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Schaghticoke Tribe, MGM Sue State Over Casino Plans

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    Schaghticoke Tribe, MGM Sue State Over Casino Plans
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    COCONUT CREEK, FL - DECEMBER 17: A dealer works the blackjack table during the grand opening of the newest building at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on December 17, 2010 in Coconut Creek, Florida. The site offers up an additional 400-plus gaming positions, a new restaurant and a new venue with more space to gamble, dine and party. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and MGM have filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, claiming they are being unfairly shut out of an opportunity to build a casino in Connecticut.

    The Schaghticoke tribe said Special Act 15-7 grants the right to pursue Connecticut’s first ever commercial casino, on non-tribal land, exclusively to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe of Indian and claims it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

    Now, the Kent-based tribe is asking the court to declare Special Act 15-7 unconstitutional. 

    “Without any competitive bidding or gaming study, Connecticut shut out the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation 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 the federal and state Constitutions, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation should have the same right to pursue this economic opportunity as anyone else,” Richard L. Velky, chief of the tribe, said in a statement.

    In January, the tribe filed file articles of organization for Confluence of Rivers Tribal Business Entity LLC with the Secretary of the State's Office and the application was rejected, the tribe said.   

     “The State has a long history of discriminating against the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation,” Velky said in a statement.  “Recently, the State fought our federal recognition, supposedly because they didn’t want another casino in Connecticut.  Now Connecticut wants to open a new casino, but only if the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation doesn’t get an opportunity to submit a proposal to operate it.  The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation seeks equal treatment, which does not exist under Special Act 15-7.”  

    MGM wants to be in the running for the third casino. The company will soon open a casino in Springfield, Massachusetts and said the lawsuit is not a delay tactic and they want to see a casino in southwestern Connecticut.

    "The state of Connecticut has established a law providing commercial gaming. Under those circumstances, those kinds of licenses shouldn’t be handed out just because somebody has an inside track inside the legislature. There should be a process that’s open, fair and transparent,” Alan Feldman, of MGM Resorts International, said in a statement.

    MMCT Venture, the company formed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, released a statement about the lawsuit on Monday:

    "After weeks of not returning calls from reporters, Chief Velky finally revealed that his operation is being bankrolled by MGM.  This startling revelation - which according to the chief was a year in the making - should raise a red flag for anyone who is concerned about MGM's plan to steal jobs from Connecticut residents."

    Gov. Dannel Malloy said the Schaghticoke tribe is in a tough spot. 
    “They have not been recognized as a tribe under the federal definition. That’s their problem. They can’t meet that test, but they certainly have the right as any citizen to have an opinion about what everybody else does,” he said.