Fed gov’t stops cock-blocking Connecticut tribes’ JV casino


bureau-indian-affairs-connecticut-tribal-casinoConnecticut’s proposed joint venture tribal casino has cleared a major roadblock now that the federal government appears to have finally dropped its opposition to the project.

On Thursday, the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) announced that the revised gaming compact between Connecticut’s state government and the Mohegan tribe – which operates Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino – “is taking effect.”

The document is dated May 25, but won’t be officially published until Friday, June 1. The document tersely notes that the amended gaming compact is taking effect because the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke “took no action” within the required 45 days.

The amendment makes no mention of the state’s compact with Foxwoods Resort Casino’s owner, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which has formed a joint venture called MMCT to build a casino off tribal lands in the northern part of the state near East Windsor.

Both tribes’ gaming compacts were amended last year to recognize that the tribes would provide the state with 25% of gaming revenue from the East Windsor casino. However, the BIA inexplicably slow-rolled what should have been a rubber-stamp approval process.

In December, the state and the tribes sued the feds over the delay, which appears to have been prompted by furious lobbying by MGM Resorts, who felt they’d been excluded from setting up a rival casino in Bridgeport. In April, the Interior Department’s inspector general opened an investigation into the delay.

While the tribes expressed confidence on Thursday that the Mashantucket Pequot approval was imminent, there was no immediate reaction from MGM, which has proven willing to use all its legal options to thwart the East Windsor project, which lies just across the border from its new $960m MGM Springfield venue in Massachusetts that’s set to open in August.

On Thursday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who represents Connecticut in Washington, told the Connecticut Post that MGM may have already got what it was after, namely, delaying the East Windsor project long enough so that MGM Springfield can establish itself as a destination for northern Connecticut gamblers. Blumenthal insisted that the Inspector General’s probe into Zinke’s stalling tactics should proceed.

Speaking of Massachusetts, the Mohegans have reanimated their 2015 lawsuit challenging the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s 2014 decision to award a casino license to Wynn Resorts.

The tribe, which has long protested the MGC’s decision, now claims that the sexual harassment allegations engulfing former Wynn boss Steve Wynn are further proof that the MGC didn’t do a proper job of vetting the company, and therefore the bidding process was flawed and needs a redo.

The Boston Herald reported that the MGC filed a reply brief opposing the Mohegan’s motion, while arguing that its investigation into what Wynn execs knew about Steve’s allegations at the time of licensing is ongoing.

In April, Wynn Resorts stripped Steve’s surname from their Boston project, which will now be known as Encore Boston Harbor. Earlier this month, the MGC agreed to erase Steve’s name from Wynn’s Massachusetts license.