MGM Resorts wants to intervene in suit over 3rd-casino gaming amendments

MGM Resorts International is seeking to intervene on the side of the U.S. Department of the Interior in the lawsuit the state and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes lodged last month against the department.

The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks to compel the Interior Department to act on gaming-agreement amendments Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed with each of the tribes. State authorization of the tribes' East Windsor casino project is contingent on the Interior approvals.

In a court filing Tuesday, attorneys for MGM Resorts say the Las Vegas-based casino operator should be allowed to intervene in the suit because its business interests are at stake.

"MGM seeks intervention because its ability to do business in Connecticut is directly implicated by the amendments and the relief Plaintiffs seek," the filing says. "MGM has interests in Connecticut, both as developer of a proposed casino in Bridgeport and as operator of MGM Springfield, a casino north of the Massachusetts-Connecticut border, scheduled to open in 2018."

It was the Springfield project that prompted the tribes — respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun — to launch a joint bid for a third Connecticut casino on nontribal land. The East Windsor casino site is off Interstate 91 about 12 miles south of Springfield, Mass.

MGM Resorts argues that it meets all legal requirements for intervenor status, noting that the Interior Department wouldn't represent "MGM's private, competitive interests because those interests differ from Interior's institutional interests as a federal agency charged with representing the public and with carrying out the United States' trust obligations to Indian tribes."

The state and the tribes are opposed to MGM Resorts' motion to intervene, according to the filing. The Interior Department has taken no position on it.

In a memorandum accompanying the filing, MGM's attorneys write that approval of the gaming amendments would cause their client injury by granting the tribes "the exclusive right" to operate the East Windsor casino as well as "new commercial casinos without eliminating the State's right to collect hundreds of millions in annual royalties from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun — putting MGM's Bridgeport proposal (and others) at a disadvantage ..."

Under the tribes' exclusive gaming agreements, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun pay the state 25 percent of their slot-machine revenues. In addition, the East Windsor casino would pay the state 25 percent of all of its gaming revenues.

The Interior Department "properly declined" to act on the gaming-agreement amendments, MGM Resorts' attorneys write, because the amendments "violate IGRA (the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) by facilitating commercial, rather than tribal, gaming."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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