Parties to third casino suit file joint motion to modify court schedule

Parties to the lawsuit over the federal government’s handling of amended gaming agreements between the state and Connecticut’s casino-owning Indian tribes have found some common ground.

They’ve agreed on a series of proposed filing deadlines designed “to allow for an orderly presentation of the issues.”

In a joint motion Friday in federal court, the plaintiffs — the state and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes — and the defendants — the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke — proposed new deadlines. MGM Resorts International, which is seeking to intervene in the case on the side of the defendants, signed off on the motion, too.

The suit, filed Nov. 29, seeks to compel the Department of the Interior to act on the gaming amendments, which incorporate the tribes’ plan to build a casino in East Windsor. Without Interior approval of the amendments, the project cannot proceed. Interior has yet to respond to the suit and, under procedural rules, has until Feb. 5 to do so.

On. Dec. 22, the state and the tribes moved for a “summary judgment” in their favor. Four days later, MGM Resorts, which is building a casino in Springfield, Mass., some 12 miles from East Windsor, filed its motion to intervene.

The parties propose that any opposition to MGM’s motion be filed within 14 days after Interior responds to the suit, and that any reply in support of MGM’s motion be filed within seven days of the opposition's filing. If Interior moves to dismiss the suit, any response to Interior’s motion would have to be filed within 14 days, and any reply in support of Interior’s motion would be due within 10 days of the response.

Any opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment would have to be filed within 30 days of the later of Interior's filing of a response to the suit or the court's denial of any Interior motion to dismiss the suit.

The plaintiffs are hoping the matter will be resolved in their favor as quickly as possible so that the tribes can begin building the East Windsor casino. A protracted process would be beneficial to MGM Resorts, which expects to open its Springfield facility in September.

The state and the tribes believe the East Windsor facility will lessen MGM Springfield’s impact on the tribes’ existing casinos — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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