Connecticut files lawsuit to preserve tribal casino development

By Robert Simmons
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has filed a federal lawsuit in support of the legal action being taken by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes which are looking to build a third casino in East Windsor Connecticut.

Public Act 17-89, An Act Concerning the Regulation of Gaming and the Authorization of a Casino Gaming Facility in the State, was passed by the state house and senate with bipartisan support in June. It called for the development of a casino in East Windsor and for that casino to be operated by a joint venture of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

However the act requires approval by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), before any development can take place. The tribes filed their lawsuit following a meeting of tribal and state officials with representatives of the DOI, in which the DOI chose to neither approve nor reject amendments to the tribe’s gaming compacts with the state of Connecticut.

In a statement of support, Governor Malloy said: “The state of Connecticut over the years has maintained a long-standing partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations, and they employ thousands of Connecticut residents at their casinos.

“State law requires that these compact amendments are in fact approved. That’s why I have asked the Attorney General to file this action. We need clarity and certainty with respect to this issue.”

Malloy added: “We are also seeking to compel the Secretary of the Interior to publish notice of approval of the amendments in the Federal Register, which is necessary in order for the amendments to be legally effective and enforceable.”

Last month attorneys representing the tribes issued a letter to DOI Associate Deputy Secretary James Carson urging him to “perform his ministerial statutory and regulatory duty to publish notice of approval in the Federal register”

Secretary Cason provided the tribes with assurances that the compact’s passage by the DOI was virtually certain earlier this year. However since then, the DOI has largely sat on its hands, doing nothing to further the casino development.

In accompanying statements, Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown said: “The Department of the Interior has a responsibility to Native American tribes, and their failure to act on this issue sets a very dangerous precedent for Indian Country across the United States.

“The law is clear – after 45 days DOI did not disapprove our compact amendments, therefore it is deemed approved. By not doing so, the department is in clear violation of federal law.”

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler added: “This has been a long process and through every step along the way, we kept DOI informed about our intentions and were clear about exactly what we were asking them to do.

“But despite this good faith effort and repeated assurances by the department, their failure to publish our approval letter has forced us to take this action. We hope for a quick resolution as we move forward with our plans to build a new facility in East Windsor.”

Long time foes of the tribes, MGM Resorts group have claimed that the lack of approval by the DOI constitutes a refusal of the amended tribal agreement, launching a $675m rival casino development bid centred on the nearby city of Bridgeport. The developer has launched a massive digital print and advertising campaign, bombarding local residents with messages which highlight the benefits of a new casino development.

It is widely believed that the operator is looking to generate support for a dismissal of the tribal compact within the Connecticut legislature, which has reaffirmed its support for the Mohegan and Mashantucket’s development.


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