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Salazar: Tribal Legislative End Run Risks Hundreds Of Millions To State

October 24th, 2017 · 23 Comments · News and Events, State Politics

UPDATE: statement from tribes. A rat’s loose in the state capitol. A legislative effort in the current state budget deliberations is underway to bypass federal approval of the state’s first commercial casino that would be operated in East Windsor by the state’s two tribal nations on non-tribal land. Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar writes in a letter to Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen that “In my view, this approach creates a substantial risk to the hundreds of millions of dollars that Connecticut receives annually from the tribes pursuant to their current compact and procedures.”

State legislative allies of the tribal nations are attempting to insert language in the budget–what’s commonly referred in the state capitol as a “rat”–that relieves the tribes of federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approval. Salazar, a lawyer who represents tribal gaming competitor MGM Resorts, declares in the letter to Jepsen that roughly $500 million in payments to the state over the next two years would be jeopardized. In exchange for a gaming monopoly the tribal nations that operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun provide the state 25 percent of the slot take.

MGM has proposed a nearly $700 million waterfront gaming facility in Bridgeport that officials assert would generate more revenue to the state than the current gaming compact.

Salazar letter:

I write to follow-up to my September 17 letter regarding the Interior Department’s decision to return, without approval, proposed amendments to the current gaming compact/procedures between Connecticut and its two federally recognized tribes. I understand that the tribes may seek to move forward with an off-reservation casino in East Windsor notwithstanding Interior’s decision. In particular, the tribes may seek to have both Public Act 17-89 and the amendments themselves changed so that state authorization for the casino no longer depends on Interior’s approval of the proposed amendments. In my view, this approach creates a substantial risk to the hundreds of millions of dollars that Connecticut receives annually from the tribes pursuant to their current compact and procedures.

The risk–as you explained to the General Assembly two years ago and again to Governor Malloy earlier this year is that while memoranda of understanding between the tribes and Connecticut provide that the tribes will annually pay the state 25 percent of Foxwoods’s and Mohegan Sun’s slot-machine revenue, that obligation continues only so long as Connecticut does not authorize “any other person” to operate a casino in the state. Because “any other person” includes the tribes as well as the joint venture they have created to operate the East Windsor casino, Public Act 17-89′s authorization for that casino would, in the absence of Interior-approved amendments to the tribes’ compact and procedures, end the tribes’ revenue-sharing obligation.

Indeed, that is precisely why the General Assembly made Public Act 17-89′s authorization of the off-reservation casino contingent on amendments to the tribes’ compact and procedures that would keep the revenue-sharing obligation in place. And because federal law provides that all amendments to tribal gaming compacts and procedures require Interior Department approval in order to be effective, the General Assembly made Public Act 17-89′s authorization contingent on the tribes securing such approval. (The need for federal approval also explains why the tribes twice sought technical assistance from Interior regarding amendments to their gaming agreements.) Now, however, it seems the tribes want to move forward despite not having secured such approval. That would threaten the large guaranteed revenue stream that Connecticut currently receives from the tribes.

In my view, this threat cannot be avoided either with unilateral promises by the tribes to continue the revenue sharing or with actual contracts to that effect between the tribes and Connecticut. Unilateral promises would of course provide no assurance; the tribes could change their minds at any time and discontinue the payments–as has happened with other similarly situated tribes. Even if the tribes did not discontinue the payments, moreover, their ability to do so would create substantial leverage, which could be exercised to Connecticut’s detriment in a variety of ways. Contracts between the tribes and Connecticut, meanwhile would not be enforceable because they themselves would constitute amendments to the tribes’ current gaming compact and procedures; as noted, under federal law any such amendments require Interior Department approval in order to be effective. Interior emphasized that rule in its May 2017 technical assistance letter, explaining that federal approval is required for all agreements that “affect the parameters of the Tribes’ existing exclusivity agreements with the State.”

Put simply–and as everyone involved previously recognized–preservation of the revenue-sharing arrangement following authorization of a new in-state casino requires Interior’s approval of compact amendments. That fact has not been changed by Interior’s decision not to approve the amendments. Attempts to circumvent the requirement of federal approval would only endanger Connecticut’s revenue stream.

Is the fix in to wire legislation to the tribes? No, says spokesman Andrew Doba:

MMCT Venture Spokesperson Andrew Doba released the below statement today regarding false reports of a fix in the Connecticut state budget and Ken Salazar’s latest and greatest misrepresentation of federal law.

Reports of a ‘fix’ for the East Windsor casino in the budget are completely false. The fact is that we don’t need one. Federal law makes it clear that if DOI does not reject an application, it is deemed approved. DOI did not reject our application. We are taking steps to make that point crystal clear and may have much more to say on this issue in the very near future.

“It’s also worth stating the obvious–MGM planted this story without a shred of evidence. This comes after they extensively lobbied DOI in Washington, so much so that their bought and paid for Congressman and Senator were actually CC’ed on our response letter. They know we don’t need a legislative change, and all the letters in the world from Mr. Salazar don’t change that fact. If they’re willing to lie about something as basic as this, why should anyone take them at their word on anything?”

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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Halstead

    That’s “FORMER” Secretary of the Interior, Salazar.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Bob, your point was covered: “Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar writes in a letter to Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen…”
      In addition, the commentary informs us that Salazar represents MGM.

      A change in the leadership of the U.S. Department of the Interior doesn’t change the federal laws related to the functions of the department: “under federal law any such amendments require Interior Department approval in order to be effective. Interior emphasized that rule in its May 2017 technical assistance letter, explaining that federal approval is required for all agreements that “affect the parameters of the Tribes’ existing exclusivity agreements with the State.”

