Chairman Kevin Brown of the Mohegan Tribe, left, and Chairman Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation speak at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference at Mohegan Sun on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut on June 13, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe are praising a federal court decision in favor of a law that paved the way for their new casino in Connecticut.

Under Special Act 15-7, the tribes -- and only the tribes -- were allowed to submit bids for the casino. MGM Resorts International, a non-Indian company, disputed the law, arguing it was denied a chance to enter the process.

In a unanimous decision, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge. A panel of three judges said the company lacked standing to sue the state of Connecticut because it could not demonstrate how it was harmed by the mere enactment of the law.

"Because MGM has failed to allege any specific plans to develop a casino in Connecticut, we conclude that any competitive harms imposed by the act are too speculative," Judge John M. Walker, Jr., wrote in the 24-page decision

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Oral arguments in MGM Resorts International v. Malloy, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, November 28, 2016

Special Act 15-7 does not actually authorize the new casino. But after going through the bidding process, the tribes went back to the state Legislature and won approval of different bill that approves their joint venture in the city of East Windsor.

"Our focus remains on savings the thousands of jobs and millions in state tax revenue that would have been lost had the legislature not passed Senate Bill 957," the tribes said in a statement, The Hartford Courant reported. "We look forward to developing an exciting new casino and continuing to build our state's economy in the weeks and months ahead."

Senate Bill 957 has not yet been signed into law but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) is expected to approve it. Once that happens, MGM has indicated it will continue to fight.

"We view today's ruling as nothing more than a matter of timing and remain undeterred in our goal of having the opportunity to compete in Connecticut," Uri Clinton, a senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM, told The Courant.

The New England Casino Race: Tribal and commercial gaming facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

The tribes chose East Windsor for their casino due to its proximity to the Massachusetts border. The site is only about 13 miles from Springfield, where MGM is building a $950 million commercial casino.

The tribes are pursuing the development outside of the framework of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act so federal approval isn't needed. The site in East Windsor won't be taken into trust either.

But the tribes are planning to ask the Bureau of Indian Affairs to confirm that their new facility doesn't infringe on their existing gaming rights. Officials from both the Obama and Trump administrations have indicated that the tribes are right but MGM has challenged that point as well.

According to CT News Junkie, the tribes spent $673,446 this year to lobby lawmakers. MGM spent a whopping $1.68 million, the site said.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, MGM Resorts International v. Malloy.

Read More on the Story:
Appeals Court Sides With State On Casino Expansion — For Now (The Hartford Courant 6/21)
Connecticut wins early round in casino court fight with MGM (The Connecticut Mirror 6/21)
MGM’s Connecticut Casino Wrangle Crashes on Appeal (Courthouse News Service 6/21)
Appeals court upholds dismissal of MGM's claim against 2015 law favoring tribes (The New London Day 6/21)
Court rejects MGM lawsuit as company competes with Connecticut tribes (AP 6/21)
$25 Million And Counting (CT News Junkie 6/22)

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
MGM Resorts International v. Malloy (June 20, 2017)

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Connecticut tribes heap praise on senior Trump administration official (June 14, 2017)

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