Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods the World's Largest Casino

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9780060193676: Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods the World's Largest Casino

In 1973, an old American Indian woman dies with nothing left of her tribe but a trailer and a two-hundred-acre reservation in the sleepy backyard of Ledyard, Connecticut. It seems to signal the end of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. But it is just the beginning. Over the course of the next three decades, the reservation grows to more than two thousand acres and becomes home to Foxwoods, the largest casino in the world, grossing more than $1 billion per year. The Pequots are reborn, immensely wealthy, and in possession of an enormous amount of political influence.

How did it happen?

In compelling detail, Without Reservation tells the stunning story of the rise of the richest tribe in American history.

It begins with the grand ambitions of two men. One, an unemployed navy brat and outsider, is a failed preacher with the uncanny ability to charm; the other is fresh out of law school and armed with a brilliant legal theory to help impoverished Indian tribes. Together they resurrect the Pequots and battle the local townspeople to aggressively expand their reservation, taking on the state government for the right to gamble on their land. Embracing their cause are misguided and misinformed government officials and a former mob prosecutor who brings Malaysian financiers to the table.

The Pequots must also contend with the price of power. Without Reservation reveals the mysterious roots of today's Pequot tribe, the racial tension that divides them, and the Machiavellian internal Power struggle over who will control the tribe's purse strings.

This is a story of the duality of the American dream, the good and the bad that come with enormous wealth. Author Jeff Benedict shines a light on the dreamers and the deal makers, the backroom politicking and courtroom machinations, the trusts and betrayals, and the world of high-powered attorneys, politicians, tribal leaders, and financiers who made the Pequots what they are today.

As compelling as a novel, Without Reservation is must reading for anyone interested in the way today's world really works.

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Review:

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe of Connecticut were nearly penniless just a couple of decades ago. Today, they are the richest tribe in America and owners of the world's largest gambling casino. And, writes Jeff Benedict, their wealth is based on a fraud. Without Reservation will remind some readers of A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr, for its novelistic approach to nonfiction as well as its earnestness. Benedict says that Congress was essentially tricked into granting tribal status to the group--a political process that allowed it to skirt the much more stringent recognition standards maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Benedict's reporting is provocative, showing, for instance, that Skip Hayward, the man who headed the tribe for many years, listed his race as "white" on the application for his first marriage license. And Benedict's narrative is character driven almost to a fault, though it makes reading about congressional hearings and backdoor politics enjoyable.

There is convincing evidence on these pages that pols were duped by Hayward, first in Connecticut and then in Washington. The evidence is strong enough, in fact, to warrant formal congressional hearings on the decisions made in the 1980s to confer official status on the tribe, and perhaps even revoke that status or redirect some casino profits to poor Indians. In short, Without Reservation is the kind of book that can kick-start a controversy--or at least amplify an existing one to the point where the need for reform becomes urgent. If the book has a weakness, it's that Benedict didn't get to interview many tribal officials. But then it's easy to see why they might avoid a man with so many hard questions. This book needed to be written, even without their cooperation. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Jeff Benedict conducted the first national study on sexual assault and athletes. He has published three books on athletes and crime, including a blistering exposé on the NFL, Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL, and Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women. He is a lawyer and an investigative journalist who has written five books.

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