The Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe sued the MGC in January 2015, a few months after the MGC awarded the sole Boston-area casino license to Wynn Resorts, spoiling the Mohegans’ plans to open a $1.3b casino at the Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere. The Mohegans sued based on their belief that the MGC had given Wynn preferential treatment throughout the application process.
On Friday, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the MGC had violated the state’s open meeting law in making its decision. The Court cited MGC records indicating that commissioners met at least twice in private to discuss the Boston casino question, which directly contradicted the MGC’s claims.
The Court noted that violations of the open meeting law allowed for a variety of penalties, including “nullifying the action taken at a meeting,’ as well as potential civil penalties. The Court’s ruling sends the tribe’s lawsuit back to Superior Court for further deliberation.
Mohegan Tribe chairman Kevin Brown issued a statement saying the decision “affirms our belief that the licensing process was flawed and that the decisions of the [MGC] are not immune from further review.”
The MGC issued its own statement insisting that it is “fully confident” that the licensing process was “comprehensive, fair and highly transparent.” The MGC pledged to continue to “vigorously defend our process in trial court.”
A Wynn spokesperson insisted that the legal setback would have no impact on its Wynn Boston Harbor project, which the company expects to open sometime in 2019.
Earlier this week, Wynn provided the MGC with an update on its Boston project, revealing that labor costs had pushed the estimated price tag from $2b to around $2.4b. The property will also now feature fewer retail shops, but more restaurants, bars and gaming machines.
This isn’t the only front on which the Mohegans are fighting a Massachusetts casino operator. MGM Resorts, which is building a $950m casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, has challenged Connecticut’s controversial decision to award a casino license to a joint venture of the Mohegans and the state’s other gaming tribe, the Mashantucket Pequots. The proposed tribal casino will be located in East Windsor, Connecticut, just across the border from MGM Springfield, which is set to open in 2018.