From left: Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin Brown, Ohkay Owingeh council member Joe Garcia and Leander "Russ" McDonald, the president of the United Tribes Technical College. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation seeks to revive gaming lawsuit

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is firing back at the Trump administration as plans for a new casino in Connecticut remain in limbo.

Court papers filed on Tuesday accuse the Department of the Interior of bowing to "undue political pressure." Specifically, attorneys for the tribe say opponents of the new casino repeatedly "pressured" Secretary Ryan Zinke to reject the project.

The pressure was exerted in various ways, including at a "private dinner at a steakhouse in Las Vegas, Nevada," according to the filing. Zinke was also told directly by the White House to reject the tribe's agreement for the new casino, the papers assert.

"Congressional interference by the Nevada delegation and the White House tainted the administrative process," the tribes' attorney wrote in the filing, which was first reported by POLITICO.

The "Nevada delegation" refers to Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nevada). The two lawmakers in fact were copied on a letter that was sent to the tribe in September 2017, informing the tribe that its agreement would not be approved.

According to the tribe, the lawmakers were acting at the behest of MGM Resorts International, a non-Indian gaming company that has since opened a new casino in neighboring Massachusetts. MGM Springfield debuted on August 25 and generated $27 million in gaming revenue in September, its first full month of operation.

The tribe, meanwhile, saw slot machine revenues decline by 5.2 percent when compared to September 2017. The Mohegan Tribe saw a whopping 8..8 percent decline.

The two tribes are working together on the new casino in Connecticut. They chose a site in the city of East Windsor in order to compete with MGM Springfield, which is less than 15 miles away.

The Mohegan Tribe received a nearly identical letter in September 2017 regarding its own gaming agreement. The Trump administration insisted that it didn't have enough information to make a final decision.

But nearly 10 months later, a notice of the Mohegan Tribe agreement was published in the Federal Register. The lawsuit seeks to force the publication of a similar notice for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

Read More on the Story
Tribe says 'improper political influence' led Zinke to scuttle casino (POLITICO October 17, 2018)
MGM Springfield gaming nets $27M in first month (Harfford Business October 16, 2018)
Competitive pressures weighing on Mohegan, Foxwoods' slot revenues (Harfford Business October 15, 2018)
Slot revenue at Foxwoods drops 5.2% (The Norwich Bulletin October 15, 2018)
Casinos' slots revenue down in September, MGM Springfield's first full month (The New London Day October 15, 2018)

Federal Register Notice
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact Taking Effect in the State of Connecticut (June 1, 2018)

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