Connecticut Sues US Department of the Interior Over East Windsor Casino

Posted on: November 30, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2017, 02:35h.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) and the state’s two federally recognized tribes want answers over the legality of constructing a satellite casino in East Windsor.

Connecticut casino lawsuit Dannel Malloy
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is going after the US federal government for staying mum on his state’s East Windsor tribal casino. (Image: Lindsay Perry/Stamford Advocate)

Connecticut, along with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior (DOI) that seeks full authorization over the gambling venue that is set to be built on non-sovereign land. The litigation claims that because the DOI failed to act on the state’s gaming compact amendments with the tribe, the federal agency essentially approved the changes.

In July, the Connecticut General Assembly recommended revised compacts with the two tribes that allows them to jointly construct a $300 million casino in East Windsor, roughly 13 miles south of MGM Springfield, a $960 million integrated resort casino in Massachusetts. Malloy signed off on the revisions, but the compact changes mandated that they only be accepted should the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), an agency within the DOI, confirm that the non-reservation gaming authorization doesn’t violate the original contracts.

“We need clarity and certainty with respect to this issue,” Malloy said in a presser yesterday. “In addition, we are also seeking to compel the Secretary of the Interior to publish notice of approval of the amendments, which is necessary in order for the amendments to be legally effective and enforceable.”

The two tribes have promised Connecticut that the state’s 25 percent take of slot revenue generated at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun will continue regardless of the DOI’s verdict, but lawmakers and Malloy want that in writing from the US government.

The lawsuit this week asks the court to declare that the compact amendments have been approved by the DOI and BIA.

Federal Crickets

The US government has sent Connecticut a mixed bag of messages regarding its wishes to expand gaming to off-sovereign lands. MGM Resorts has sued on grounds that the state is essentially legalizing commercial gambling, and failed to hold a competitive bidding process for the casino license.

MGM has submitted plans for a $675 million casino resort in Bridgeport, though CEO Jim Murren admitted during a recent shareholder call that the gaming and hospitality conglomerate is done developing new casinos outside possibly Japan.

Last May, the BIA said it saw no reason why the East Windsor satellite couldn’t be developed by the tribes. But then in September, Acting Secretary Michael Black said there was insufficient information to make such a conclusion.

Connecticut and the tribes submitted supplementary details surrounding their updated compacts, but the BIA never responded.

Millions at Stake

While Connecticut says the silence on the part of the DOI constitutes an authorization, MGM challenges just the opposite is true.

The East Windsor casino is an attempt to halt gaming dollars that would have otherwise been wagered at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun from flowing over the Massachusetts border to MGM Springfield. Without the satellite facility, Connecticut’s fiscal office estimates the state stands to lose about $68 million in annual tax revenue, as MGM’s resort is expected to poach gamblers from central and northern parts of the state.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are located just 10 miles from one another in the southeastern part of the state.