MGM Resorts bankrolling tribe’s lawsuit against Connecticut casino plan

mgm-connecticut-tribal-casino-lawsuitCasino operator MGM Resorts is bankrolling a Connecticut tribe’s fight against the state government’s authorization of a third tribal casino.

Monday saw the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation file a federal lawsuit based on its claim that the Special Act 15-7 the state government approved last year is unconstitutional. The Act authorized a joint venture of the operators of the state’s two tribal casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino – to build a commercial casino off tribal lands near the Massachusetts border.

MGM filed a lawsuit against the Act last August, arguing that the company had not been allowed to apply to operate this third casino. The state sought a dismissal of MGM’s suit based on the state AG’s belief that MGM has no standing to sue.

The Schaghticoke tribe got involved after it applied for its own commercial casino license, approval for which the tribe believed the state had granted but which the state subsequently denied, prompting a messy series of public clarifications.

On Monday, Schaghticoke chief Richard Velky and MGM exec VP Alan Feldman held a press conference in Hartford announcing their collaboration in the tribe’s lawsuit against the state. Velky dodged questions regarding who was financing the suit, saying only that each party was paying “some” of the legal costs.

The Schaghticoke aren’t federally recognized, but Velky said that didn’t matter because the third casino won’t be built on tribal lands. Asked whether the tribe would partner with MGM on a casino proposal, Velky said it was “a little premature” to be discussing that possibility.

Reaction from MMCT Venture – the joint venture of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots tribes – was swift. Local media quoted MMCT spokesman Andrew Doba saying the MGM-Schaghticoke tag-team “should raise a red flag for anyone who is concerned about MGM’s plan to steal jobs from Connecticut residents.”

The state agreed to grant MMCT the right to build a third casino to fend off competition from the in-development MGM Springfield, which is scheduled to open just across the border in Massachusetts in 2018.

No one seriously believes MGM has any real interest in building a casino in Connecticut so close to MGM Springfield but the company is clearly bent on derailing the MMCT plan and the Schaghticoke appear only too happy to play along if it keeps their faint casino hopes alive.