Tribe, MGM join forces to fight Connecticut casino plan

This April 17, 2015 photo shows a dealer counting chips during a game of roulette at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. On Friday Dec. 11, 2015, New Jersey lawmakers said they will seek a statewide referendum in Nov. 2016 in which voters would be asked whether to approve two new casinos in the northern part of the state. Expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City requires amending the state Constitution. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP/WWLP) — A tribe in western Connecticut has joined forces with MGM Resorts to halt plans to allow two federally recognized tribes to pursue a new casino in the state.

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and Las Vegas-based MGM each has filed a lawsuit challenging the law that created a multi-step process for the tribes that own the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun to build a commercial, off-reservation casino together.

The Schaghticokes, who filed their lawsuit Monday in federal court in Hartford, said they are teaming up with MGM to pursue their mutual interests. MGM, which is planning its own casino across the state line in Massachusetts, is providing financial assistance for the tribe’s lawsuit, officials said.

“The State has a long history of discriminating against the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation,” Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky said. “Recently, the State fought our federal recognition, supposedly because they didn’t want another casino in Connecticut. Now Connecticut wants to open a new casino, but only if the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation doesn’t get an opportunity to submit a proposal to operate it.”

Velky leads one of two rival Schaghticoke factions in Kent.

“Special Act 15-17” says the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans have the exclusive rights to pursue a 3rd casino on non-tribal land. MGM is trying to overturn that same law In a separate lawsuit, arguing against the exclusivity.

The Schaghticokes claim unfair competition. They’re only recognized by the state. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Schaghticokes are barred from pursuing a casino; but if they do want to build one as a tribe, or on their reservation, they do need federal recognition. Until then, stopping a 3rd casino from being built in CT means stopping a threat from MGM Springfield.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe say they want the new casino to stem an anticipated loss of business to the MGM Resorts casino planned for Springfield, Massachusetts. Under a law passed last year, the tribes would issue a request for proposals from municipalities interested in hosting a satellite casino.

In its challenge of the state law, MGM said it is ready and able to compete to build a casino of its own in Connecticut but was unfairly excluded from the running.

“I think it’s free game,” says Daryll Thomas of Hartford, CT. “Basically, you know, I don’t think they’re breaking any laws by building another casino. If people still want to come here, they’ll come here.”

Below a statement from Alan Feldman, the Executive VP of MGM Resorts International, regarding the federal lawsuit filed with the Schaghticoke tribe:

As a global leader in hospitality and gaming, it is common for MGM to identify development opportunities around the world. In Connecticut, today we announced a collaboration on the legal effort with the Schagticoke Tribal Nation, with whom we have similar legal interests in that we both seek to have the current law in Connecticut replaced with a transparent process that allows fair competition among all bidders. We also believe that Connecticut must involve the public in such a process as Massachusetts has done so successfully. In Springfield, we remain solely focused on our construction activities and the local partnerships that have begun to revitalize the City of Springfield and the regional economy.

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