Mass. gaming panel questions Mashantucket tribal council appointment

Massachusetts gaming officials questioned the Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman today about the tribal council's role in appointing a tribal member with felony convictions as the tribe's chief of staff, a position that oversees tribal police and other departments.

Rodney Butler, the chairman, said councilors were well aware of Antonio Beltran's criminal record when they named him chief of staff earlier this year. Butler said Beltran, a former councilor, was well qualified for the position and since his appointment has been involved in the tribe's negotiations with state police regarding policing at the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is conducting a "suitability" hearing on the partnership seeking a license to build and operate a $1 billion resort casino in Milford, Mass.

Commission members and investigators also questioned the tribal council's support of Steven Thomas, the council treasurer who resigned last month before pleading guilty to a federal theft charge.

"Could the council have removed him as treasurer?" David Mackey, an attorney for the commission's investigative bureau, asked.

"Yes," Butler replied, adding that Thomas' January indictment was heavily debated by the council, which ultimately felt comfortable with him continuing as treasurer.

Butler, Crystal Whipple, the council vice chairwoman-elect, and Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and chief executive officer, would oversee management of the proposed Foxwoods Massachusetts casino, Butera told the commission.

He said Foxwoods Massachusetts partners are still seeking to complete financing for the project. Foxwoods would provide 10 percent of the equity and other partners 35 percent, leaving 55 percent yet to be secured.

Butera said the partners are considering two offers, one from a private equity firm and another involving Deutsche Bank.

Foxwoods Massachusetts is pursuing the casino license the commission is expected to award next year for the Greater Boston region. Wynn Resorts and Suffolk Downs, which are proposing priojects in Everett and Revere, respectively, are competing for the same license.

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