Connecticut Tribes Receive Federal Approval For $400m Casino

Connecticut tries have just received approval to move forward with their $400m casino project – and this ends a lengthy legal battle, which saw two tribes come together to try and receive approval to build the casino.

The gambling laws in Connecticut have always leaned towards the liberal side of things. At the time of writing, there are two different tribal casinos in the state. First, there’s the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, and second, there’s the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville. The Foxwoods Resort has been in operation since 1986, and the Mohegan Sun has been open since 1996. Both casinos became federally recognized in 1992 – some 26 years ago.

Now, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows for both of these casinos, and they’re operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes. What’s notable about both of these casinos, is that – for now – they’re the only operators allowed to offer slot machines in the state of Connecticut. In return for these exclusive arrangement, the tribes pay a 25% tax on revenues from these machines. While that may sound like a lot, the casinos have been shown to earn revenues of more than $13 billion from these slot machines!

The tribes also hold exclusivity when it comes to sports betting. Currently, it’s legal for operators to accept wagers on horse and dog racing – and there are 16 betting parlors open around the state. All of these parlors are operated by a company called Sportech, and this company is also owned by the two tribes. However, due to the fact that the racing industry appears to be slowing – and punters are looking more towards other forms of gambling – the tribes realized that they needed to focus their efforts of casino gambling, rather than sports betting.

The only real competition the tribes have – when it comes to casinos – is with non-profits. Non-profit organizations are allowed to offer certain forms of casino games (since 1972), and this includes a selection of draw and scratch games. This brings in an estimated revenue of $1bn each year for the state – through the lottery program.

What Does The $400 Million Casino Approval Mean?

For years, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes have been pushing to try and open a new casino. This new casino will be located in East Windsor. Experts agree that the opening of this new casino would create a plethora of new jobs – along with generating a significant new source of income for the state – but there has been a LOT of controversy around the plans. This controversy stems from the fact that the land where the tribes want to build the casino isn’t actually on tribal land.This has lead parties – including MGM – to believe that the tribes shouldn’t be allowed to open a casino there. In fact, MGM filed a lawsuit, stating: “it is not constitutional to allow a casino on non-tribal land without having a competitive bidding process.”To fight this lawsuit, the tribe’s joint venture – known as MMCT – had been fighting at a federal level. Their goal was to receive the approval to begin developing the new casinos, known as Tribal Winds Casino. However, despite MGM’s efforts, the tribes have now received approval, and they’re now allowed to move forward with their plans of building the venue.

They did receive approval back in 2017 – however, Ryan Zink (the secretary of the department of the interior) did not approve the plans. As a result, the MMCT sued Zink – along with President Trump. The suit claimed that “donors to the Republican Party’s campaign were representatives of MGM Resorts, and that the state of Nevada was putting pressure on Zinke and Trump not to give approval to the new casino. Zinke resigned in December 2018 following an ethics investigation.”

The lawsuit was then reviewed in February 2019 by the federal appeals court, and the tribes were given the green light once again to move forward with their plans. (If you’re wondering why the MGM dug their heels in so much, it’s because they believed that the new casino would be a competitor for the MGM Springfield Casino, which is located in the nearby Massachusetts.)

What Will The New Casino Look Like?

While the full details are yet to be released publicly, there are a few indications of what it will include. The Tribal Winds Casino is expected to be between 100,000 and 188,000-square feet in size, and it’s going to have a whopping 1,800 slot machines on its floors. There will be around 50 different gaming tables, and the poker room will contain some 10 tables. As mentioned already, the project is expected to cost in the region of $400m, and it’s expected to take between 18-24 months to complete. However, the tribes are ready to proceed almost immediately – and it appears as though they were expecting to win the suit (and receive approval), meaning they’ve probably started planning quite extensively already.
As a result of the new casino, there are expected to be 2,000 new jobs created – and the majority of these jobs are expected to be permanent ones. Additionally, around 1,000 jobs are expected to be created indirectly as a result of the casino’s opening.
Speaking on behalf of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the chairman for the tribe said: “Today is a great day for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the state of Connecticut, especially given our 400-year history together.
“I applaud the actions of the department of the interior and extend my sincerest gratitude to assistant secretary Tara Sweeney and the office of the solicitor at the interior department for their assistance in resolving this matter.”