MGM Is Getting Some Questionable Treatment In The Constitution State

Written By Martin Derbyshire on August 19, 2019 - Last Updated on December 20, 2021

It was no surprise to hear the news last week that MGM International has filed another lawsuit against someone regarding its efforts to compete in the Connecticut casino business.

After all, the way the Constitution State is treating MGM is unfair and bordering on un-American. At the very least it has run afoul of the free market traditions this country holds so dear.

It may come as some surprise that MGM is suing the federal Department of the Interior this time, rather than the Native Tribes they’re really fighting with. Or, a Connecticut government so fearful of losing tribal casino money they’ll give up just about anything. The least of which is a leg up in the tribes’ battle with MGM.

Time to hold someone accountable for the treatment of MGM

However, it’s about time someone is held accountable for giving the tribes an unfair edge in the local gaming business. The last federal government agency to make a bad decision in this regard seems like a good start.

The drama began when MGM jumped through all the regulatory hoops required to build Massachusetts’ first real casino resort. MGM Springfield opened about a year ago, on August 24, with 2,550 casino slots, 120 table games, and a 20-plus table poker room.

MGM and the state obviously designed the project to keep Massachusets gamblers from flocking to the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes’ Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in nearby Connecticut. Gamblers from Massachusets have been helping keep these two properties afloat for years without a dime going back to their state government.

The battle between the tribes begins

Of course, it was also no surprise to hear that even before MGM Springfield opened, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes developed their own plan to compete with the new casino.

What the tribes proposed was the construction of a jointly-owned $300 million satellite casino in East Windsor, just 12 miles south of Springfield, but in Connecticut.

Despite the fact the plan included building on non-tribal land, the project quickly got the thumbs from Connecticut lawmakers. The federal approval it required came from the Department of the Interior this March.

MGM didn’t just cry foul about the tribes’ effort to compete with its Massachusets project. It decided to try to compete with the tribes in Connecticut too.

MGM Bridgeport

MGM proposed the construction of a $675 million casino resort in Bridgeport. Plans included a casino with 2,000 slot machines and 160 table games. Plus, amenities including a 300-room hotel, 700-seat theater, and various retail stores and restaurants.

They took these plans to Connecticut lawmakers but had to fight first for the right to even propose new commercial casino plans in the state.

They got as far the Connecticut House approving legislation allowing for the submission of new commercial casino proposals. However, the effort ended there.

The rest of the state legislature was obviously fearful that even listening to commercial gambling pitches might cost them the tribal compacts they signed. These compacts give the tribes gambling exclusivity in the state in return for hundreds of millions in annual revenue-sharing payments.

Giving up Bridgeport, too?

But refusing to give MGM the chance to compete in Connecticut apparently wasn’t enough.

Word came out last week that state lawmakers are actually considering handing the tribes even more. Things like the right to build their own casino in Bridgeport. Plus, exclusive rights to run online gambling and sports betting operations in the state.

It’s a bill that has yet to get off the ground, and may never. But if it does, it would give the tribes the chance to build a $300 million Bridgeport casino. And that’s even before Connecticut lawmakers have agreed to listen to MGM’s full competing pitch.

It’s easy to see that the Connecticut legislature has bent over backward to allow the tribes to compete with MGM across the state line in Massachusets. But when it comes to allowing MGM to do the same inside Connecticut, lawmakers are so fearful of upsetting the tribes they won’t even really hear what MGM has to say.

That’s completely unfair.

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Free market?

America’s free-market system is founded on the idea that competing ventures have the right to build whatever they want. As long as it’s within the law of the land and reason, then it’s up to the people to vote on which one they like with their dollars.

Tribal compacts that offer exclusivity run contrary to the ideals this American free-market system is built on.

Ultimately, you’d have to think a federal court will agree with that. So, don’t be surprised to see changes coming that’ll give anyone that wants it the ability to compete in the Connecticut casino business.

Martin Derbyshire Avatar
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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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