HARTFORD, Conn. – Casino developer MGM Resorts International filed a lawsuit Tuesday against several top state officials, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, saying a law he signed that could lead to a third tribal casino in the state is unconstitutional because it gives two tribes preferential treatment.
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MGM, which plans to open its own $800 million facility in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, asked the federal court to declare the law "invalid, null, and void in its entirety" and stop officials from abiding by it.
"MGM is ready, willing, and able to compete for the opportunity to develop a commercial casino gaming facility in Connecticut, but is excluded by the act from competing for this opportunity," the complaint reads.
MGM Resorts International Global Gaming Development LLC, a Nevada subsidiary, is the plaintiff in the case. MGM said in a follow-up statement that it applied to register a business to compete for the proposed commercial casino in Connecticut but was rejected last week.
In June, Malloy signed into law a bill allowing the state's two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, to issue a request for proposals, or RFP, from municipalities interested in hosting a satellite casino to compete with the planned MGM casino in Springfield.
Tribal officials have said they would like to open the new facility along the Interstate 91 corridor in north-central Connecticut. They've yet to provide a copy of the RFP to the state Department of Consumer Protection, which would post it publicly. Ultimately, the tribes hope to return to the Connecticut General Assembly with a proposal for a third casino.
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The tribes have pushed lawmakers to allow them to open at least one satellite casino to compete with out-of-state casinos and protect jobs at their existing Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casinos in southeastern Connecticut. They said they weren't surprised by MGM's lawsuit.
"MGM has made clear from the beginning that their entire project is based upon a single foundation: exporting Connecticut's revenues and jobs to Massachusetts," they said in a joint statement. "Our Tribes feel an obligation to stand alongside Connecticut's leaders and fight for our state."
Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, a chief proponent of Connecticut's legislation, said the lawsuit "smacks of desperation" on MGM's part and shows the firm has no business plan to compete with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
"We shouldn't be intimidated by MGM, and I'm certainly not going to let the thousands of employees who have good wages, good health benefits, retirement plans, get caught up in some sort of bullying tactic by a private company," he said.
Besides Malloy, MGM's complaint names Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris as defendants. MGM says the law is invalid because it violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
A spokesman for Attorney General George Jepsen said his office was reviewing the complaint and "will respond at the appropriate time in court."
Jepsen had raised concerns with an early version of the bill in April, warning a third party could claim that giving the tribes exclusive gambling rights beyond their reservation violates the Equal Protection Clause. He also said a third party could claim the earlier legislation violated the Commerce Clause because it granted rights to conduct gambling to protect in-state interests from interstate commerce.
Lawmakers retooled the bill, creating a two-step process that required the tribes to return to the legislature for final approval.
Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in Boston contributed to this report.