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State Senator

Cathy Osten

Representing Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich & Sprague

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Sen. Osten, Southeastern CT Delegation File Bill to Bypass Federal Interior Department

State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and several members of the southeastern Connecticut legislative delegation have submitted a bipartisan bill for the 2019 legislative session that seeks to clarify the federal Department of the Interior’s role in approving minor changes to the existing Tribal-State Compact between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes and the State of Connecticut – changes that are needed in order for the tribes to operate a new casino in East Windsor.

The legislation is being introduced to secure quicker approval of the agreement between the state and the tribes to jointly operate the new East Windsor casino, which is being built to compete with the new MGM-owned casino in Springfield, Mass.

Legislators say the federal government’s foot-dragging in approving a minor amendment to the Tribal-State Compact “is negatively impeding business development, job retention and growth.”

“Connecticut doesn’t need Interior Department approval to amend our compact with the tribes when there is no impact on the exclusivity provisions; they said so last year in writing. So let’s codify that in state law and get moving on the East Windsor casino, because every day we wait is another job lost and another dollar out the door for Connecticut,” Sen. Osten said.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Osten, Tim Larson (D-East Hartford), Steve Cassano (D-Manchester), Paul Formica (R-Niantic), Heather Somers (R- Groton) and state Representatives Kevin Ryan (D-Montville), Emmett Riley (D-Norwich), Christine Conley (D-Groton), Joe de la Cruz (D-Groton), Linda Orange (D-Colchester), Chris Soto (D-New London), Kathleen McCarty (R-Waterford), Holly Cheeseman (R-Niantic), Mike France (R-Ledyard), and Doug Dubitsky (R-Hampton).

The terms of original 1994 Tribal-State Compact were effective only “upon publication of notice of approval of this Compact by the Secretary of the Interior of the United States in the Federal Register,” according to federal law. That occurred.

But that 1994 Tribal-State Compact also stated that “the terms and conditions of this Compact shall not be modified, amended or otherwise altered except by written agreement of both parties” and with the afore-mentioned approval by the Interior Department.

In September 2017, U.S. Interior Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Michael S. Black wrote the tribes and Governor Malloy to say that Interior Department action on the amended Tribal-State Compact to operate the East Windsor casino “is unnecessary at this time” because “the tribes have entered an agreement with the state whereby they have agreed that the exclusivity provisions” of the original 1994 Tribal-State Compact “will not be breached by this arrangement.”

Then, in May, the Interior Department approved changes to the state’s compact with the Mohegans. But the Interior Department has not yet approved the changes to the Pequots’ compact: approval of both changes is necessary to begin operation of the East Windsor casino.

“I think there’s a fair amount of confusion and disarray in Washington, D.C. right now as it is,” Sen. Osten said. “We’ve already been told our decades-old compact with the tribes is not affected by the new East Windsor casino, so let’s do what we have to legislatively to get people working in Connecticut as soon as possible.”

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