strongly that federal money was meant for struggling tribes. Certainly the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans couldn’t under any circumstances be put in that category.’’