Non-Indian gaming firm loses challenge to law for new tribal casino

MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle offers an update on a $950 million commercial casino under construction in Springfield, Massachusetts. The facility is due to open in the fall of 2018. Photo from MGM Springfield / Twitter

A non-Indian gaming company is vowing to fight on despite losing a lawsuit that challenged plans for a new tribally-owned casino in Connecticut.

MGM Resorts International quickly filed a notice of appeal after a federal judge dismissed the case on Thursday. The company, which generated about $9.8 billion in revenue in 2013, contends it was unfairly excluded from pursuing the casino under a new state law.

But Judge Alvin Thompson disagreed. He said Special Act 15-7 does not prevent anyone from trying to seek approval for their own gaming project even though that particular law restricts the process to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe.

"The act outlines the steps that steps that the tribal business entity must take in order to be authorized to operate and participate in a casino gaming facility in the state of Connecticut," Thompson wrote in the 20-page decision. "Nothing in the text of the act itself confers on the tribes an exclusive ability to negotiate and enter into a casino development agreement with a municipality. Nor does reading the act in relationship to other statutes suggest that the act confers on the tribes such an exclusive ability."

Thompson noted that Special Act 15-7 does not actually authorize the casino. The tribes, once they select a host community, must go back to the Connecticut Legislature if they want to move forward.

The tribes hope the new development will compete with a $950 million commercial facility that MGM is building in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles from the Connecticut border. The casino is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

Separately, MGM is financing another lawsuit that was filed by the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, whose attempt to pursue a casino under Special Act 15-7 was rebuffed. The state is seeking to dismiss that lawsuit as well.

The company also lobbied Congress for legislation that would have blocked the casino, The Hartford Courant reported this week. The tribes are pursuing the project outside of the framework of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Appeals would be heard by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
Federal Judge Sides With State In Casino Expansion Lawsuit (The Hartford Courant 6/24)
Judge throws out MGM's lawsuit against Connecticut gaming act (MassLive 6/24)
Schaghticokes Fighting State's Move To Dismiss Hartford Casino Lawsuit (The Hartford Courant 6/24)

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