Tribal Casino Battle Continues in Connecticut

The US Department of the Interior’s Inspector General has recently announced that they are launching an investigation into how the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes’ application was handled when it was originally submitted. The application was for permission to build a third casino site in the state of Connecticut.

Both tribes signed the tribal compact in June of 2017, but the probe is looking into why the department failed to ratify it when it was signed without problems. The pact, agreed upon by both tribes, requested to develop a casino in East Windsor under a joint operation with the two tribes working together.

The development requires a $1 million upfront payment to the state. They will also receive 25 percent of the revenues from video slots or other authorized games in the casino. Leaders of both tribes argue that to maintain jobs at their existing locations, they need to open this casino located close to the Massachusetts border to bring in more revenue.

The state and both tribes filed lawsuits against the DOI because they failed to move forward with the application in hopes that it would expedite the request and get the approval they need. There has still been no action on the case. The Connecticut congressional delegation determined that an investigation by the inspector general was necessary to discover what the problem is.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the members of the delegation, states to the Associated Press that they have submitted letters, requested meetings, and have never been offered an opportunity to meet or discuss the issue. The paper trail is troubling because the DOI is stonewalling them, yet providing documentation and copies of correspondence to the congressional delegation that doesn't line up with the actions thus far.

The probe was ordered over two months ago in February, but the details of it weren’t released until now primarily because MGM Resorts have submitted a bid for $675 million to build a casino in the town of Bridgeport along the river. There are concerns that MGM will have an excessive level of influence compared to the tribes in getting the project approved. There is a potential conflict of interest since the two are competing against each other in the same industry.

The business venture created by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ own Andrew Doba praised the investigation and added in that he felt something stopped the process along the way. The department’s actions, or lack of, since the fall are questionable. He hopes that whatever happened along the way to stop, or pollute, the project from moving forward. He feels that it should be an issue given that the current administration is operating on the promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption.

MGM Resorts recently set off an enormous print and digital advertising campaign to provide locals with all the benefits that casino development offers. They hope that their advertising will encourage residents to openly endorse the project, making it easier to get the plan approved and project moving forward.

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