Schaghticoke Tribe Plans to Sue Connecticut over Hartford-Area Casino License
Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky told reporters on Monday that he plans to sue the State of Connecticut, hoping to block a satellite casino by other tribal interests in the state. Velky plans to file suit in the US District Court in Hartford. The suit is going to contend that a casino law passed in 2015 is unconstitutional, because it excluded other Connecticut tribes from consideration.
The casino in question was awarded joinlty to the Mohegan Indians and the Mashantucket Pequots. The two trirbes own the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino, respectively.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes are 20+ year rivals in the state in the gambling industry, but they were given joint ownership of a Hartford-area satellite casino. The plan is to build the casino to keep Connecticut gamblers in the state, instead of driving 30 minutes down the road to the MGM Springfield, when it is opened in 2018.
Says Tribe Deserved Consideration
Richard Velky says the decision to give a new casino to the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes is unfair, arbitrary, and unconstitutional. He told the Connecticut Post, “Without any competitive bidding or gaming study, Connecticut shut out [the Schaghticokes] and awarded to one pair of native American tribes the exclusive ability to develop a highly-valuable commercial enterprise. Under the Equal Protection clauses of both the federal and state constitutions, [the Schaghticokes] should have the same right to pursue this economic opportunity as anyone else.”
The Schaghticoke tribe has been in a decade-long battle with state officials on their own hopes for a tribal casino. The Schaghticoke Bands are among the oldest-recognized Native American tribes in the United States, but they State of Connecticut does not recognize them as a tribe worthy of rights under a gambling compact.
Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes
The Schaghticoke have claimed for years that Connecticut legislators are protecting their favorite tribes, who pay them millions of dollars in campaign donations with their gaming funds. A relatively poor tribe like the Schaghticoke cannot afford to get the same consideration.
The Connecticut General Assembly voted last year to approve a joint casino in the northeastern part of the state, but off tribal lands. The Pequots and Mohegan have concentrated on the I-91 area near Hartford. They recently narrowed down the list of potential casino sites to Hartford, Windsor Locks, and East Hartford.
MGM Resorts Lawsuit
The Schaghticoke tribe is not the only group with a lawsuit. MGM Resorts International also sued, saying they had been interested in a Connecticut casino and the state’s leaders stonewalled them without a proper application process. They are suing on behalf of the right of private gaming interests to receive proper consideration.
MGM Resorts also has begun spreading fliers in the Hartford area, asking residents to begin to ask tough questions of Connecticut officials. The focus of the fliers is to thrown into doubt the wisdom of an area casino at all, and whether Connecticut officials are seeing to the best interests of residents or casino interests.
The satellite casino is a smaller gaming venue which does away with many of the amenities of the 21st century integrated Las Vegas-style resort. Instead, the smaller operation is quicker to build and distills the casino in a slots row and a few gaming tables — the much-criticized slots-in-a-box concept.
MGM Springfield Casino
The MGM Springfield Casino is going to be an integrated resort, with shopping, dining, and clubbing opportunities built into the landscape around it. MGM Resorts International also promised to become a local patron of the arts in the Springfield area. With the full package, many feared the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino would not be able to retain their customer base.
It might not be possible, anyway. The Connecticut casinos have drawn gamblers from Western Massachusetts for two decades. The Hartford area is another key demographic. While there is nothing the tribal casinos can do about gamblers from Massachusetts, the legislature and the tribes sought a firewall for Connecticut gamblers, trying to keep revenues in the state.
Federally Recognized Tribes
Both the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes have federal recognition. The Schaghticoke have been recognized by English and American authorities since the 1730s, but they are a mixed tribe comprising small bands throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.
The tribe gained recognition for a short time from the US Interior Department, but that recognition was withdraw later, without an explantion why. The Schaghticoke believe their rivals in the state excercised influence to have their recognition reversed.
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