Passing enabling legislation to authorize the building of a tribal casino in East Windsor could reportedly leave Connecticut open to lawsuits and jeopardize the eastern state’s current revenue-sharing agreement with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
According to a report from the Associated Press news service, this is the opinion of Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen after he was asked two weeks ago to officially weigh in on the issue by Democratic governor Dannel Malloy.
In his Monday response, Jepsen reportedly wrote that the risks associated with authorizing the state’s first casino on non-tribal land “are not insubstantial and cannot be mitigated with confidence” while explaining that it is difficult to predict the outcome of any future constitutional challenges. The Democrat additionally cautioned that the new United States Secretary Of The Interior, who would have to approve any amendments to the tribes’ existing revenue-sharing agreement with the state, could potentially alter the payment arrangement to the detriment of Connecticut.
The news service reported that Connecticut receives 25% of all slot revenues generated at the Mohegan Sun, which is operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s Foxwoods Resort Casino in exchange for ensuring that the tribes retain the exclusive rights to offer casino gambling in the state.
MMCT Venture, which is an enterprise of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, first announced plans to open a jointly-operated facility in the north of the state in 2015 and Jepsen allegedly expressed concerns at the time that the proposed enabling legislation for the project could face constitutional challenges and put the existing revenue-sharing agreements at risk.
Although Malloy is reportedly supporter of the casino plan, it is being fought by MGM Resorts International as the American casino giant’s coming MGM Springfield development is expected to open in 2019 only about 13 miles across the border in Massachusetts.
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International has long expressed an interest in building a gambling establishment in south-western Connecticut and has moreover previously declared that MMCT Venture should not be permitted to open its casino without going through a competitive bidding process for its license.
The enabling legislation that would enable MMCT Venture to build the East Windsor casino is currently facing a Thursday deadline with Connecticut General Assembly’s Public Safety And Security Committee and it remains unclear whether supporters are prepared to take a chance by passing the measure.
Andrew Doba, a spokesperson for MMCT Venture, told the Associated Press that he has been assured by people who had spent their careers at the Bureau Of Indian Affairs that the new Connecticut legislation would “not adversely affect anything”.
However, Jepsen reportedly wrote that there can be no guarantees that the federal government, which is now under the leadership of President Donald Trump, would follow past practices. He additionally explained that Trump had been “actively involved in pursuing casino gaming interests in Connecticut” during his years as a gambling entrepreneur.
Uri Clinton, Senior Vice-President for MGM Resorts International, reportedly told the Associated Press that Jepsen’s letter reiterates his concerns from 2015 about how the state risks “hundreds of millions in annual revenues if it proceeds with a commercial casino, even if that casino is to be operated by the two federally-recognized tribes”.