Deadlock broken in Connecticut casino dispute

There may be light at the end of the tunnel for the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes’ long standing efforts to build a third casino in East Windsor, Connecticut as the US Department of the Interior (DOI)is reportedly set to approve the revised compact agreement between the tribes and the state.

Development of the third casino property, a joint venture between the two tribes was initially approved in state law when the Public Act 17-89, An Act Concerning the Regulation of Gaming and the Authorisation of a Casino Gaming Facility in the State, was signed off by Connecticut governor Dannel P.Malloy in June 2017.

However, since then, the tribes have suffered delay after delay in their efforts to get going, despite strong support from the state. The chief antagonists for the tribes and the state have been the DOI, who have repeatedly delayed issuing their consent to the revised agreement and MGM Resorts, who opposed the casino development on the grounds that it would draw custom away from their own MGM Springfield development being built in nearby Massachusetts.

The state government of Connecticut has been steadfast in its support of the tribes, most notably in December when the state in conjunction with the tribes launched a lawsuit against the DOI over its delays.

The issue of compact ratification has been further complicated by MGM Resorts, who have repeatedly lobbied in the state and indeed the courts to have the agreement torn up, but to no avail.

In September, fresh from its latest defeat in the courts, MGM Resorts submitted an unsolicited $675m tender to build a casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut and has undertaken a significant advertising and lobbying campaign emphasising the benefits of the casino development to the state.

Last month, a delegation acting on behalf of the tribes and state requested an investigation into the DOI’s failure to ratify the compact agreement by the Inspector General. Concerns were raised over the influence of MGM Resorts on the DOI’s decision to delay.

One of the members of the Connecticut congressional delegation, Senator Richard Blumenthal gave voice to the frustrations felt by both parties: “We have requested meetings. We’ve submitted letters. We have never been given any sort of access to a meeting.”

“They basically stonewalled us. And at the same time, they sent copies of certain correspondence to the Nevada congressional delegation. There is a paper trail here that is very troubling.”

It now appears that this investigation has greased the wheels at the DOI, which will reportedly make an official announcement confirming ratification of the revised compact later today.

Speaking on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s MMCT Venture, spokesperson Andrew Doba, told the Hartford Courant: “We are pleased that the department is taking this step, and we expect a similar action on the Mashantucket Pequot tribal amendments in the very near future. Today’s decision is the latest step in the overall goal to preserve thousands of good paying jobs and millions in tax revenue.”

This DOI announcement would satisfy the legislatory conditions set out by the Public Act, paving the way for the tribes to move forward with the development and potentially casting the future of the MGM Bridgeport development into doubt.