HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking Attorney General George Jepsen to weigh in on the state’s legal position if it allows Connecticut’s two Native American tribes build a casino in East Windsor.
In a Feb. 27 letter, Malloy asks Jepsen for his opinion on Connecticut’s chances of winning a lawsuit if the legislation exclusively giving the two tribes to build a casino off tribal land is challenged on constitutional grounds.
In April 2015, Jepsen told legislative leaders that legislation allowing the two tribes form a joint business venture to partner with a municipality for casino development posed some difficult constitutional questions about equal protection, the Commerce Clause, and a revenue sharing agreement.
In a footnote in the April 2015 letter, Jepsen said the legislation giving the tribes exclusivity “may face third-party court challenges, the outcomes of which are difficult to forecast.”
MGM Resorts International is building a casino in Springfield, Massachusetts and has expressed interest in building another in southwestern Connecticut. It already sued the state in federal court. The court ruled that it was too soon to make the claim that their constitutional rights were violated. MGM has appealed that decision.
In his Feb. 27 letter, Malloy wants Jepsen to address the potential for success on an equal protection challenge to a decision to exclusively grant the two tribes the right to operate a casino.
He also wants Jepsen’s opinion on the potential “if any” on the state’s current revenue sharing arrangement with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe.
And he wants to know the impact on future tribal gaming in Connecticut.
Last month, lawmakers heard from those interested in expanding gaming in Connecticut.
They expressed concern that Connecticut wasn’t getting the best deal it could by giving the two tribes exclusivity to build the casino.
MGM suggested Connecticut open up the bidding process to all interested companies in order to avoid litigation.
Lawmakers on the Public Safety and Security Committee, which has jurisdiction over gaming in Connecticut, are still debating how to move forward.
Meanwhile, the two tribes chose the former Showcase Cinemas off I-91 in East Windsor as their preferred location for a third Connecticut casino. A deal between the tribes and East Windsor was inked Thursday at a signing ceremony.