U.S. lawmakers join call for federal approval of gaming compact amendments

Connecticut’s U.S. senators and the congressman for eastern Connecticut have added their weight to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ bid to secure federal approval of their amended gaming compacts with the state.

In a letter dated last Thursday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Rep. Joe Courtney, all Democrats, urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish approval of the amendments in the Federal Register, action seen as requisite to the tribes’ development of a third Connecticut casino on nontribal land in East Windsor.

The tribes released the letter Tuesday.

“This third casino does not fall within IGRA (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and therefore does not need approval or authorization from the Department of the Interior,” the letter says. “However, in order to clarify that the proposed third casino operation would not implicate the existing compact provisions, the Tribes and the State determined that it would be in the best interests of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes along with the State of Connecticut for the compact language to be amended.”

Legislation authorizing the third casino specifies that the amended agreements be approved or “deemed approved” by the Interior secretary.

The tribes believed they had received that approval, albeit tacitly, in Sept. 15 letters they received from Michael Black, acting assistant Interior secretary for Indian affairs, who wrote that department action on the amendments “is premature and likely unnecessary.”

While the tribes regarded Black’s response as tantamount to approval, or “deemed approved,” the leading opponent of the tribes’ East Windsor project, MGM Resorts International, has claimed otherwise. MGM Resorts is building a nearly $1 billion resort casino in Springfield, Mass., less than 15 miles north of East Windsor.

Under IGRA, notice of Interior Department action on gaming compacts and amendments is to be published in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government, within 90 days of receipt. That deadline was Oct. 31.

On that date, having met days before with department officials, lawyers for the tribes drafted a letter to James Cason, the department’s associate deputy secretary, urging that notice of action on the amendments be published. The Interior Department has not responded to the lawyers' letter or to the congressional delegation’s follow-up, according to a spokesman for the tribes.



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