HARTFORD — MGM Resorts International 's court battle seeking to block a third Connecticut casino should be dismissed because it isn't yet clear whether state lawmakers will even back expanded gambling in the state, a new federal court filing by the state says. Mgm casino.
MGM, which is developing a $950 million casino in Springfield, is suing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials, arguing that a law passed last year favors Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in their effort to establish a Greater Hartford-area casino — excluding other potential operators, including MGM.
The tribes that operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun say they want to jointly operate the third casino to blunt the competition from Springfield, and preserve the state's cut of slot revenue and jobs in the state's gaming industry.
MGM claims the law violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and the spirit of federal gaming regulations. MGM argues that the law gives the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes the exclusive right to operate a third casino on private land as well as on their reservations.
In a Dec. 23 court filing in Hartford, the office of Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said the legislature has allowed the tribal leaders of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to seek proposals for a third location. But the tribes still must secure approval from the legislature to expand casino gambling beyond their respective reservations in southeastern Connecticut — and that is not necessarily assured.
"The possible future commercial casino at issue has not been authorized and may never be authorized, and, even if it were, MGM cannot credibly allege that it would compete for [all potential sites] because MGM admits that it could not bid on a casino in most of Connecticut because of the 50-mile radius restriction," Assistant Attorney General Robert J. Deichert wrote in the filing.
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MGM has signed an agreement with the city of Springfield not to establish another casino within 50 miles of that city. Deichert wrote that would eliminate most of Connecticut, including north central Connecticut.
Deichert wrote that nothing is preventing MGM from seeking casino locations itself in Connecticut, pursuing a similar track as the tribes. MGM also could argue for expanding casino gambling in the state, Deichert wrote.
The attorney general's office declined further comment Monday.
Bernard Kavaler, an MGM spokesman, said the casino and entertainment giant remains confident that the court will determine the law passed last year to be unconstitutional.
"What people seem to be missing here is that bill passed last year opens the door to commercial gaming," Kavaler said. "As such, the state should also have put in place a fair, open, transparent and competitive process. That's what other states do when they create a path to state-endorsed commercial casinos. But Connecticut didn't do that."
Kavaler said MGM and other industry competitors were closed out of the process.
The lawsuit was first filed in August by MGM in U.S. District Court in Hartford. Since then, there has been a series of filings from both sides. It is unclear when the court will rule.
MGM expects the development of its Springfield casino and entertainment complex to kick into high gear soon, with a late 2018 opening scheduled. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods hope to beat that opening by a year.
The Connecticut tribes drew five proposals for the third casino in four towns: East Hartford, East Windsor, Windsor Locks and Hartford. Two proposals are in Windsor Locks, at the airport and at the nearby off-track betting parlor, and the latest site to be disclosed is in the North Meadows area of Hartford.
Tribal leaders say they don't expect to choose a site until later this year, allowing potential host towns to hold public hearings, referendums or both.
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