Attorney General: Susan G. Townsley, Division of Special Revenue, 2003-006 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

April 14, 2003

Susan G. Townsley
Executive Director
Division of Special Revenue
55 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Ms. Townsley:

You have requested an opinion regarding two issues related to charitable gaming events to be held at Foxwoods Casino ("Foxwoods"). Foxwoods is owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (the "Tribe"), a federally recognized Indian tribe. The Tribe conducts gaming at Foxwoods, which is located on the Tribe's federal reservation, pursuant to Gaming Procedures authorized by federal law.

In particular, you ask whether the Tribe may conduct a Las Vegas or Casino Nights event at Foxwoods to benefit the Clifford Beers Clinic ("Clinic"), a New Haven charitable organization, using the Tribe's gaming equipment and personnel, with the proceeds donated to the Clinic. You also ask whether the Division of Special Revenue has authority to approve a raffle application submitted by the Clinic for a raffle drawing to be held at Foxwoods. For the following reasons, and under the circumstances described here, we conclude that the Division has the authority to approve the raffle at Foxwoods and the Tribe may, consistent with the law and the Federal Procedures under which the Foxwoods Casino operates, conduct a Casino Night type fundraiser for the benefit of the Clinic.

Casino Nights Event

You ask whether the Tribe may conduct a Las Vegas or Casino Night fundraising event at Foxwoods for the benefit of the Clifford Beers Clinic. This issue arises in the wake of action by the Connecticut General Assembly earlier this year repealing the Games of Chance Act, Conn. Gen. Stats. 7-186a et seq., which previously allowed charities to run Las Vegas Nights events within the state as fundraisers, subject to the provisions of the Act.1 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 03-1 (Jan. 6 Spec. Sess.)

In light of this repeal, the Division has no authority to issue a Las Vegas Nights permit to any civic or charitable entity, and no person or entity may legally conduct Las Vegas Nights events in the state. The Clinic has asked Foxwoods if it would be willing to conduct such an event in its casino on the Tribe's reservation, and contribute the proceeds to the Clinic. The Tribe has indicated that it is willing to do so, so long as there is no legal impediment.

According to information you have provided, the Tribe, and not the Clinic, would conduct the event at Foxwoods casino using the Tribe's facilities, personnel and gaming equipment. Participants would purchase special chips from Foxwoods for use in the games, and winners would be awarded play money. At the end of the evening, the play money could be exchanged for non-monetary prizes. The Tribe would then donate the money collected at the event to the Clinic.

Federal law permits the Tribe to operate the type of casino-style games contemplated by the fundraising event pursuant to Gaming Procedures promulgated by the United States Secretary of the Interior under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. 25 U.S.C. 2710 et seq. Section 3(a)(i) of the Gaming Procedures allows the Tribe to conduct the Las Vegas or Casino Nights type games discussed here, including blackjack, poker, roulette and others. The state has no authority to prohibit the Tribe from making a contribution to any charitable entity or conducting a fundraiser for a charity at its Foxwoods casino, as long as the Tribe runs the event and uses its personnel and equipment in accordance with the Gaming Procedures.

The Tribe's decision to hold a fundraising event involving the use of these games of chance for the benefit of a Connecticut charity is a matter for the Tribe to determine and implicates the Tribe's sovereign interests. Thus, as long as the Tribe runs the event in its casino on its federal reservation, using its equipment and personnel, no additional approvals or permits are necessary and the repeal of the Games of Chance Act would not prohibit the event.2

Raffle Permit

You also ask whether the Division may issue a permit to the Clinic to conduct a raffle in connection with its fundraising event, if the drawing is held at Foxwoods. Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-170 et seq. allows civic and charitable organizations to conduct bazaars and raffles subject to various state and local approvals. An entity that wishes to hold a raffle or bazaar must obtain a permit from a qualifying municipality,3 which allows it to sell raffle tickets in that municipality "and in any other town, city or borough which has adopted [the Act]." Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-172. If the raffle drawing is to be held in another municipality, the civic or charitable entity must also obtain the written approval of the chief executive officer of that municipality. Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-185a(b). All raffle permits must be approved by the Executive Director of the Division of Special Revenue.

