MGM Funds Schaghticokes' Lawsuit Against Third Casino Plan | Connecticut Public Radio

MGM Funds Schaghticokes' Lawsuit Against Third Casino Plan

Mar 7, 2016

The Schaghticokes believe they should have equal rights to bid for the development.

MGM Resorts International, the gaming group building a casino in Springfield, is now funding a lawsuit by the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation against Connecticut’s proposed third casino. 

The Schaghticokes filed the suit on Monday morning in federal court in Hartford, alleging their rights under the 14th amendment are violated by the state’s plan to pursue commercial gaming.

That’s because the act allowing the third casino exclusively names the state’s two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans. The Schaghticokes believe they should have equal rights to bid for the development.

The Schaghticokes have been denied federal recognition as a tribe. 

MGM revealed it is helping with the tribe’s legal costs in bringing the suit.

The gaming giant is also bringing its own lawsuit against Connecticut, filed last year, calling on the state to open the bidding process for the proposed third casino.

"We have long believed that a commercial casino in Connecticut could be very successful," said Alan Feldman. "Were the state to move forward and allow for an open, transparent, fair process, where anyone could put a proposal out, we certainly would do so in southwestern Connecticut. We think ultimately, the state would benefit more from that."

MGM's Alan Feldman speaks to the press, watched by Chief Richard Velky.
Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR

Last week, MGM released a report it commissioned from Oxford Economics, saying the economic impact of a third casino would be greatest in the Bridgeport area.

Feldman denied that MGM's intent in funding the lawsuit is to delay a potential third casino in Connecticut, in order to benefit the Springfield development.

But might the two end up working together on a future development, if either suit is successful? "It's a little premature to discuss that today," said Velky. "Right now, we have to see where we'll go with our lawsuit, and what the state's reaction will be."

"We have mutual interests here," said Feldman. "Our claims are similar, albeit slightly different. That's our fight right now -- to show that [the act] is unconstitutional."

The Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribe are partnering to put forward a proposal for Connecticut's first casino not on tribal land. The tribes explicitly want to counter the threat from MGM's Springfield casino by siting the new development in north-central Connecticut.