In an effort to gain legislative approval to build Connecticut’s third casino, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation have pledged to continue making slot revenue payments to the state even if the federal government invalidates or alters their current compacts.
According to a report from the Hartford Courant newspaper, legislators are worried that granting the tribes’ MMCT Venture joint enterprise with permission to construct the new gambling facility in the community of East Windsor could lead to the federal Bureau Of Indian Affairs revoking their existing compacts, which would see the state lose up to $267 million a year in slot revenue payments.
The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority operates the Mohegan Sun casino resort in the south-east of the state while the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is responsible for the nearby Foxwoods Resort Casino. The pair first announced in 2015 that they were teaming up in order to petition the state government for permission to build a smaller gambling venue in northern Connecticut in order to counter competition from the coming MGM Springfield, which is being built in neighboring Massachusetts by MGM Resorts International and is expected to open in 2019.
Under the current compact, Connecticut receives 25% of all slot revenues generated at the Mohegan Sun and the Foxwoods Resort Casino in exchange for ensuring that the tribes retain the exclusive rights to offer casino gambling in the state. But, last month saw Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen warn that authorizing the East Windsor facility could potentially see the Bureau Of Indian Affairs alter the payment arrangement to the detriment of the eastern state.
However, the tribes have reportedly declared that they are confident the Bureau Of Indian Affairs will approve any changes but nonetheless reassured lawmakers that they would be prepared to continue the current 25% deal in the event the federal agency disapproves.
“In the history of the Bureau Of Indian Affairs, they never have revoked a compact,” Rodney Butler, Chairman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, told the Hartford Courant.
The Hartford Courant reported that the potential loss of revenues is a sensitive subject for legislators as they face a deepening state budget deficit. At the same time, lawmakers are being lobbied by other casino operators that want the tribes’ current monopoly annulled so that the state can be opened up to competing firms. This would reportedly leave the way free for companies such as MGM Resorts International to lobby for the right to build a gambling venue in south-western Connecticut and specifically Bridgeport, which is the state’s largest city and lies only about 50 miles from New York City and its over 8.5 million residents.
“It’s slim to none, the chances that [the Bureau Of Indian Affairs] would rule in a way that would be against what we are trying to do,” Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, told the Hartford Courant.