In Connecticut, legislators have reportedly been advised not to allow the state’s MMCT Venture tribal concern to open its small Mohegan Sun Foxwoods East Windsor casino without first receiving official approvals from the United States Department of the Interior.
According to a Tuesday report from The Connecticut Mirror, the recommendation came from Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson (pictured) following a request from Joe Aresimowicz, Speaker for the Connecticut House of Representatives, and means that legislators will now likely cease most of their efforts at circumventing the federal approvals process.
MMCT Venture is a joint enterprise of Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operate the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino properties respectively, and reportedly received final state approvals in late-July to open its $300 million Mohegan Sun Foxwoods East Windsor complete with a 100,000 sq ft gaming floor.
However, the joint venture cannot reportedly begin operations until the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs subordinate signs off on changes that were made to the two tribes’ existing gambling compacts as part of the local licensing process. Over nine months have now passed with no word from Washington, DC, and Connecticut legislators are purportedly worried that the unauthorized opening of the Class III establishment could jeopardize these agreements, which are expected to contribute some $260 million in taxes this year.
“Our view of the risks of proceeding without federal approval of the amendments is unchanged,” reportedly read the recommendation from Jepson. “Indeed, subsequent events and actions of [the United States Department of the] Interior only reaffirm our view that approval of the amendments is highly recommended to protect the state’s interests under the compacts and the memorandums of understanding.”
In hopes of expediting the process, December saw the administration of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy join with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to file a lawsuit against the United States Department of the Interior. But, this action could reportedly take many months to bear fruit and could even result in the already lethargic approvals process being further slowed.
“To take action on the assumption that the state and tribes will succeed in the ongoing litigation would be highly imprudent,” reportedly read Jepsen’s recommendation.
The Connecticut Mirror reported that the Mohegan Sun Foxwoods East Windsor has been envisioned to serve as a bulwark against the coming MGM Springfield casino being built by MGM Resorts International only 13 miles away in the neighboring state of Massachusetts. The Las Vegas-headquartered operator purportedly hopes to have this $950 million gambling property open by September and has been lobbying Connecticut officials to invalidate MMCT Venture’s permission in lieu of initiating a competitive bidding process for the small state’s third casino license.
Jepson’s recommendation moreover reportedly advised that the existing gambling compacts of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation would not automatically grant the tribes the exclusive rights to offer sportsbetting to Connecticut punters should the United States Supreme Court rule favorably in the ongoing Christie v NCAA court case. He purportedly wrote that the agreements ‘set out a list of authorized games’ that does not include sportsbetting although parimutuel wagering on select racing and jai alai contests would be allowed.
“The exclusion of sportsbetting from the specific list of authorized games is compelling evidence that the compacts do not presently authorize it,” reportedly read Jepson’s recommendation.