Legal Questions Persist After Announcement of Third Casino Location

East Windsor ended up being the winner of the competition to land the state’s third casino, and first off tribal land.

Throughout the process, the chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes have said they thought the process was open transparent, and most importantly, within the boundaries of existing taxation agreements with the state.

“It’s all about the slot revenue,” said Richard Pomp, a professor of law at UConn, who specializes in municipal taxation, and Native American taxation matters.

As for the complications of configuring a new agreement between the tribes and the state of Connecticut, Pomp said, “This could be a law school examination question. There’s a lot of moving parts involved.”

Pomp says he doesn’t expect prolonged legal challenges, simply because he’s not sure what a company like MGM would gain from challenging the state, especially in the event of a loss. The entire third casino project has been a direct reaction to MGM breaking ground on a commercial casino in Springfield, less than twenty miles from the East Windsor location that was announced Monday.

He says the lawsuits that may come would be from the state’s other Native American tribes that do not currently have federal recognition.

“They could go to Congress in theory. They’re probably not going to get very far, so I don’t think they will be in a position to litigate because they are not federally recognized.”

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen raised his concerns in a letter nearly two years ago that he sent to legislative leaders and the governor.

Jepsen mentioned how there are constitutional questions surrounding the limited competition within the state to operate the third casino, and concerns surrounding the state’s slot revenue compact.

Jepsen would not comment on the East Windsor site selection.

Revenues from slot machines have been a constant in Connecticut since Foxwoods opened 25 years ago. The revenues reached peaks near $600 million at different points, but for the 2017 fiscal year, revenues to the state aren’t expected to top $267 million according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis. After 2018, revenues will fall again to $199 million.

Pomp at UConn Law says he expects the tribes and the state to agree to a new revenue design, one that works for both parties.

“The bottom line is it’s all about the 25 percent of the slot revenue and I would be surprised if the state and the tribes couldn’t reach an agreement.”

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