MGM Resorts International Responds to Dismissal Motion in Federal Lawsuit Over Joint Tribal Casino in Connecticut

Posted on: October 30, 2019, 01:52h. 

Last updated on: October 30, 2019, 10:47h.

On Tuesday, MGM Resorts International filed its response in federal court to a motion made by the US Interior Department to dismiss the Las Vegas company’s lawsuit over a proposed casino in Connecticut.

MGM Resorts International, which owns the MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts, has responded to the federal government’s motion to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. The suit is regarding the approval process for a Connecticut casino that would be owned by two tribes and located about 15 minutes from the Massachusetts venue. (Image: MGM Springfield)

Earlier this month, the Interior Department told a judge in US District Court in Washington, DC that the four claims MGM made in contesting amendments to gaming compacts for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes should be dismissed. That would allow the tribes to move forward with plans for a casino in East Windsor, Conn.

That casino, named Tribal Winds, will not be located on tribal ground. It is, however, a short drive away from MGM’s integrated resort casino in Springfield, Mass. The $300 million project is shovel-ready and could open within 18 months of groundbreaking. The venue would house 2,000 slot machines and 120 table games.

Leaders from both tribes estimate Tribal Winds would generate about $70 million in annual revenue for the state.

In addition to its $960 million casino in western Massachusetts, MGM also is considering pursuing a casino in Bridgeport, Conn.

Amendment Approvals ‘Unprecedented’

In responding to the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Kevin King, the attorney representing MGM, calls the Interior Department’s arguments “scattershot.” In one instance, he notes that the Interior Department said the amendments to Mohegan’s compact were properly submitted. That was despite the department saying otherwise two years ago.

This suit concerns Interior’s unprecedented approval of amendments to agreements that govern Connecticut’s casino-gaming market,” King writes in the response. “Although the amendments test the outer limits of Interior’s statutory authority and pose questions that Interior itself describes as “complicated,” the approval decisions provide no reasoning regarding those issues. The approval decisions likewise depart without explanation from Interior’s own prior rulings in the same proceeding.”

In addition, MGM argues that the decisions Interior made in approving the amended compacts show an arbitrary decision-making process that violates both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

MGM, which filed the suit in August, argues the IGRA allows the government to regulate gaming only on tribal lands. The company also claims Interior officials failed to explain why they did not respond to its comments regarding the amended compacts.

Tribes, State Want to Intervene

Last week, the two tribes and the state of Connecticut filed a motion for limited intervention in the case and seek their own dismissal of the suit.

In the motion, attorneys for all three parties said that the Department of Interior does not adequately represent their interests in the case. On the contrary, they note that federal officials initially delayed approving the Pequot amendment.

During the delay, the tribes and state filed their own suit against the Interior Department, arguing that then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was bowing to MGM’s lobbying on the issue. The tribes and state dropped that suit after the department approved the Pequot’s amended charter.

“Given Interior’s previous about-face, it cannot be relied upon to protect the Tribes’ interest here,” the parties wrote in the intervention motion.