Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2000-17

Advisory Opinion No. 2000-17
Advisory Opinion No. 2000-17

Application Of Code Of Ethics To Department Of Consumer Protection
Employees’ Off-Duty Activities At The Foxwoods Casino

James T. Fleming, Commissioner of Consumer Protection, has asked the State Ethics Commission about the applicability of the Code of Ethics For Public Officials ("the Code") to certain Department of Consumer Protection ("DCP") employees. By way of background, the DCP has jurisdiction over the purchase, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages at the Foxwoods Casino as the result of a compact with the Mashentucket Pequot Tribe. The DCP has full-time liquor control agents assigned to Foxwoods to regulate alcoholic beverages. The Liquor Control Commission ("LCC") adjudicates violations of liquor laws. And, finally, the DCP’s legal division employees routinely negotiate settlements with Foxwood’s personnel and can commence enforcement proceedings against Foxwoods.

The Commissioner has asked whether the liquor control agents are prohibited under the Code from gambling during their breaks and lunch periods or from visiting the casino on their own time to gamble. Similarly, the Commissioner has inquired whether the DCP’s legal staff or Liquor Control Commissioners can gamble while off-duty at Foxwoods.

Evidence that a state employee has utilized confidential information gained in state service to bolster his or her chances at enhanced gambling returns (e.g., acting on information that a particular slot machine has a higher payoff rate than other such machines) would constitute a violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). However, absent such an abuse, the mere act of recreational gambling on one’s own time does not per se constitute a violation of the Code. This Commission has previously determined that conflicts of interests, both real and apparent, are almost inevitable when a State employee accepts outside employment with an entity that can benefit from the employee’s official actions. See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 92-23, 54 Conn. L.J. No. 31, p. 3C (2/2/93). This Commission declined to conclude that gambling at the casino is "outside employment," or "work that is compensated" as opposed to a recreational activity, absent evidence that the employee was considered to be a professional gambler in attendance at Foxwoods in order to supplement his or her income. Id.

Nevertheless, the DCP is not precluded by this Opinion from establishing additional personnel policies for its employees including a ban on recreational gambling, should it determine that such a policy or policies are appropriate. See Id.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:24 AM