The fight between Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes and MGM Resorts to win the rights to build and operate Connecticut’s third casino has no winner yet. Connecticut’s two tribal gaming operators have announced plans to start construction of their East Windsor casino by the end of 2017, however the project still requires approval from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Connecticut’s two US senators are urging the Department of Interior to clarify that a joint casino venture between the tribes planned north of Hartford complies with a gaming compact with the state. The agency hasn’t ruled one way or another on the legality of the project, creating a degree of uncertainty for the tribal owners of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods as they look to build a casino in East Windsor to compete with an MGM resort that is scheduled to open next year in Springfield.
Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with US Rep. Joe Courtney, wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, asking the agency to review and sign off on changes to the tribes’ existing compact with the state. “The genesis of the compact amendments is the desire of the state of Connecticut to authorize an additional casino operation within Connecticut borders,” they wrote. “This is a decision based on the state’s review of its gaming policies, the impact on the people of Connecticut and the state budget.”
MGM is challenging the tribes’ exclusive rights to develop a third casino in the state and have unveiled plans for a $675 million privately funded waterfront casino in Bridgeport. MGM officials say that the absence of a formal approval by the Interior Department, the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, constitutes a denial.
Despite not counting on the Bureau of Indian Affairs approval, the tribes announced they will begin work at the East Windsor site by year’s end. Demolition of the former Showcase Cinemas building off Interstate 91 will take place in the coming weeks, the tribes told the Hartford Courant last week.