Just as MGM Resorts announced plans for a $675 million waterfront casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a letter to Connecticut officials appearing to throw doubt on the future of the state’s other planned casino in East Windsor.
The bureau had previously given assurances to the partnership of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that it would approve changes to the revenue sharing agreement with the state to allow for the third facility off of tribal land.
But federal officials say they have insufficient information to decide whether the new casino would violate the exclusivity of the tribes’ compact with the state. The letter also says federal action is unnecessary at this time -- though the state’s legislation authorizing the new casino requires federal approval.
State Senator Tim Larson, who represents East Windsor, said he interprets the federal response as a greenlight for the project.
“We’ve been working on this for several years,” Larson said. “There are 9,300 jobs at stake in eastern Connecticut, and both of the tribes -- the Mashantuckets and Mohegans, have done their due diligence, and are ready to go.”
But a spokesperson from the governor’s office said the BIA’s response will “clearly slow down the process.”
Andrew Doba, a spokesperson for the tribal partnership, said the federal response will maintain the status quo -- and that they will work with the attorney general and legislature to figure out the next steps.
"The letter we received from the BIA affirms two points: 1) that both tribes maintain their exclusivity in the state and 2) that it's up to that state and the tribes to agree that the exclusivity provisions will not be breached by their arrangement to jointly own and operate the East Windsor facility,” Doba said in a statement.
He said the tribes intend to work with the state on the next steps for the project.