Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



March 19, 2019

Sen. Osten’s East Windsor Casino Bill Approved By Public Safety Committee

HARTFORD – State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) today hailed the Public Safety Committee passage of her bipartisan bill that removes the federal Department of the Interior’s role in approving minor changes to the existing Tribal-State Compact between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes and the State of Connecticut – changes that are needed in order for the tribes to operate a new casino in East Windsor.

Senate Bill 11 passed the Public Safety Committee today on a bipartisan 19-5 vote and now heads to the Senate floor for further consideration.

The legislation was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in order to secure quicker approval of the agreement between the state and the tribes to jointly operate the new East Windsor casino, which is being built to compete with the new MGM-owned casino in Springfield, Mass.

Legislators believe the federal government’s foot-dragging in approving a minor amendment to the Tribal-State Compact is negatively impeding business development, job retention and economic growth in Connecticut.

“I think legislators on the committee were persuaded that the federal review process of the East Windsor application was at the very least unfair, and perhaps even criminal, considering that the Justice Department is now reportedly investigating Ryan Zinke, the former Interior Department secretary who was in charge of reviewing that application,” said Sen. Osten, who is vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee. “It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that something was terribly amiss with that process. That investigation gave our bill a boost of relevance. Now it’s up to the full General Assembly to push it over the finish line so we can get to work on a new building and more jobs.”

The terms of original 1994 Tribal-State Compact were effective only “upon publication of notice of approval of this Compact by the Secretary of the Interior of the United States in the Federal Register,” according to federal law. That occurred.

But that 1994 Tribal-State Compact also stated that “the terms and conditions of this Compact shall not be modified, amended or otherwise altered except by written agreement of both parties” and with the afore-mentioned approval by the Interior Department.

In September 2017, U.S. Interior Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Michael S. Black wrote the tribes and Governor Malloy to say that Interior Department action on the amended Tribal-State Compact to operate the East Windsor casino “is unnecessary at this time” because “the tribes have entered an agreement with the state whereby they have agreed that the exclusivity provisions” of the original 1994 Tribal-State Compact “will not be breached by this arrangement.”

Then, in May, the Interior Department approved changes to the state’s compact with the Mohegans. But the Interior Department has not yet approved the changes to the Pequots’ compact: approval of both changes is necessary to begin operation of the East Windsor casino.

Since then, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned in disgrace amid multiple investigations into wrongdoing, including a recent news report that Zinke is facing a new federal inquiry into his involvement in reviewing the proposed East Windsor casino.