MGM Resorts International lost another round Wednesday in a court fight aimed at giving it leverage against Native American tribes in Connecticut as they compete for casino customers.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed that a Connecticut judge was right to dismiss MGM's lawsuit against the state.
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MGM Resorts claimed it was placed at a competitive disadvantage after Connecticut created a special registration pathway for the state's two federally recognized tribes to build casinos on non-tribal land.
The appeals court called MGM's fears speculative, noting that the developer of casinos and other commercial gambling enterprises has no specific plans to develop a casino in Connecticut. It also said it agreed with the lower court, which concluded that legislation that helps construction plans by tribes does not prevent other bidders from entering Connecticut's casino market.
In a statement, MGM Resorts legal counsel Uri Clinton said company officials remained "undeterred in our goal of having the opportunity to compete in Connecticut."
The 2nd Circuit said the dispute might be ripe for court review once the company can show that the harm it alleged was "sufficiently imminent." Until then, it said, any disadvantage MGM might suffer in future contract negotiations was "purely speculative."
Clinton said that moment may be near after the tribes that run Connecticut's two casinos won approval from state legislators this month to open a third casino. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he plans to sign the bill, clearing the way for the state's first casino on non-tribal land. MGM's lawsuit had sought to block that legislation, claiming it was unconstitutional.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which own the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in southeastern Connecticut, are planning to convert a former movie theater complex in East Windsor, Connecticut, into a $300 million casino. The casino would be near a $950 million MGM Resorts casino that's slated to open late next year in Springfield, Massachusetts.
MGM also has expressed interest in building another casino in southwestern Connecticut.
In a statement, officials for both tribes said they were pleased with the ruling and looked forward to developing an exciting new casino and contributing to the state's economy through jobs and tax revenues.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.