Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have long been arch rivals, operating the only two casinos in Connecticut just a few miles away from each other.
But on Thursday, they found common ground, signing an agreement that will see the two tribal-run gaming properties work together to find a way to beat back against competition from neighboring Massachusetts.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes signed an accord to build a third casino in the state together, one that would be designed to hold on to customers in the state who might otherwise travel to Springfield to visit the coming MGM casino in that city.
It’s likely that much of the player base for that Springfield casino could come from Connecticut, particularly from the Hartford area.
Tribes Working Together for “All Things Connecticut”
Tribal leaders say that they’re willing to put aside their longstanding differences in order to do what’s right for Connecticut, as well as their own business interests.
“We arrive here after centuries of tribal conflict, decades of gaming competition, and we’re here to cooperate in the spirit of all things Connecticut,” said Kevin Brown, a member of the Mohegan Tribal Council.
The new casino venture became possible in June, when Governor Dannel Malloy signed a gaming act that allowed for the building of just one more casino. That bill only allowed that casino to be built if the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes would work together on a joint venture.
Such a casino is all but certain to be located somewhere north of Hartford on the I-91 corridor. At least three different towns and cities have already expressed interest in hosting the venue: Enfield, East Hartford, and East Windsor are all vying for the opportunity.
MGM Files Complaint Against New Project
All of those locations would be very close to the proposed MGM Springfield. Not surprisingly, that hasn’t made MGM very happy, and the company has looked for legal options in an effort to stop the Connecticut plan from going forward.
In August, MGM filed a legal complaint, saying that allowing the tribes to build a casino on state land violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Commerce Clause. The company say that by limiting the development only to the two tribes, the state is excluding other national and racial groups (thus violating the 14th Amendment) and discriminating against out-of-state competitors who might want a chance to build (which brings in the Commerce Clause).
Even if that complain goes nowhere, the final location of the new casino would have to be approved by the Connecticut state legislature. But that process may go more easily that it sounds, as just about everyone invested in the project wants it to move forward quickly. After all, the idea is to have their casino up and running before the MGM Springfield can be completed, which has been delayed until 2018.
The prospect of a casino in Connecticut has scared some in Massachusetts, particularly in Springfield, where there are fears that MGM might scale back its own resort if competition appears just across the border. But MGM itself has denied that it would make any changes to its own casino, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says that he isn’t going to fret about things that he can’t control.
“I can’t worry about what Connecticut does or doesn’t do,” Sarno said. “I expect and I demand that MGM live up to their commitments.”