It appears that the announcement on Tuesday night by Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky that the tribe had received federal recognition from state officials and therefore entitled to compete for Connecticut’s third commercial casino license was an exercise in futility.
A day after the Kent tribe released a statement confirming that it had received notification from the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s Office approving the tribe’s pursuit of a third commercial casino license in the state, it was determined that the group’s application for the formation of a “tribal business entity,” “Confluence of Rivers Business Entity LLC,” was accepted in error. According to Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill, while the requirements to form an LLC were met by the tribe, the criteria of a special act, which would allow the group to pursue the establishment of a gambling facility, were not met, according to the Connecticut Post.
Last year, Special Act No. 15-7 was passed by the General Assembly allowing the pursuit of opening a third casino in Connecticut by a “tribal business entity.” The provision, however, is limited to the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, which are both federally recognized tribes. Federal recognition of either faction of the Schaghticoke tribe has been fought by Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams’ town, and Adams said the opposition remains steadfast.
The special act was approved by the Legislature to allow for a third gaming facility in Connecticut in an effort to protect jobs and revenue from being cannibalized by MGM Resorts International’s $950 million mega resort in neighboring Springfield, Massachusetts. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots formed MMCT Venture in Connecticut in order to compete with MGM’s planned facility and site proposal were submitted in November by Hartford and Windsor Locks, East Hartford and East Windsor. However, a third casino would still need approval from the General Assembly.
On previous occasions, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has proposed building a casino in the greater Danbury area and in Bridgeport or a bingo hall on its reservation in Kent. For years, federal recognition that could aid in establishing a casino on the tribe’s land in Kent has remained elusive. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) granted the tribe sovereignty in 2004, but after the decision was criticized by members of Congress and state officials, later that year, the recognition was reversed. The tribe battled for years to get the 2005 federal decision denying sovereignty to the tribe overturned, and in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tribe’s petition for a review of the federal BIA denial.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and the U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal led, state congressional delegation, have opposed new rules by the BIA that would have made winning federal recognition easier for tribes like the Schaghticokes. However, according to the new rules released last year, previously denied tribes cannot reapply or use centuries-old state recognition as a qualifier for federal recognition.