HARTFORD, CT — As lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy get closer to deciding how to move forward with a third casino run by two federally-recognized tribes, MGM Resorts International is putting on a full-court press to stop it.
Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM Resorts International, met with Malloy’s chief legal counsel and chief of staff Tuesday, and presented them with an opinion from former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, which warned of the risk associated with opening up the state’s revenue-sharing agreement.
Connecticut receives about $250 million a year from the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribal Nation. That’s 25 percent of the slot revenue from the two southeastern casinos located on tribal land.
The March 7 letter from Salazar, which was circulated to the press by MGM’s media consultant, says that even though the tribes are seeking to amend the revenue-sharing agreement they currently have with the state, it requires the approval of the U.S. Department of Interior, which Salazar led for five years.
“I believe there is a substantial risk that the Tribes’ proposed amendments would not receive the requisite approval, in which case Connecticut’s entitlement to the 25-percent revenue stream would likely terminate,” Salazar wrote.
If the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribal Nation submitted proposed amendments, it would give the department an opportunity to review the entire compact and they would likely lower the 25-percent revenue-sharing because it’s “unusually high,” Salazar wrote.
The opinion is not much different from what Clinton told the Public Safety and Security Committee a week ago.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the joint business venture between the two tribes, said that the opinion was bought and paid for by MGM.
“First they paid former Attorney General Eric Holder. Then, they paid Former Senator Joseph Lieberman. Now, they’re paying the former Interior Secretary. What does it add up to? That MGM is willing to pay anyone and everyone to stop our project from moving forward because they know our proposal is going to keep jobs and revenue in Connecticut,” Doba said.
MGM declined to say how much they paid Salazar for the opinion.
“Salazar was hired by MGM, as one of the most knowledgeable, respected voices on the issues now being considered, to analyze those issues and provide his expert opinion,” a spokesman for MGM said.
Last week, Malloy asked Attorney General George Jepsen for an opinion regarding the tribes’ desire to build a casino off I-91 in East Windsor. The tribes say it’s necessary to stop residents from traveling further north to a new MGM casino in Springfield, Mass.
“By their own math, 45 percent of the revenue they hope to get for their billion dollar investment is supposed to come from Connecticut residents,” Doba said referring to MGM’s calculations for the new Springfield casino. “That’s not going to happen when our facility opens its doors, and they’re willing to spend whatever it takes to try and stop us.”