Big East Considers Putting Women's Tournament At Casino

Could move the event 45 miles southeast to the Mohegan Sun Casino

June 1, 2007

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - Unable to fill the 16,000-seat Hartford Civic Center for their women's basketball tournament, Big East officials have talked about moving the event 45 miles southeast to the Mohegan Sun Casino and its 10,000-seat arena.

The conference is locked in to the Civic Center through 2009, but will make a decision in the next year about where to hold the three-day tournament after that, said Big East spokeswoman Rachel Margolis.

The size of the venue, proximity to Big East schools, the locker rooms, availability of hotel rooms, and fan accessibility are all issues the conference will consider, Margolis said.

Hartford, Conn., remains an option for the tournament, which may also consider other sites, such as Tampa, Fla.

The Big East has no policy against holding events at a casino.

"Some of the schools might have their own rule or policy," she said. "We will do the legwork. The final decision will be made by the school athletic directors and presidents."

There is no sports book at the casino, so nobody would be betting on the games. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who has a restaurant at the casino, said he sees no problem with holding the event at a gambling establishment.

"Say what you want, if you are going to take money from them as corporate sponsors, you can't have it both ways," Auriemma said. "If you are going to let beer companies sponsor you, and you are going to let casinos be corporate sponsors, then you can't have it the other way and say, 'Well we're not going to play any games there because there is gambling there."'

Auriemma points out that the Mountain West Conference plays its tournament in Las Vegas.

The Mohegan Sun Arena is the home court for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun and has hosted college basketball in the past, including a game between Central Connecticut and Massachusetts men last December. Patrons can enter the arena without going through the casino.