Department of Interior Backs Connecticut Tribes Casino Bid

Department of Interior Backs Connecticut Tribes Casino Bid
By Trey Killian

According to the most recent court filings, the United States Department of Interior continued to align itself on the side of Native American tribes in Connecticut in an ongoing legal dispute with MGM Resorts International.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes submitted a proposal last year for the construction of a new casino in East Windsor, Connecticut, at a site which is on non-reservation lands.

The proposal received federal approval in March and, because of its location, it required amendments to existing tribal compacts between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot and the state.

MGM is fighting the proposal by claiming that in its approval of tribal compact amendments the DOI violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The corporation filed a lawsuit in August attacking the decision, which it claims was made with very little explanation, that will allow the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot to jointly construct and operate the proposed Tribal Winds Casino.

The DOI believes that it was perfectly within its rights to review and approve amendments the tribal compacts, according to the latest court filings by the agency.

"Because there is no statutory or regulatory limitation on Interior’s ability to reconsider the Pequot Amendments, Interior properly used its inherent authority to approve such Amendments, despite Plaintiffs’ contrary assertions," the filings said.

MGM Concerned About Springfield Property

MGM is worried about the competition the new casino will create for its struggling location in Springfield, Massachusetts. The opening of the Encore Boston Harbor earlier this year has already been taking potential customers from Springfield, and the proposed East Windsor casino will be located just about 15 miles away.

The corporation had expected the MGM Springfield to generate over $400 million in revenue during its first year, but only reported $273.8 million in 12 months of operation. In the first month of operation for the Encore Boston Harbor, Springfield posted its third-worst monthly gross revenue ($20.4 million).

MGM had also planned to build and open its first casino in Connecticut in Bridgeport, but the increased competition posed by the tribes’ plans would likely hamper those dreams.

The planned Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor is expected to make a major impact on the local economy.

The tribes speculated in March that it would generate at least 2,000 construction positions, 2,000 jobs at the casino itself, and 1,000 jobs for subcontractors and independent vendors. The tribes designated at least 650 jobs for Hartford residents specifically.

The project has yet to break ground, but tribal officials believe the property will be ready to open no later than two years after construction gets underway.

The existing tribal compacts grant exclusivity to the two tribes to offer certain types of gambling throughout the state on tribal grounds. In exchange the tribes give Connecticut a 25% cut of all slot-machine revenue.

The two tribes operate the only two casinos in Connecticut, the Foxwoods in Ledyard and the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. Foxwoods is a well-known location and is one of the largest casino properties in the world.

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Trey Killian covers the gambling and casino industries in the U.S. A budding reporter, Killian is a graduate of Marquette University and writes about a range of topics, including but not limited to digital casino gaming, online poker and industry news.

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