Foxwoods CEO visits with Naugatuck seniors

Foxwoods President and CEO Scott Butera calls a bingo game during his visit to the Naugatuck Senior Center last Friday. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Months after coming under fire for comments he reportedly made regarding senior citizens, Foxwoods President and CEO Scott Butera paid a visit to the Naugatuck Senior Center.

Butera visited the senior center last Friday to speak with the seniors and call a bingo game. His visit came after an opinion piece published in the Boston Globe on May 24, wherein Butera reportedly said his casino could do without the bus loads of seniors who show up with oxygen tanks and walkers, and who do not spend enough money to make it worth the casino’s time to host them. The article led to some senior centers in the state boycotting Foxwoods.

Butera explained his visit had nothing to do with the comments he was purported to have made in the Boston Globe. He said that his comments were taken out of context and that he was misrepresented in the article.

“It’s not part of this. It’s not what this is about,” Butera said.

Butera said everyone is welcome at the casino.

“Seniors are welcome, juniors are welcome. The beauty of Foxwoods is that it’s an enormous place and we have something for everyone,” Butera said.

When he addressed the seniors, he did not mention the Boston Globe opinion piece, but rather discussed how he grew up in Connecticut and how he tries to connect with everyone who comes to the casino.

“It’s wonderful to be here,” Butera told the seniors. “I think it’s important large employers get to know their community, get to know who’s coming and what their lives are like. Really trying to work with one another and spend time with one another because that’s one of the most important things.”

There was no animosity towards Butera from any of the seniors at the center.

Janine Howard, a Naugatuck resident, thought it was great that Butera came to be a bingo caller. She was willing to forgive Butera for the comments he reportedly made.

“You’ll sometimes say something where you’ll put your foot in your mouth,” Howard said. “He’s a good man. I don’t think he meant that.”

Bernice Niro, of Naugatuck, presented Butera with a Native American doll which she had crocheted the clothes for as he was leaving.

Niro said she wasn’t hurt by the comments in the opinion piece and thought there was a good chance that Butera, or anyone at Foxwoods, hadn’t even made them.

“I don’t think those people said anything to that extent,” Niro said. “They would lose income if they said that.”

She was pleased that Butera had chosen to visit the senior center and was left with a good impression of him.

“I thought he was very polite. He knows what he’s doing,” Niro said.

Before Butera called bingo, he was presented with a gift basket from the senior center.

Naugatuck Senior Center Director Harvey Leon Frydman said the senior center is a home to the seniors and it was not uncommon for guests to leave with gifts.

“It’s common for someone to come to our home to have coffee and leave with gifts,” Frydman said.

Frydman felt that any negativity towards the comments made by Butera had already blown over before his visit.

“We’re older adults. We don’t hold grudges,” Frydman said. “He brought cookies. How can you underestimate a man who brings you cookies?”

Frydman felt that the important thing that came out of the day was the enjoyment the seniors had with Butera talking to them and calling bingo.

“He brought a lot of excitement today,” Frydman said. “He created a very interesting memory here.”