MGM Drops East Windsor Casino Lawsuit As Gambling Expansion Pushes Forward In Connecticut

Written By Derek Helling on June 21, 2021
BetMGM Connecticut

If you ascribe to the theory of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” then you can’t join them until you stop trying to beat them. That could be at least part of the motivation behind MGM Resorts International‘s recent decision to abandon its East Windsor casino lawsuit against Connecticut.

That move might signal that MGM seeks to get into CT in other ways. Oncoming gambling expansion in CT encompasses those possibilities. At the same time, probably not everyone is happy about MGM’s decision.

East Windsor casino lawsuit dismissal shelves matter entirely

This move by MGM essentially puts to bed the matter of whether there will be a third fully-fledged casino in CT. At least for the immediate future, anyway. MGM’s lawsuit argued the state unfairly excluded it from business opportunities. Over the past few months, MGM’s filing was the only thing really keeping hopes for an East Windsor casino alive.

MGM originally filed the complaint in 2019. At that time, the state had just finished an approval of new compact terms. Those excluded all and any commercial gaming companies from opening up shop in the area. The US Dept. of the Interior was also named a defendant in the suit, as it had approved those amendments.

Before MGM moved to dismiss, the case was pending in the federal district court for Washington, D.C. Now that the suit is moot, it looks like the status quo when it comes to brick-and-mortar casinos in CT will survive.

As part of the newly renegotiated compacts between CT and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, the two tribes have agreed to shelve their plans for a third casino they would jointly operate for at least the next decade. All three parties have a mutual option to extend the current compacts, with that item, for another five years thereafter.

It’s important to note that MGM does concede that those two tribal groups will have exclusive rights to the East Windsor area for retail casino gaming by withdrawing its complaint. However, that doesn’t mean MGM has lost interest in CT.

MGM could be simply altering its plans

On the contrary, MGM’s entry into CT could merely be evolving. The big items in the new gaming compacts are retail sportsbooks, CT online sports betting and CT online casinos. Those provide potential paths for MGM.

One such avenue is a sports betting partnership with the CT Lottery. While the lottery has shared it propositioned five different companies for proposals on operating its platform, the lottery hasn’t shared which companies those are. BetMGM CT could be one of them.

If that doesn’t work out, though, there are other points of entry. For example, the new law also allows off-track betting sites in CT to offer sports wagering. One company, Sportech, operates 14 such locations in CT. The two tribal casino operators already have their online casino and sports betting situations seemingly ironed out.

It wouldn’t have been a good optic for MGM to have tried to obtain clearance to offer gambling in CT while maintaining the lawsuit. Also, MGM might feel good about its chances on these fronts. Either way, there are probably some unhappy with this news.

So what happens in East Windsor now?

Amidst the negotiations of the new compacts, leaders in East Windsor expressed their discontent. They verbalized concerns that their economic fates were being used as bargaining chips. Additionally, they questioned the future of the parcel of land meant for the casino.

State lawmakers from the area have called for the state to use new revenue funds to offset the loss of revenues a casino would have brought. Also, they want the tribal groups to relinquish their control on the parcel off Interstate 91 for their own development.

MGM’s interest in the area acted as kind of the last bastion of hope for any movement toward a casino in the short term. Now it seems the matter will see at least a decade of delay. Because the tribal groups could revisit the matter when the compacts expire, they might be reluctant to give up the property, too.

MGM’s decision definitely terminates any hopes of construction on an East Windsor casino happening soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that East Windsor residents won’t be gambling with MGM in the coming years, though.

Photo by Paul Sancya / The Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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