Connecticut’s third tribal casino will start construction later this month, despite federal “obfuscation” by rival MGM Resorts.
On Thursday, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) chairman Kevin Brown told investors that his company and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe planned to commence demolition this month of the old cinema that currently sits on the site of the two tribes’ proposed joint venture casino project in East Windsor.
The MMCT Venture’s plan to build the $300m casino off tribal land in the northern part of the state has been stymied by MGM, which wants to build its own Connecticut casino in Bridgeport. The East Windsor casino is intended to cater to Connecticut gamblers who might otherwise head further north to MGM Springfield, the $960m venue set to open in Massachusetts in September.
MMCT has also had to deal with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which has yet to approve the tribes’ amended gaming compact with the state, despite the expiration of the 45-day window in which the BIA is required to respond to such requests. In December, the tribes and the state sued the US Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Secretary Ryan Zinke over this delay.
On Thursday, Politico published an article that examined Zinke’s schedule, lobbying registrations and other documents, which indicate that Zinke and other senior Interior officials had multiple meetings and phone calls with MGM lobbyists, as well as with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, while the tribes’ amended compact request was on Zinke’s desk.
In one case, MGM hired former Interior Secretary Gale Norton to lobby on issues related to the Connecticut tribes. Norton began working on MGM’s behalf on October 25, just one day before Interior officials contacted the tribe for clarification on why the department should involve itself in an issue over a casino that wasn’t being built on tribal land.
MGE’s Brown struck a wry note in reaction to the Politico report, saying the East Windsor project had been held up by “a bit of obfuscation” at the federal level. MMCT spokesman Andrew Doba was less charitable, saying the interference was “100% about delaying us for as long as [MGM] possibly can.”