Gov. Malloy Announces State of Connecticut and Tribal Nations File Federal Lawsuit to Compel the Approval of Gaming Agreements
Because Federal Agency Did Not Act During Legally Required Time Period, Lawsuit Says the Agreement was Deemed Approved
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the State of Connecticut has joined the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nations in filing a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, over the agency’s failure to act on the gaming compact amendments the Governor recently entered into with the tribes.
The lawsuit contends that because the federal agency did not act on the amendments within 45 days of their submission, as required under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the amendments are deemed approved by the operation of law and the court should require DOI to publish notice of their approval in the Federal Register.
“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,” Governor Malloy said. “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.”
On July 20, Governor Malloy and the leaders of Connecticut’s two tribes signed amendments to their gaming compacts. Those amendments are required under the recently adopted state legislation that would authorize the tribes to jointly develop a casino in East Windsor and are intended to protect and preserve the state’s revenue sharing arrangements with the tribes. The amendments were subsequently submitted to the DOI. Federal law requires the Secretary of DOI to conduct a review of the amendments and approve or disapprove them within 45 days of their submission. If there is no affirmative decision at the end of 45 days, the amendments are deemed approved by operation of law.
The IGRA requires the Secretary to publish a notice of the approval – whether it is an affirmative approval or a deemed approval – in the Federal Register within 90 days of the date the amendments were received by the federal agency.
“My role with respect to these issues continues to be, and will be in this lawsuit, ensuring that the interests of the State of Connecticut are preserved,” Attorney General George Jepsen said.
“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. “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. “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.”