Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says the state and two federally recognized tribes are suing the federal government for failing to act on compact changes needed before a new casino can be built to compete with the MGM casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Democrat announced Wednesday the lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Department of Interior and Secretary Ryan Zinke by the state and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.
“This has been a long process and through every step along the way, we kept DOI informed about our intentions and were clear about exactly what we were asking them to do,” Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler said in a statement on Wednesday. “But despite this good faith effort and repeated assurances by the department, their failure to publish our approval letter has forced us to take this action. We hope for a quick resolution as we move forward with our plans to build a new facility in East Windsor.”
“The Department of the Interior has a responsibility to Native American tribes, and their failure to act on this issue sets a very dangerous precedent for Indian Country across the United States,” Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown said in a statement on Wednesday. “The law is clear – after 45 days DOI did not disapprove our compact amendments, therefore it is deemed approved. By not doing so, the department is in clear violation of federal law.”
Because the federal agency did not act on the compact amendments Malloy reached with the tribes within 45 days of their submission, as required, the lawsuit claims the amendments should now be deemed as having been approved.
“The State of Connecticut over the years has maintained a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations, and they employ thousands of Connecticut residents at their casinos,” Malloy said in a statement on Wednesday. “State law requires that these compact amendments are in fact approved. That’s why I have asked the Attorney General to file this action. We need clarity and certainty with respect to this issue. In addition, we are also seeking to compel the Secretary of the Interior to publish notice of approval of the amendments in the Federal Register, which is necessary in order for the amendments to be legally effective and enforceable.”
State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) called the announcement "good news for eastern Connecticut" because "there are more than 10,000 jobs in the region hanging in the balance with this federal decision."
"We passed a bipartisan bill nearly six months ago to defend ourselves against an outside effort to destroy jobs and decimate one of the most important industries in our state. The federal government is now long past its deadline to act on the agreements that the representatives of the people of Connecticut have deemed vital to the health and prosperity of our state. I applaud the governor and tribes for their action today on behalf of the people of Connecticut and our best interests," Osten said in a statement on Wednesday.
A request for comment from the Department of Interior was referred to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond.
To read the full complaint by the State of Connecticut, Mohegan Tribe, and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, click here.
Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.