MGM Springfield And Connecticut Tribes Clash Over Proposed Windsor Casino

MGM Connecticut tribal casinos
Plans for a third Connecticut casino are moving forward, but that is not stopping MGM Resorts from pulling out all the stops to prevent the project from becoming a reality.

MGM’s planned casino resort in Springfield, MA will not open for another year. The casino company is nonetheless feverishly protecting its interests in the area.

Tribal groups plan on developing third CT casino

Currently there are only two operational casinos in Connecticut, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Both are tribal casinos.

Both casinos rely heavily on Massachusetts players for revenue.

When the neighboring state greenlit three casino resorts, including Wynn Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield, the Connecticut casino grew concerned the state’s gaming income was at risk.

The two tribes running the Connecticut resorts, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan nations, teamed up and persuaded the state to sanction a third tribal casino the two groups would co-manage.

Springfield is just a few miles away from the Connecticut state line. Last month, the tribes announced East Windsor, CT would be the home of the third casino. The property is just 13 miles from the MGM site.

The tribes will pay the state a $3 million initial fee. The casino would also pay at least $3 million in annual taxes. Currently, Connecticut generates around $260 million in gambling revenue from the two existing casinos each year.

MGM waging legal war against tribal nations

The East Windsor casino will be the first on the state not on tribal land. Earlier this month, the state’s General Assembly easily approved a bill which would allow for the third property. After the vote, several local lawmakers affirmed their support for the tribes.

MGM is battling with the state in both the press and the courtroom with a public campaign to open the bidding process up to other businesses. Since the new casino is on state land, the company is challenging the legality of the state granting the license to the tribes without competitive bids.

The General Assembly vote and forward progress on the Windsor site is bad news for the casino conglomerate. The tribes were quick to celebrate in the press.

“MGM will do whatever they can to generate whatever shareholder revenue they can, even if it means crippling a celebrated Connecticut industry,” Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler told Mass Live. “They would love to see us give up instead of fighting back. But we’re not going to do that.”

Connecticut attorney general opinion bodes well for MGM

There is some good legal news for MGM.

A recent opinion from Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen concedes MGM has a case and could win in court. He warns the road to a third casino in the state is fraught with judicial peril.

Uri Clinton, MGM’s senior vice president and legal counsel, spoke out on the importance of competition in Connecticut:

“The numbers are clear and compelling, and they work. Connecticut, by establishing a competitive process and best practices, can expand the pie rather than merely re-slicing a shrinking pie.”

MGM appears to be committed to fighting the East Windsor property and protecting its $950 million investment in Springfield. With that in mind, it is up to the Connecticut legislature to decide if it wants to proceed and risk what will likely be a lengthy and expensive court battle.

Given the recent AG opinion, there is also a not insubstantial chance the fight to protect tribal interests in the state might be all for naught.

Image credit: Usa-Pyon / Shutterstock.com

About

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.