Yesterday’s announcement by MGM Resorts International to build a resort casino in Bridgeport coincided with a decision by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to delay approval of a new Connecticut casino in East Windsor that was designed to compete against MGM’s upcoming casino across the border in Springfield, Massachusetts.According to a Connecticut Mirror report, the BIA needs to approve amendments to Connecticut’s gaming compacts with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, the tribes behind the East Windsor casino, which is not being built on tribal reservations. Federal approval was also seen helping to ensure the new casino would not disrupt the more than $260 million that tribes annually pay Connecticut in return for exclusive casino rights.
However, Michael S. Black, acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the Department of the Interior, sent a letter to the office of Attorney General George Jepsen stating the BIA was not ready to offer its approval. But Black’s letter also seemed to question whether such approval was necessary.
“We have completed our review of the amendment,” Black wrote. “We return the amendment to you to maintain the status quo as action on the amendment is premature and likely unnecessary. The amendment addresses exclusivity provisions of the gaming compact. We find there is insufficient information upon which to make a decision as to whether a new casino operated by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes would or would not violate the exclusivity clauses of the gaming procedures. The tribes have entered into an agreement with the state whereby they have agreed that the exclusivity provisions will not be breached by this arrangement. Therefore, our action is unnecessary at this time.”
Jaclyn M. Severance, Jepsen’s communications director, did not comment on the content of the letter and its potential impact on the East Windsor casino.
“We are reviewing the letter from the Department of the Interior in consultation with relevant policymakers,” she said. “We would decline to comment further at this time.”