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Foxwoods Casino Owner Hires New Top Lawyer Amid Covid-19 Crisis

April 2, 2020, 9:31 AM

Foxwoods Resort Casino has hired a new general counsel even as the coronavirus has quieted its slot machines and resulted in the furlough of more than 5,000 employees.

Foxwoods, the second-largest casino in the U.S. by square footage and one of the largest of its kind in the world, installed former Steptoe & Johnson partner Jody Cummings as its fourth general counsel in four years.

Cummings became the new top lawyer last month in the Office of Legal Counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, which owns and operates Foxwoods. Cummings spent more than three years as a deputy solicitor and senior counselor for Indian affairs at the Interior Department before returning to Steptoe in Washington. He was a partner specializing in American Indian law, natural resources, and environmental matters.

“We’ve worked with Jody for years, both before he joined the government and upon his return to the firm as a partner in 2017,” said a statement from Steptoe, where Cummings began his legal career in 2000. “We expect his judgment and experience will be a great asset to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and we wish him the very best in his new position.”

Cummings did not respond to requests for comment about his new role. Foxwoods has been closed since March 17 due to restrictions on business openings stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Foxwoods said in a statement that it decided to suspend its gaming operations in Ledyard, Conn., after consulting with state officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and its own chief medical officer.

As general counsel for the Mashantucket Tribe, Cummings is responsible for setting its legal strategy and providing legal services for all its entities, according to an online posting for the position.

Jackson King, the Mashantucket Tribe’s first-ever general counsel, held the role from 1993 until his death at 72 in June 2016. He was succeeded that year by longtime tribal in-house lawyer Elizabeth “Betsy” Conway, who subsequently retired and was replaced as general counsel in early 2019 by Rion Ramirez, a former member of the Obama administration’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Ramirez, a former Dorsey & Whitney associate, spent less than a year as the Mashantucket Tribe’s top lawyer before returning Nov. 4 to Port Madison Enterprises, the economic development arm of the Suquamish Tribe in Washington State. Ramirez, who previously served as PME’s general counsel, now serves as CEO of the company, which owns the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort near Seattle.

Like the Mashantucket Tribe and Foxwoods, the Suquamish Tribe has also had to cope with coronavirus-related closures of its gaming operations in recent weeks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com