Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 16, 2002
Susan B. Townsley
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Hartford, CT 06111
Dear Ms. Townsely:
This is in response to your recent request for an opinion on whether the Division of Special Revenue (DOSR) must review and approve the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Commission's Cashless Wagering System (CWS) for slot machines proposed for use at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, in advance of implementation. For the following reasons, we believe that the DOSR is required to review and approve (or disapprove) the regulatory standards for the CWS in advance, but not the CWS system itself. If the system fails to operate in accordance with the approved standards, remedies for correction are available pursuant to the Tribal/State Compact. Nevertheless, DOSR may review the system and software in advance if the agency chooses to honor the Tribal Gaming Commission's request that it do so.
The CWS, as the name implies, permits casino customers to wager without handling cash. One of the features of the system involves the use of a player's card. As you describe it, in order to use the CWS, a patron first deposits money into an account. The patron can then access his or her account at the Casino's Cashier's Cage, or at any slot machine. At a slot machine, the player inserts the player's card into a card reader attached to the machine, and inputs a personal identification number. Once the patron accesses the account, he or she can transfer money from the account to the slot machine. The player can then play the machine and/or take out the money and/or, when finished gambling, return the money to the account.
The DOSR has some regulatory oversight over the operations at the Mohegan Sun Casino by virtue of the Tribal/State Compact negotiated pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § 2710. The Compact, signed in 1994, contains standards for the operation of games. The parties agreed that, "Such standards shall protect the public interest in the integrity of the gaming operations and shall reduce the dangers of unsuitable, unfair or illegal practices and methods and activities in the conduct of gaming." Compact, Sec. 7(a). The initial set of standards included rules for the operation of slot machines (Video Facsimile Games). Compact, Appendix A, Sec. 31. A moratorium on the operation of slot machines was lifted in 1994 pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which included a requirement that the Tribe contribute twenty-five percent of the gross operating revenues from video facsimile machines to the State. See MOU (April 25, 1994).
The Compact also contains a mechanism for amending the standards of operation for slot machines. The provision provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Compact, Sec. 7(c).
Pursuant to this section of the Compact, the Tribal Gaming Commission has asked the DOSR to approve revised standards for the operation of video facsimile games which would allow the CWS. The Commission has also asked the DOSR to approve the system itself, including the software.
Clearly, Sec. 7(c) authorizes the DOSR to review and approve (or reject) proposed changes in the standards for the operation of slot machines. In fact, the DOSR is in the process of reviewing proposed standards which would allow the operation of the CWS. However, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Commission's request for the DOSR to review, for approval, the system as well, is the issue for this opinion. You note that the Compact does not provide for such review and approval, and we cannot find any such provision either.
Concerning the interpretation of tribal compacts, we have often noted:
1998 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen., Letter to George Wandrak (January 12, 1998)
No provision of the Compact requires the DOSR to review and approve, in advance, operating systems or software for games. To the contrary, the review and advanced approval process is limited to the standards. If software or a system fails to comply with the standards, explicit remedies are called for in the Compact:
Compact, Sec. 13(c).
Tools for the detection of any flawed systems or software are also provided for in the agreements between the parties. The DOSR is authorized to inspect Tribal gaming operations pursuant to Compact Sec. 13(b) which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
Compact, Sec. 13(b).
Detection of non-compliance in operation can also be observed during slot machine audits, specifically authorized by the MOU, Sec. 1. Additionally, the existing technical standards require that no slot machine may be installed unless it, or a prototype thereof, has been tested and approved by an independent gaming laboratory as meeting the requirements and standards of the Compact. Compact, Appendix A, Sec. 31(1). Accordingly, lack of requirement for advance approval of the system or software does not diminish oversight powers.
Where the parties to a contract have agreed to certain procedures by the clear language employed by the parties, we cannot add to that contract by interpretation. Connecticut Union of Tel. Workers, Inc. v. Southern New England Tel. Co., 148 Conn. 192, 200, 169 A.2d 646 (1961). In the instant case, the parties have agreed that the DOSR shall review and approve standards for the operation of slot machines, including standards for the CWS, in advance, but not pre-approve the system or software. Of course, this conclusion does not prohibit the agency from reviewing the system and software in advance, as the Commission has requested, and forewarning the Tribal Gaming Commission of problems, if the agency chooses to do so. This opinion only finds that approval is not required.
Therefore, and in conclusion, we believe that your agency is required to review and approve (or disapprove) the regulatory standards for the use of a Cashless Wagering System at the Mohegan Sun Casino, in advance, but not the operating system or software.
Very truly yours,
Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General