Connecticut Files Motion to Have Federal Judge Dismiss MGM Resorts Lawsuit
Connecticut’s Assistant Attorney General, Robert Deichert, has filed a motion with US District Judge Alvin Thompson, asking him to dismiss a lawsuit by MGM Resorts against Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. The filing states that MGM Resorts has no legal right to sue the Connecticut tribal casinos. The lawsuit attempts to stop the two Native American tribes from building a satellite casino on the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts.
In the motion, Connecticut’s Department of Justice says MGM Resorts fabricated a story that it wanted to build a casino in Connecticut. The state’s argument against the lawsuit also depends on the timing of MGM Resorts’ original filing.
MGM Resorts’ Lawsuit
Last year, MGM Resorts won a license to build a casino in Springfield in Western Massachusetts. The location of the MGM Springfield not only would attract gamblers from Western Massachusetts who might otherwise gamble at Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods Casino, but it also might draw gamblers from Connecticut itself.
To counter that motion, the Connecticut cleared the way for the Mashantucket (Foxwoods) and Mohegan tribes to work together on a satellite casino, which would act as a kind of firewall against gamblers in the northeastern part of Connecticut from leaving the state for gambling excursions.
MGM Resorts felt that the state legislature was engaging in protectionist policies to help its homegrown gaming interests, so it sued the tribal authorities to keep them from building a satellite casino. In its filing, MGM Resorts claimed that it had an interest in building a casino in Connecticut, but the state and the tribes had conspired to unfairly bar such a process.
Connecticut’s lawyers responded with a filing that said the terms of the MGM Massachusetts’ gaming license barred the Las Vegas company from building casinos within a 50-mile radius. The exclusion zone covers a significant part of north-central Connecticut, including the entirety of Hartford, Windham, and Tolland counties. The exclusion zone includes significant portions of New Haven, Middlesex, and Litchfield counties. Much of New London County also lies within the zone. On those grounds, MGM Resorts would not legally be able to build in the area of the state the satellite casino would exist.
The state also argued that its legislature’s actions had not harmed the Las Vegas gaming group’s efforts to expand into Connecticut. The state legislature rejected a request by the two Connecticut Indian tribes to build a satellite casino along the I-91 corridor north of Hartford, which would be built specifically to compete with the Springfield casino.
How the New Gaming Law Works
Instead, lawmakers designed a measure where any tribe or commercial interest could make an arrangement with a community in the area willing to host such a casino. Before a new gaming venue could be built, though, a state law would have to be passed.
The motion filed with Judge Deichert said, “Put simply, [the gaming act] has no impact on MGM’s ability to take whatever steps it chooses to take toward developing a casino in Connecticut.”
Alan Feldman Responds
Alan Feldman, the Executive VP of MGM Resorts International, did not seem that impressed with the state’s filing. Mr. Feldman told the local press he had seen a copy of the motion, then added, “After an initial review, the State seeks to avoid the serious constitutional issues raised by the legislation and instead asks the Court to dismiss the suit on specious procedural arguments. We look forward to responding and our day in court.”
Thus, it appears that MGM Resorts is set for a legal battle with the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino over expanded gambling in the area north of Hartford. At stake is the gaming population of the Hartford metropolitan area. At 1.2 million people in Hartford and its suburbs, it is the 47th-largest metropolitan population in the United States. The issue goes far beyond that, because the I-91 casino likely would prove to be a firewall against bettors traveling to Springfield from many regions south of Hartford, too.
Presumably, those gamblers at a certain point would prefer the shorter trip to eastern Connecticut, where Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun exists. But the court battle could go a long way to deciding the success or failure of the various gambling centers in Western Massachusetts and East-Central Connecticut.
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