WNPR

Connecticut Tribes Getting National Support For East Windsor Casino

Apr 8, 2018

The National Congress of American Indians has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior saying that if it doesn’t give a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to changes in the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ compact with the state of Connecticut—and do it within 45 days—the congress will consider it approved.

That support may help Connecticut’s two tribal governments push past a barrier in building a proposed casino in East Windsor.

The NCAI is a membership organization that represents tribes across the country.

“I think the organization carries a good bit of credibility and we hope to add our voice to the effort,” said John Dossett, a spokesman for the NCAI.

Legislation passed the Connecticut General Assembly last year in favor of the Mohegan Mashantucket Connecticut Venture, or MMCT, putting up a casino away from tribal land in East Windsor. But to do it, they had to amend the gaming compact they made with the state in the 1990s.

By law, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has to approve any amendments to gaming compacts. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has not yet given a decision. That’s held up the project.

Dossett said that the department has to act because the NCAI doesn’t believe there are any problems with the agreement struck between the state and the tribes.

“The secretary’s job is to review the compact and if it doesn’t violate the law, then he shall publish it in the federal register,” he said. "It’s not a discretionary decision.”

MMCT is welcoming the support from the NCAI.

“Adding their voice to this issue should show the secretary that the department’s failure to follow the law has far reaching implications,” said Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the MMCT Venture.

The venture has also filed a lawsuit on this issue.

A spokesman for the Department of Interior declined Connecticut Public Radio’s request for an interview Friday.

“This matter is now in litigation and it is not appropriate for the Department to respond outside of the court process,” the spokesman said.

The project in East Windsor cleared another potential hurdle last month. There was a proposal that MMCT’s license to build the casino should go back on the table—maybe going to MGM Resorts International to build a casino they’ve proposed in Bridgeport. But the project survived that legislative challenge.