A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the operators of tribal casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. It’s a move that effectively stops the casinos’ plan to build new satellite gaming facility in East Windsor, CT, just a few miles from MGM’s new casino in Springfield, MA.
The casinos sued to force the US Department of the Interior to approve changes to the tribal-state compacts that would allow the project to move forward.
The state and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes agreed on the changes to the compacts, which also give the state 25 percent of slot machine revenue at the casinos. However, in an effort to protect the existing financial deal, Connecticut required the tribes get approval from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs before construction could move forward.
The Bureau approved changes for one of the tribes, but not the other, leaving the joint project in limbo.
This past weekend, a US District Judge ruled the tribes don’t have legal standing to force the Department to approve the changes.
A spokesperson for the tribes told an NPR reporter they’ll keep pushing for the project and will fight the ruling. The next step would be to appeal this US District Court decision. Although, the state could also change the its decision requiring the tribes to get Bureau of Indian Affairs approval.
The spokesperson added that thousands of jobs and millions in state tax revenue is at stake.
MGM Springfield and nearby competition
MGM Springfield opened in Downtown Springfield on August 24. The $950 million property features a 250-room hotel and a variety of dining, drinking, retail and entertainment options. Additionally, it features a casino with 125,000 square feet of gaming space. This includes 2,550 slot machines, 120 table games and a 23-table poker room.
Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun are both just 75 miles away.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes’ response to MGM Springfield is to propose construction of a $300 million jointly-owned satellite casino. The plan is to build the satellite casino in East Windsor, only 12 miles away from Springfield.
The Tribes’ hope is to offset the loss of business at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun caused by the opening of MGM Springfield.
Plans for the first casino in Connecticut not built on reservation land were submitted to East Windsor this summer.
The East Windsor satellite casino plan
Construction of the single-story casino and five-story parking garage is planned for the now-demolished Showcase Cinema site off I-91.
The casino will include 2,000 slot machines and 60 table games. The 188,000-square-foot space will also feature two or three restaurants, bars, retail and office space. Engineers and architects estimate construction will take 18 months. Developers planned a fall 2018 groundbreaking and spring 2020 opening.
MGM has vowed to battle the casino in the courts. It claims the state violated its constitutional rights by not allowing it to compete for a casino license.
MGM has also proposed building a competing $675 million casino resort in Bridgeport, CT.
However, only tribal casinos have been approved and opened in Connecticut. MGM has lobbied aggressively for legislation allowing for the submission of new commercial casino proposals in the state. In May, the Connecticut House approved the legislation. The Senate has yet to consider it.