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Big stories of 2009: Casino troubles

Published December 30. 2009 4:00AM

It began with the Mohegan Tribe announcing a sweeping cost-containment program and ended with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in default, all but buried under a debt load that outstripped its means. For the region's gaming tribes, 2009 was about belt-tightening, declining revenues and, in the Mashantuckets' case at least, internal upheaval.

Month after month, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino reported disappointing slot revenues, with Foxwoods registering the year's only year-over-year gains, albeit slight ones, in February and March. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state's share of the casinos' slot revenues totaled $377.8 million, more than 8 percent less than in fiscal 2008.

After cutting salaries and curtailing benefits for employees across the board, Mohegan Sun proceeded with a $44.9 million renovation of its Winter Entrance and an adjacent parking garage and refinanced nearly $200 million worth of debt.

Soon after the Mashantuckets completed a $67 million Route 2 bypass project to facilitate casino traffic, it was revealed that they would seek to restructure more than $2 billion in debt. Tribal Chairman Michael Thomas' controversial promise to protect tribal government and payments to tribal members amid the restructuring led to his ouster.

- Brian Hallenbeck

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