It was the mid-2010’s when Connecticut‘s two federally recognized tribes first started discussing possibly joining together to open a third Connecticut casino just across the Massachusetts border in East Windsor. Meanwhile, MGM Resorts has been filing lawsuits designed to prevent such a partnership almost as long.
With this year’s newly amended tribal-state compacts to expand gambling in Connecticut — including a promise from the tribes not to pursue an East Windsor property — the battle appears at last to be over as MGM Resorts has dropped its latest lawsuit against the tribes’ project.
MGM Resorts suit dismissal ends years-long legal saga
As reported by The Day, in a filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, MGM Resorts Global Development and its subsidiary Blue Tarp Development dismissed the lawsuit “without prejudice.”
The lawsuit specifically targeted the U.S. Department of the Interior for having earlier approved amendments to the tribal-state compacts authorizing the tribes’ East Windsor project.
Back in 2015, the Manshantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe formed a joint company, MMCT Venture, to explore site proposals for an East Windsor casino. They even chose a name for the new property, the Tribal Winds Casino.
MGM immediately sought legal action challenging the constitutionality of Connecticut only allowing the states’ tribes to operate casinos. A federal judge dismissed MGM’s initial lawsuit. However, MGM forged ahead by announcing its own Connecticut casino project in 2017, MGM Bridgeport. Connecticut lawmakers backed the tribes’ plan for a $300 million casino in East Windsor, passing legislation in early 2017 supporting it.
MGM objected to an East Windsor casino primarily due to the competition it would bring to its new MGM Springfield casino just over the state line in Massachusetts. Ultimately the tribes’ proposed site for their Tribal Winds Casino was located just 12 miles from MGM Springfield. MGM opened its Springfield property in August 2018.
MGM filed its more recent (now dismissed) lawsuit in 2019. Again, MGM claimed amended compacts illegally placed non-tribal operators like themselves at a competitive disadvantage in Connecticut.
East Windsor project on hold for at least 10 years, per new contract
As noted, the newly amended compacts allow the tribes to offer sports betting and online gambling. Legislation supporting the new compacts was signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in late May.
The compacts still require federal approval, which should come soon. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of Interior have until mid-July to review and publish the new compacts.
Of particular relevance to the MGM lawsuit is the fact that for the amended compacts the tribes explicitly agreed not to pursue an East Windsor Casino for 10 years.
CT Lottery to choose sports betting partner while MGM looks at other options
Regarding MGM’s other Connecticut-based designs, the Bridgeport casino plan seems to have stalled. Indeed, the CT Post noted in April that project “appears to be dead.” However, that doesn’t mean MGM Resorts doesn’t necessarily still have its sights on the Constitution State.
In addition to enabling the tribes’ expansion of gambling, the new agreement in Connecticut additionally authorizes the Connecticut Lottery to operate an online sportsbook as well as 15 retail sportsbooks of their own.
The CT Lottery is currently engaged in selecting an operator with which to partner for sports betting. After issuing its Request for Proposals (RFP), the CT Lottery received 15 responses. From that list, the CT Lottery chose five operators to give formal presentations. The CT Lottery asked four of those five operators specifically to respond to the Connecticut sports betting RFP.
Could BetMGM Sportsbook be one of the operators chosen as finalists? When asked, a CT Lottery spokesperson could neither confirm nor deny if that were the case, reports The Day.
The CT Lottery will soon reveal its choice of a sports betting partner. They have indicated an intention to reveal the winning bidder on June 28.
It’s possible MGM could pursue alternative means to enter Connecticut gaming space as well. In any event, the dropping of its lawsuit against the tribes’ East Windsor project helps clear the air should they choose to do so.