      My question is: Did Senator Moore and Gomes know about this May 2017 letter before they rushed to vote for the Least Windsor casino project? We could wait for over 118 days delay of state budget approval but, the casino deal just couldn’t wait. Check this out, now Gomes (we can assume that he also speaks for Moore) is speaking from both side of his mouth and insists in keeping us guessing on where THEY stand.

      http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Senator-s-sober-view-on-MGM-Bridgeport-12300440.php

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        Speedy,

        Do you have the voting record?

        • Joel Gonzalez

          Kid, you seem to have plenty of time to surf the web. Go find their voting record and don’t be surprise if they’re identical when it comes to major matters.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        Here is something very interesting that if left alone, will go over all OIB reader’s head.

        “It’s also worth stating the obvious – MGM planted this story without a shred of evidence. This comes after they extensively lobbied DOI in Washington, so much so that their bought and paid for Congressman and Senator were actually CC’ed on our response letter.”

        MMCT Venture Spokesperson Andrew Doba is accusing a Congressman and a Senator of somehow, being on the take. “…bought and paid for…” Andrew Doda doesn’t name the Senator or Congressman but, he gives a clue by pointing out that they were “CC’ed” on a response letter.

        Having pointed out this fact, will Lennie Grimaldi dare to “pry open the juicy stuff” and at least provide us with the letter showing the name of the Congressman and Senator CC’ed in this related matter? Maybe Andrew Doda would like to be the one to provide OIB with a copy of the letter. Is this a lie? Mr. Doda has an obligation to provide proof of his accusation. If not, why should anyone take MMCT Venture at their word on anything?

        • The Bridgeport Kid

          Speedy,

          Stop drinking the Kool Aid. It will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

          If this makes it to the state and federal courts the Native Americans will prevail. They have the money and the legal representation to put out MGM’s lights in a court fight. MGM’s proposal is a nonstarter at any rate. It is just a PR effort to block the East Windsor casino. It’s all they can do; they don’t have legal standing to build and operate a casino in the state of Connecticut. 

          • Joel Gonzalez

            What have you been drinking? If the Connecticut Legislature votes to break the deal with the Indian Tribes we lose the 25 % share per the agreement. It’s simply a monopoly that can be broken-up if the State of Connecticut gets more revenue.

          • The Bridgeport Kid

            That will never happen, Joel. MGM is not going to build a casino in Bridgeport. The East Side NRZ presentation was a cynical effort to manipulate a community. Uri Clinton’s sales pitch to the east side of Bridgeport was short on commitment and long on subtle nuanced manipulation. There’s more than a little ignorance in Bridgeport thanks to the worst public education system on earth. Mr. Clinton exploited that for MGM’s corporate objectives. This is  a con game, nothing more. 

            Neither the governor nor the legislature will risk a proven  revenue stream.  

          • The Bridgeport Kid

            A casino in East Windsor managed by the gaming tribes will increase the slot machine revenue and the state’s percentage. 

            Bridgeport needs a regime change in municipal government, not a casino. 

    • Jimfox

      Heckle and Jeckle need many moons in Sweat Lodge!

  • Frank Gyure

    The “Ct Indian Casino tribes” are on a downward financial/fiscal slide. Go figure that out!

  • Grin Ripper

    Better call the Orkin Man!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Ain’t politics great…

  • Donald Day

    C’mon Joel can we safely assume that someone else is speaking for you?

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Native American tribes have opened casinos in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York,  North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

     

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Speedy,

    You saw what you wanted to see. Go back to reread the fucking story:

    “Many… are dazzled by the glitz and glamor and intoxicated by MGM’s promise of riches to come — tourists, taxes, 7,000 jobs.

    “State lawmakers, including [Ed Gomes] and fellow Democratic Senator Marilyn Moore of Bridgeport earlier this year agreed to let the two Indian tribes that operate casinos in the southeastern section of the state partner on one in East Windsor.

    “That was to try and counter the casino MGM is building in Springfield, Mass.

    “’The reason they don’t want to see a casino in East Windsor is because that would cut off business in Springfield,’ Gomes said. ‘It’s all a game. To us, it’s all a game.’”

    • Grin Ripper

      Ed suffers from Labor Pains! Going, Going, Gomes!!!

    • Ron Mackey

      Derek, you gave a brief history that is right on point. Bridgeport is always looking for the shiny object, That one stop shopping of the one item that will solve all of the problems of Bridgeport.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        Ron,

        I just quoted what was published in the Post. The economic benefits of a casino in Bridgeport would be great but it will never happen. The residents of the East Side are being played, not for the first time. 

        Uri Clinton is no different that Peter Popoff. The latter offers packets of “miracle spring water.” Clinton offers pipe dreams. 

  • Donald Day

    Well said Derek.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Thank you, Donald.

      Thank you Mr. Donald.

      I’ve seen this sort if bait-and-switch real estate game before. Robert Kraft pulled it when he wanted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to build a new stadium for the Patriots. He floated the idea of moving the team to Connecticut. Boston eventually came around and Connecticut Pats fans still have to drive up to Foxborough to cheer the team. 

      The Bridgeport casino is a nonstarter. Anyone with an eye on the Big Picture will see that. The potential economic benefits are great but this is a shell game. The tribes  are prepared for an epic battle, if it comes to that. They have money and white-shoe attorneys on retainer. MMCT spokesman Andrew Doba summed it up nicely:

      “It’s… worth stating the obvious – MGM planted this story without a shred of evidence. This comes after they extensively lobbied DOI in Washington, so much so that their bought and paid for Congressman and Senator were actually CC’ed on our response letter. They know we don’t need a legislative change, and all the letters in the world from Mr. Salazar don’t change that fact. If they’re willing to lie about something as basic as this, why should anyone take them at their word on anything?”  

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