AP Story

Connecticut politicians vote to block 'Las Vegas Nights'

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut legislators voted to block the expansion of Indian gambling in the state by repealing a law that that permits churches and civic groups to raise money with casino-type games.

Connecticut already has two of the world's largest casinos -- Foxwoods Resort Casino, operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, and the Mohegan Sun, run by the Mohegans.

The Pequots used Connecticut's "Las Vegas Nights" statute to negotiate a gambling compact with the state after they were recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Federal law permits recognized tribes to pursue any gambling already allowed by a state.

The House voted 83-59 Monday in favor of repealing the law and the Senate approved the measure on a 25-10 vote an hour later. Republican Gov. John Rowland has said he will sign the legislation but expects it will be challenged in court.

Several Connecticut tribes and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have already threatened lawsuits over the repeal.

Lawmakers said the repeal would not affect the existing casinos.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs last year recognized a third Connecticut tribe, the Eastern Pequots. A fourth, the Golden Hill Paugusetts, expects a preliminary decision this month. They and several other groups seeking recognition in Connecticut are hoping to open casinos.

Members of the legislature's black and Hispanic caucus argued that the repeal would be discriminatory.

"Government ought to protect the rights of everybody," said state Rep. Ernest Newton. "Now, today it might be the Indians. Tomorrow it might be somebody else."

But critics say the big casinos cause a variety of problems, including crime, problem gambling and traffic jams.

While prohibiting charities to have casino-style "Las Vegas Nights," the new law would allow them to continue to sponsor raffles and bingo games to raise money.