U.S. Department of the Interior Back Tribes, Despite McCain Letter

The United States Department of the Interior has backed Connecticut tribes in their venture to open a joint casino, following a letter from Senator John McCain, which cast doubt about the potential new casino. Last week, MGM Resorts International began circulating a letter from McCain to federal regulators expressing concern about the effect a tribal casino, operated by Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, could have on the state.

Since president Trump took office earlier this year there has been a lot of speculation regarding the construction of a new casino in the state of Connecticut. Both the owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun have expressed their interest in joining forces in a n attempt to open a third casino in East Windsor. Opponents to the proposed casino are fearful of the impact the new casino would have on the revenue that is contributed to the state from the existing tribe casinos.

Casting Aside Any Doubts

“We confirm that the current Administration supports the views expressed in the technical assistance letter,” James E. Carson, acting deputy secretary of the interior, said earlier this week in a letter. This letter, which came last Friday, put to bed any doubts regarding a change in position on the proposed casino. Essentially, Carson’s letter confirmed that the Trump administration doesn’t believe that a casino operated by Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes would jeopardize their revenue-sharing deal with the state.

Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun have established themselves as globally renowned casinos, and currently bring the state more than $260 million in revenue each year. Current Connecticut law gives tribes in the state exclusive rights to casino gambling in return for a 25 percent share of gross slot revenues. The letter was faxed Friday to Kevin Brown, the chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Nation. Cason expressed that the letter should not be viewed as preliminary approval of the joint casino, but it certainly helps counteract the recent McCain letter.

The Final Hurdles

McCain asked the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs to not issue a non-binding opinion sought by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The Obama administration issued the initial non-binding opinion during his time in office, which also said the new satellite casino would have no effect on the existing deal with state.

Some speculation remains regarding whether or not the tribes could face a challenge in court over the rights to the state’s first commercial casino without competition. Aside from that, they will also have to overcome groups of residents who are unhappy at the thought of a casino in East Windsor. A decision regarding the casino is expected to come in the next three weeks with the conclusion of the 2017 session of the General Assembly.