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AG Jepsen: Tribes need federal approval before starting East Windsor casino

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Attorney General George Jepsen

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen is warning the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes not to move forward with plans to build and open a new casino in East Windsor without federal regulatory approval.

In a legal opinion sent to Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Jepsen acknowledged the U.S. Department of the Interior’s inaction on proposed gaming pact amendments that would enable the tribes to open a casino on nontribal land, as well as the subsequent lawsuit brought by the tribes and the state against the Department of the Interior. However, Jepsen added that the tribes should not proceed with the casino until a final decision is reached on the gaming pact amendments.

“Although we have confidence in the position we have taken that the amendments should be treated as deemed approved, it remains possible that the court could rule adversely,” he wrote. “To take action on the assumption that the State and the Tribes will succeed in the ongoing litigation would be highly imprudent.”

Jepsen also stated that MMCT Ventures, the tribes’ partnership entity for the casino, did not have the authority to operate a casino in East Windsor without federal approval. Furthermore, he warned that possible legal actions taken by the state to remove the federal approval requirement on a new casino operated by tribal entities carried a “not insubstantial risk” that could “potentially terminate” the state’s revenue sharing arrangement with the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

Last month, the tribes commenced the demolition of a shuttered movie theater at the East Windsor site that is planned for a 100,000-square-foot casino. No timeline was set for when construction on the casino would begin or when the completed venue was expected to open to the public.

The tribes and the state have accused the U.S. Dept. of Interior of stalling the project, possibly in the interest of a competing casino. Federal law gives the Dept. of Interior 45 days to consider proposed gaming pact amendments. The Dept. told the tribes and state that insufficient information was available to make a decision on the proposal.

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