Mashantuckets won't seek appeal of Ledyard tax ruling

Mashantucket - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe will not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate court decision that allowed the town of Ledyard to tax Foxwoods Resort Casino slot machines that the tribe leased from nontribal entities.

Although it regards such taxation as "an affront to the tribe's sovereign authority," the tribe "believes the most productive approach to address tax issues between sovereigns is to enter discussions with the state and to continue to foster its relationship with the neighboring towns by working together on mutually beneficial projects and agreements," the Mashantuckets said Tuesday in a statement.

"We're very pleased with the tribe's decision," Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico said.

"Over the last several years, while this case was progressing through the courts, we have consistently had a very good relationship with the tribe … and we would certainly expect that that good relationship would continue."

Rodolico said the appellate court decision meant the town could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal property taxes.

"It's good to be able to put this particular issue behind us," he said. "As we move forward, the town can be confident of the income stream, and the tribe can move forward looking into its own finances."

A U.S. Supreme Court appeal was the only remaining legal avenue left to the tribe, after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the tribe's petition for a rehearing on the matter, which the appellate court decided last July.

In that decision, a three-member panel of the appellate court reversed a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Mashantuckets, who argued that federal laws bar state and local governments from taxing nontribal entities that do business on reservation lands.

The tribe maintained such taxation interfered with its sovereignty.

"The town and state have more at stake than the tribe," the appellate court wrote in its decision. "The economic effect of the tax on the tribe is negligible; its economic value to the town is not."

Five other Indian tribes, including the Seminoles in Florida, filed briefs in support of the Mashantuckets' petition for a rehearing by the three-judge panel, or, alternatively, a rehearing by the full 2nd Circuit.

The appellate court denied the petition in October.

In its statement Tuesday, the Mashantucket Tribe, which along with a slot-machine company filed the original suit against the town in 2006, said it "strongly disagrees with the Second Circuit decision and does not believe it is in accord with Supreme Court precedent."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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