MGM Wants In on Connecticut Casino Plans

     HARTFORD, Ct. (CN) – MGM told a federal judge that Connecticut officials have discriminated by letting the two Indian tribes behind its two casinos build a new facility.
     The Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe already operate casinos on their respective reservations in central Connecticut, making Mohegan Sun and Fox Woods the state’s only two such gaming facilities.
     After the passage earlier this year of a new Connecticut law, however, the two tribes are now in the process of forming a joint venture and opening a third facility close to the Massachusetts border.
     Noting that it already has casino developments underway in Maryland and in Springfield, Mass., the latter of which is located just 10 miles from the Connecticut border, MGM Resorts International brought a federal complaint Tuesday against Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials.
     MGM president Bill Hornbuckle emphasized in a statement that the company supports tribal gaming, but Connecticut’s new law “gives two preferred tribes an unfair and unjustified preferential treatment.”
     The new law creates “an exclusive, no-bid process for the Preferred Tribes to present to the Connecticut legislature a proposal for development of an off-reservation commercial casino in Connecticut,” according to the complaint.
     Citing the equal protection clause, MGM says the Connecticut officials approved “a race-based set-aside in favor of the two preferred tribes at the expense of all other tribes, races, and entities.”
     The dormant commerce clause is also in play because the law “discriminates on its face in favor of the two in-state preferred tribes at the expense of out-of-state competitors, all of whom are barred from attempting to develop a casino gaming facility in Connecticut.”
     “In short, the act creates an unconstitutional pathway to the development of a commercial casino by the two preferred tribes,” the complaint goes onto state. Connecticut’s rejection of MGM as a qualified bidder for the third casino precipitated the lawsuit.
     “MGM is ready, willing, and able to compete for the opportunity to develop a commercial casino gaming facility in Connecticut, but is excluded by the act from competing for this opportunity,” the complaint states.
     The company wants Connecticut’s law declared unconstitutional and the officials enjoined from enforcing it.
     Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler released a joint statement Tuesday downplaying MGM’s claims.
     “We are not at all surprised by MGM’s actions today and frankly suspect we will see more tactics just like this in their effort to stop Connecticut’s leaders from protecting Connecticut jobs and revenue,” Brown and Butler said. “MGM has made clear from the beginning that their entire project is based upon a single foundation: exporting Connecticut’s revenues and jobs to Massachusetts.”
     The tribes have commissioned reports about the amount of money Connecticut would lose in slot revenue and jobs without the creation of a third casino to stop the flow of traffic, a few miles away, across the border to Springfield.
     One of those reports found the two casinos in southeastern Connecticut will lose about 9,300 jobs by 2019 if gambling facilities in New York and Massachusetts cannibalize $703 million in gaming and nongaming revenues.
     By building a casino north of Hartford, Clyde Barrow, the author of that report, estimated that “there’s $253 million from Connecticut residents that can be blocked.”
     MGM’s Hornbuckle said his company deserves a chance to compete in Connecticut.
     “MGM regularly competes for commercial casino development opportunities and would like to be able to do so in Connecticut,” Hornbuckle said.
     A spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen, said they are reviewing the complaint and “will respond at the appropriate time in court.”
     “I think MGM is realizing we’re serious about our market share,” Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, said Tuesday. “I don’t think MGM thought we’d get this far.”

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