Betting on Litigation: MGM Sues Conn.; Boston Dispute Grows as Judge Rebukes Mayor Walsh

The proliferation of resort casino projects in New England has been more than matched by lawsuits over them. The latest: MGM, the developer of the Springfield, Mass. casino, is suing Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy and just about everyone else in the state. MGM contends the casino expansion measure the CT General Assembly passed in the 2015 session is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the dispute between Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Steve Wynn, the holder of the Greater Boston casino license, is getting worse—if that’s possible.

In June, MGM Resorts International chief Bill Hornbuckle promised to not sit by while Connecticut planned a preemptive casino strike by setting up a process by which the two Indian tribes that operate the two existing Connecticut casinos could open a third, likely in the I-91 corridor to Springfield.

Hornbuckle followed through Tuesday by filing a federal lawsuit. The suit claims the Connecticut law is unconstitutional because it allows only the tribes to bid for the third project. MGM tried and failed to get in on the Connecticut action.

“We are disappointed by this decision. MGM regularly competes for commercial casino development opportunities and would like to be able to do so in Connecticut,” Hornbuckle told MassLive. “While our company is supportive of tribal gaming…the law passed in Connecticut gives two preferred tribes an unfair and unjustified preferential treatment by designating them as the only entities, tribal or commercial, authorized to negotiate with cities and enter development agreements for a new commercial casino on non-reservation land in Connecticut.”

The MGM lawsuit notes that the two existing Connecticut casinos are on tribal land. The third would be on state land. Giving the tribes a virtual monopoly on proposing the third casino may be unconstitutional.

In Boston, Mayor Walsh and Wynn are at it again. Walsh said in a radio interview that Wynn had offered “hundreds of millions” of dollars to Boston if Walsh would drop the city’s lawsuit against the state Gaming Commission. Boston is disputing the awarding of the one Greater Boston casino license to Wynn for his project in neighboring Everett. Wynn says he never made such as offer. He did, however, pledge to help mitigate anticipated traffic problems by helping pay for improvements to the MBTA’s Orange rail line.

The Federal judge in the Boston v. Gaming Commission lawsuit slapped around the city pretty well, saying it wasn’t following the court-set rules.

Much more to come.