The chairmen of the tribes that operate the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos said they are still in the process of narrowing down a location for a Hartford-area casino.
At a press conference in Groton, Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, and Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said they haven’t picked a site yet.
However, “we are getting to the point where more intensive negotiations with the remaining sites should begin,” Brown said Monday in a press release.
MMCT Venture, the company created by the tribes to establish a third casino, received proposals in November from East Hartford, East Windsor, Hartford, and two from Windsor Locks.
The third casino is expected to compete with the $800 million casino being built by MGM Resorts International in Springfield, Mass.
The tribes received the General Assembly’s blessing last year to pick a location for the casino, but it left many of the thorny legal issues until this year. MMCT Venture was expected to have chosen a location before the end of the 2015.
“Given we still have work to do on sight selection, our focus for this legislative session is to work with state leaders to address some of the concerns raised by the attorney general, and others,” Butler said in a press release, “We also want to make sure that we protect the revenue our facilities provide to the state.”
Last April, Attorney General George Jepsen laid out his concerns about the venture in a letter to legislative leaders.
Jepsen warned in his letter that the state’s 25 percent share of the casinos’ gross slot revenue would “cease if state law permitted any person other than the Tribes to operate such games or other commercial casino games.”
The two federally recognized tribes have exclusive gaming rights in Connecticut as a result of the agreements they signed with the state and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But it’s unclear if they would need to amend those agreements and, if they did, whether it would be approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Last year’s draft legislation “could be deemed a change in state law that would terminate the moratorium, affording the Tribes the right to conduct video facsimile games free of the payment requirements under the MOUs. How a court or other competent authority might resolve this legal issue is at best uncertain,” Jepsen wrote.
The legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee, which oversees gaming, will likely have to consider these issues again this year.
Meanwhile, MGM Resorts International has sued the state in federal court alleging Special Act 15-7, which allowed the two tribes to form a business entity, violates its constitutional rights.
“The law passed in Connecticut gives two preferred tribes an unfair and unjustified preferential treatment by designating them as the only entities, tribal or commercial, authorized to negotiate with cities and enter development agreements for a new commercial casino on non-reservation land in Connecticut,” Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts International president, said in August when it filed a federal lawsuit against the state.