A Connecticut credit union is betting that its proposed expansion onto a thriving Indian reservation will pay off.

Connecticut Community Credit Union is seeking permission to open a branch in the Foxwoods Casino on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in eastern Connecticut.

The $7 million-asset credit union also plans to install 23 automated teller machines in the casino resort. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe would pay for the ATMs, with the credit union acting as the machines' official sponsor.

The casino, wildly successful since it opened in 1992, has reaped millions of dollars in profits for the tribe, which has 400 members living on the reservation.

"The credit union would provide needed services to our employees and members, whether it's direct deposit, savings accounts, checking accounts, or consumer loans," said Arthur Henick, spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. "It would be a great convenience."

The proposed branch would make Pawcatuck-based Connecticut Community Credit Union the first financial institution with a major presence on the reservation. The credit union's request for a branch must be approved by the Connecticut Department of Banking and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The state banking department has already approved the request for the ATMs.

"Interestingly enough, the tribe has sufficient funds to create their own bank," said Connecticut Banking Commissioner John P. Burke. "But they've decided to work within the community and be supportive of the community."

Joyce A. McElheney, president and chief executive officer of Connecticut Community Credit Union, said it has been visiting the reservation for three years to provide services to employees of the casino and members of the tribe. The credit union, which has 3,200 members, already caters to the town of Ledyard that abuts the reservation.

The casino employs more than 11,000 people, while another 1,200 work in other businesses on the reservation.

The credit union's request came as a surprise to bankers in the state. Although state-chartered credit unions aren't prohibited from expanding their fields of membership, some bankers said Connecticut Community Credit Union's expansion could harm banks and thrifts in the area.

Federal credit unions are currently barred by a court decision from adding membership groups. The Supreme Court is expected to rule early next year on an appeal by credit unions.

"There's over 12,000 employees" on the reservation, said James P. Cronin, president and CEO of $200 million-asset Dime Savings Bank of Norwich, Conn. "If they chose to use the credit union, it could have an impact on the customer base of all institutions."

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