Schaghticokes to sue state over law authorizing third-casino effort

The Kent-based Schaghticoke Tribal Nation announced Friday that it intends to sue the state over the law that granted the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes the exclusive right to pursue a third Connecticut casino in the Hartford area.

In a news release, Richard Velky, the Schaghticoke chief, said the suit will seek to have Special Act 15-7 declared unconstitutional because, “among other things,” it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article First, Section 20, of the Connecticut Constitution.”

The cited clauses have to do with equal protection under the law. 

“Without any competitive bidding or gaming study, Connecticut shut out STN and awarded to one pair of Native American tribes the exclusive ability to develop a highly valuable commercial enterprise,” Velky said. “Under the Equal Protection clauses of both the federal and state constitutions, STN should have the same right to pursue this economic opportunity as anyone else.”

MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas-based gaming operator building a $950 million resort casino in Springfield, Mass., also cited the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution in a federal suit it filed last summer over Special Act 15-7.

The suit named state officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The state is seeking dismissal of the MGM suit, which is pending.

Special Act 15-7, approved by the legislature and signed into law last June, exclusively authorized the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes to form a “tribal business entity” to “issue a request for proposals to municipalities regarding the establishment of a possible casino.”

In its suit, MGM Resorts, which maintains its interested in developing a Connecticut casino, said it attempted to register a tribal business entity under the law but was prevented from doing so by the Office of the Secretary of the State.

Last month, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation announced that its application to form a tribal business entity to pursue a commercial casino had been accepted only to have Secretary of the State Denise Merrill say it had been “received in error.”

Velky, in Friday’s release, said the state has long discriminated against his tribe.

“Recently, the state fought our federal recognition — one Connecticut member of Congress even submitted legislation to terminate us — supposedly because they didn't want another casino in Connecticut,” he said. “Now Connecticut wants to open a new commercial casino, but only if STN doesn’t get an opportunity to submit a proposal to operate it. The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation seeks equal treatment under the law and that does not exist under Connecticut Special Act 15-7.”

He said the tribe’s suit will be filed Monday, at which time the tribe will hold a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Hartford.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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