A new casino is coming to Connecticut and the partnership may surprise some people. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe have been rivals for almost four centuries. However, each nation came together to make it official and secure their partnership when they decided to open a third casino in the state of Connecticut. This will be an attempt to stop gamblers from going to other states thus causing a loss of industry jobs.
Both tribes have been operating their own casinos on their respective reservations, which happened to only be a few miles apart – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino. The decision to work together and take on their competition was due to the fact that nearby Massachusetts will be seeing a new MGM casino just a few miles across the border. MGM Resorts International has plans to open an $800 million casino in the town of Springfield. At the time of the signing, Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler said, “We will always be competitors. But it is here, now, that we are coming together to combat an outside threat for the greater good of the state we call home.” The plans are backed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy. Butler added that the tribes have had “a complicated history stretching over 400 years.” However, the past is being pushed aside so that the focus can be on what will be beneficial for the state.
Earlier this year, a report was released that estimated casino projects in Massachusetts and New York could put over 9,000 jobs in jeopardy within the state of Connecticut. With $600 million to $700 million dollars at risk, the tribes decided to take action.
Senate Bill 1090, a law passed earlier this year in late May, begins the process for the tribes to request proposals from communities that may be interested in hosting a new casino. The bill was negotiated by the General Assembly. There was a public letter of concern from the state’s Attorney General, George Jepsen. This letter caused the assembly to hold off on authorizing the casino. Development is not allowed to begin until there is formal approval from the General Assembly. A watered-down version was passed that allowed the tribes to begin gathering local support.
In this public letter, George Jepsen stated that he had some skepticism of the original bill – which authorized a new casino. Jepsen went on to say that an exemption from the state’s anti-gambling laws – which prohibit gambling on all lands other than tribal reservations – could cause a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He also questioned whether competitors would challenge the bill under the Commerce Clause. Jepsen wrote in his letter, “The proposed legislation raises several legal issues that cannot be resolved with a high degree of certainty.”
Both tribes have formed a new entity called MM4CT. After MM4CT has chosen a project, the idea will be brought to the Connecticut Legislature to for formal approval. Senate Bill 1090 begins the process for communities to submit proposals for a jointly operated casino. MM4CT would ideally hope that this would be finalized sometime next year.
On September 10th in Hartford, council members of both tribes as well as labor union leaders and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman assembled together to formalize this joint venture in order to select a site for the state’s third casino. Filed on August 24 with the Secretary of the State, this is the latest step towards a move in order to protect revenue and jobs from MGM’s project in Massachusetts. This jointly-run project hopes to bring back 3,000 jobs and $6 million to $7 million in revenue that is projected that would go to the out of state project.
Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown stated, “We have to come back to these halls to get final approval and that is driven by the legislative calendar and, so, by the turn of the year, we have to come to grips with who the best candidate would be.” If the schedule is strictly enforced among the tribes, it is quite possible a new casino could open by the end of 2016.This would ensure a market for MM4CT before MGM debuts in Springfield in September 2018 – hitting some roadblocks due to highway construction. The new casino that MM4CT is proposing would be along the Interstate 91 corridor in the north-central part of the state.
Although both tribes are operating their own casinos on reservation lands, a new casino would be regulated by the state and have to follow a different set of rules. The new casino would be jointly controlled by the two tribes and a share of the revenue would go to the state of Connecticut – with the remaining being split among both tribes.
At this time, MGM Resorts International is challenging the law and suing the state of Connecticut for moving forward with the casino selection. It is argued that Senate Bill 1090 violates the U.S. Constitution. MGM states that it only allows MM4CT to solicit bids for the new facility. It was added that the law allows only the tribes to pursue a casino off-reservation in the state. In the lawsuit, MGM mentions the concerns that Jepsen had when addressing the fact that the act passed in May excludes groups outside of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.
John Kissel, a Republican who represents Enfield – one of the cities that has expressed interest in the new casino, stated, “A lawsuit could lead to the opening up of casinos to all tribes in our state, as well as to private corporations.” The Senate Chief Deputy Minority Leader went on to add, “A lawsuit could lead to the loss of the revenue the state currently receives from the tribes. Is that the path we want to go in Connecticut?”
There has been a lot of support for the proposed new casino, both from union groups and local cities. The idea of more revenue being brought in and more jobs is a welcoming though to Connecticut.