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Federal court ruling jeopardizes East Windsor casino plan

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Federal court ruling jeopardizes East Windsor casino plan

Plans for a casino in East Windsor that would compete with MGM Springfield were dealt a setback this weekend when a federal judge issued a ruling that appears to block the casino from going forward.

The 58-page ruling issued by U.S. District Court Justice Rudolph Contreras says the courts cannot compel the U.S. Department of the Interior to support the project if it does not want to -- and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has said he does not want to.

"Because the Court concludes that the IGRA does not require the Secretary to take the steps asserted by Plaintiffs, the Court must consider Defendants' argument that Plaintiffs have failed to state claims upon which relief may be granted," Contreras wrote.

A joint venture by the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes, which separately operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, were prepared to break ground on a 100,000-square-foot facility in East Windsor this fall.

Now the project, estimated to cost between $300 million and $400 million, is in serious jeopardy.

The Hartford Courant reported that barring a change, it appears to be blocked indefinitely.

At issue is the joint development of a casino by the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes on Connecticut land that is not tribal reservation property.

Such a project requires amending procedures under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The State of Connecticut's endorsement of the East Windsor project was contingent upon the Department of Interior accepting revisions to the existing exclusivity agreement between the state and the tribe. Under the long-standing agreement, Connecticut receives up to 30 percent of all gaming revenues at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. In exchange, the two casinos are given exclusive rights to operate in Connecticut.

Connecticut and the MMCT Venture LLC, the developers, agreed to exempt the East Windsor project from exclusivity clause, but the agreement needed to be endorsed by the federal Department of Interior, which oversees Indian gaming.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declined to endorse the measure, citing insufficient information, and the developers turned to the courts.

According to the CT Post, Connecticut State Attorney General George Jepson issued a statement through his office expressing disappointment over the ruling. 

"We are disappointed with the Court's ruling, which we are continuing to review as we evaluate possible next steps," he said.

According to the Hartford Courant, MMCT Venture was also disappointed.

"We are obviously disappointed with the court's ruling and are currently reviewing our options," officials said. "We remain committed to both seeing this process through and to the people of Connecticut and our partners in state government."

The court also ruled in favor of MGM's request to be considered as having an interest in the case, and granted MGM the right to intervene as a defendant if an appeal on the ruling is filed.

The ruling notes the East Windsor location is just 12 miles from MGM Springfield, and it was eyed in part "because of its potential to compete with the Springfield casino," the ruling states.

MGM Resorts Global Development LLC  is also interested in developing a casino in the Bridgeport, Connecticut area. This would make it a competitor of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which is also looking to do a similar project.

MGM issued a statement celebrating the decision, calling it "a clear rejection of the Tribes' insistent efforts to obtain a no-bid commercial casino license in Connecticut. It has become increasingly apparent that the Tribes' promises of legal victory, no matter how often they are repeated, prove hollow."

The statement also said Connecticut would be better served by spending less time in court and "more time on real opportunities to maximize economic development and job creation," and the "most productive path forward" would be for Connecticut to pass legislation approving competitive bidding on new commercial casinos.

Federal ruling blocking casino in East Windsor 

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNGU7pkPFh3EhN1BzexLKeC3Ji1MTQ&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52780055811635&ei=BJazW8DYIcnchAHY2IKQDQ&url=https://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2018/10/federal_court_ruling_jeopardiz.html

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