According to your letter, the Clinic is a state charitable organization within the meaning of the Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-172, and has sought and received approval from the City of New Haven to conduct a raffle. Because the Clinic wishes to have the raffle drawing at Foxwoods, it has obtained the written approval of the mayor of the Town of Ledyard, and the Tribe has also expressed its willingness to allow the raffle drawing to be held at Foxwoods during the course of the Casino Night fundraiser.

You ask whether the Division of Special Revenue has jurisdiction to approve the Clinic raffle permit under these circumstances in which the Clinic's raffle drawing will be held at Foxwoods, which is located on a federal Indian reservation. We conclude that the Division has jurisdiction and may approve the raffle application.

As an initial matter, it is clear that the Division has authority to require the Clinic to obtain a permit for the raffle under Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-173, even though the drawing itself will be held on the reservation. The raffle is being conducted by the Clinic, which will sell tickets for it throughout the state, and all proceeds will be retained by the Clinic. The Tribe is merely providing the opportunity for the Clinic to hold the drawing at Foxwoods at the time of the Casino Night fundraiser.

Connecticut has a substantial state interest in the regulation of fundraising by charitable organizations within its borders. Under the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 21a-175 et seq., Connecticut regulates the solicitation of donations and other fund raising activities of charities, and it generally requires registration and accurate reporting of activities and finances. It has long been a priority of the State to make sure that charities operate honestly and ethically, and to see to it that donations actually reach their intended beneficiaries. In addition, Connecticut has a legitimate state interest in regulating the limited gaming activities allowed to certain civic and charitable organizations.

The State's regulation of charities and their fundraising events in the context presented here does not impact the Tribe directly, nor does it affect those types of traditional sovereign interests of the Tribe traditionally protected by the federal government. Accordingly, the State's regulation of charitable fundraising by the Clinic on the reservation, including the requirement that the Clinic obtain a permit to sell raffle tickets and hold a drawing on the reservation, will not affect the Tribe's ability to "make its own laws and to be ruled by them" or to manage its own members and resources, and so does not implicate the Tribe's sovereign interests. See 1995 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-24 (Letter to John P. Burke, August 24, 1995, concluding that the State has jurisdiction to regulate a state chartered branch bank located at Foxwoods without implicating the Tribe's sovereignty interests).

We have previously determined that the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation is located in this State. 95 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-24 (Letter to John P. Burke, August 24, 1995). You have asked whether the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, including the Foxwoods casino, may be deemed to be within the geographic limits of Ledyard for purposes of the approval required in Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-185a(b). The clear intent of this statute is to ensure that raffles are conducted only in places that authorize them and that the local legal authority is aware that a raffle will be drawn within the local borders. Because both Ledyard and the Tribe have or will provide the necessary approval to allow the Clinic to hold its raffle drawing at Foxwoods, the intent of the statute is satisfied, and thus it is unnecessary for us to determine whether the Tribe's reservation is located in Ledyard.

We conclude that under the circumstances presented here, the Division has jurisdiction to require the Clinic to comply with the Bazaar and Raffle Act, and to obtain all necessary permits and approvals, and that the approvals the Clinic has received from both Ledyard and the Tribe to conduct the drawing are sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements.

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Division may approve the raffle permit to the Clifford Beers Clinic for a drawing to be held at Foxwoods. In addition, the State has no authority to prohibit the Tribe from hosting and running a Casino Nights event at its facility for the charity notwithstanding the fact that the statutes allowing Las Vegas Nights events elsewhere in Connecticut were repealed earlier this year.

I trust that this opinion responds to your concerns.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL



Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General


Susan Quinn Cobb
Assistant Attorney General


1Las Vegas Nights events permitted by the former Games of Chance Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-186a et seq., allowed charities to conduct fundraising events where patrons gambled with play money, or chips, for merchandise prizes with net proceeds benefiting the charity. No actual money wagering took place. Games involved classic casino games listed in former Reg. of State Agencies Sec. 7-186k-15.

2The intent of the repeal of Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-186a et seq. was to remove any possible state law basis for allowing any additional federally recognized Tribes to operate casinos within the state. Our conclusion here is consistent with that intent because the casino games operated by the Tribe at its casino on its federally approved reservation are authorized by federal, not state, law and the Federal Procedures, whether the gaming is done for commercial reasons or for a charitable fundraiser.

3A qualifying municipality is one which has adopted the provisions of sections 7-170 to 7-186. All municipalities in the state except Sterling have adopted the provisions.


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