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Lamont commissioners visit Foxwoods on day two of casino tour

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Members of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration toured Foxwoods Resort Casino on Wednesday, five days ahead of the casino’s scheduled reopening after a 10-week, coronavirus-induced shutdown.

The governor’s representatives — commissioners of the economic and community development, public health and consumer protection departments — had visited Mohegan Sun the previous day.

Both casinos announced last week that they intend to reopen Monday. Lamont, who believes that is too soon, said Tuesday the tribes should push back the reopenings to mid-June or at least defer serving alcohol if they open next week. The governor has expressed worries about the safety of casino employees, patrons and the area surrounding the casinos, due to the coronavirus.

The tribes say they have taken steps to ensure the safety of employees and patrons through cleaning and distancing protocols and limitations on the size of crowds. No entertainment events have yet been scheduled in the casino’s arenas and theaters, and restaurants will be allowed to provide only takeout service.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods, confirmed that the commissioners and, separately, a group of state legislators toured Foxwoods. He said he participated in the tour with the legislators while his “regulatory team” walked through the Foxwoods reopening plan with the commissioners.

“Overall, the legislators were incredibly impressed with our plans and very supportive of the reopening,” Butler said. “My understanding of the meeting with the commissioners is that it went equally as well and they’ll submit some suggestions for our consideration to help enhance our already robust safety measures.”

Attempts to obtain a comment from the governor were unsuccessful.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, whose district includes the tribal reservations where the casinos are located, took part in the tours. She said most members of the southeastern delegation also participated, as did House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and, on different days, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. Several municipal officials also took part, according to Osten.

“I think they’ve both done an amazing job dealing with all the issues that have been brought up,” Osten said of the tribes. “They both spent $1 million, maybe more, on thermal imaging, air-ventilating systems and rearranging things to create distancing. They want this to work.”

While most casinos in neighboring states and throughout the Northeast have yet to announce reopening dates, some major operators in Las Vegas announced Wednesday that they will reopen casinos June 4. Caesars Entertainment Corp. confirmed it will resume operations at Caesars Palace and Flamingo Las Vegas, while MGM Resorts International is opening Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Signature.

Lamont, who appeared at a mid-day event in New Haven to promote COVID-19 testing, did not have a daily news briefing Wednesday, as he has most days since the outbreak of the coronavirus. His office updated coronavirus data, announcing that the state Department of Public Health had discovered duplication errors, prompting it to remove 356 COVID-19 cases from the total reported since the start of the outbreak, as well as 808 tests for the disease.

Since Wednesday, the office reported, 341 new cases and 5,125 new tests have been reported. The adjusted overall totals show there have been 41,288 COVID-19 cases and 229,769 tests.

Thirty-four more deaths were reported, bringing the toll to 3,803. Hospitalizations dropped by 10 to 684.

In New London County, there have been 1,053 COVID-19 cases and 79 deaths associated with the disease. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region continued to decline, falling to nine at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, one at Westerly Hospital and three at Backus Hospital.


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