Former head of DOJ backs non-Indian gaming firm over tribes

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder meets with Tribal Youth Ambassadors at White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., on December 3, 2014. Photo from Twitter

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and his law firm are representing a non-Indian gaming company that wants to prevent two tribes in Connecticut from opening a new casino.

Hearst Connecticut Media obtained a letter written by Holder, now of Covington & Burling, that questioned the constitutionality of a Connecticut law that paves the way for a tribal facility. He said the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe should not be the only potential operators for the project.

"By granting the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes the exclusive right to establish commercial casinos, Special Act 15-7 unfairly prevents any other individual or corporation from competing to provide the people and communities of Connecticut the best possible economic opportunities," Holder wrote, Hearst Connecticut Media reported.

Holder and his firm are representing MGM Resorts International, whose executives have said they will do whatever it takes to prevent the tribes from opening another casino. The firm fears competition for its $800 million commercial gaming facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles from the state line.

The New England Casino Race: Tribal and commercial gaming facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

MGM is suing the state of Connecticut to challenge the legality of Senate Bill 1090, the law mentioned by Holder, who ran the Department of Justice from February 2009 through April 2015. The state is seeking to have the case dismissed.

The law does not actually authorize a new casino. It only states that the tribes can solicit bids from host communities -- responses to the the request for proposals are due November 6.

The tribes, through a new entity known as MMCT Venture, hope to pick a host by December 15. They would then return to the Connecticut Legislature early next year to secure approval for the casino site.

Locations are being considered in the Hartford area, along a major highway that leads to Springfield in Massachusetts.

Get the Story:
Former U.S. attorney general: casino monopoly in Conn. unconstitutional (The Connecticut Post 10/29)
Windsor Locks votes down proposal for casino at airport (TV Newsroom10/29)
Gaming panel chief: Nobody wants four casinos in Mass. (The Milford Daily News 10/29)

An Opinion:
Robert M. Thorson: Windsor Locks Turns Its Back On Casino Lure (The Hartford Courant 10/29)

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