State admits error in accepting Schaghticoke tribe’s latest casino bid
Updated 3:25 pm, Wednesday, February 3, 2016
KENT — It was a short-lived celebration in the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s long quest to form a Connecticut casino.
The Kent tribe appeared this week to have finally taken a significant step toward establishing the state’s third casino, but the Secretary of State’s office admitted Wednesday the group’s application to form a “tribal business entity” was accepted in error.
Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill said the tribe met the requirements to form an LLC, but did not meet the criteria of a special act that would have allowed the group to pursue establishing a gambling facility.
“The Special Act created a unique situation that raised the bar for review,” Merrill said in a statement. “In this case, it looks like the application was received in error. In 99.99 percent of the cases, we have to receive and file an LLC application without regard to the stated purpose of the entity. Anyone can start a business and we believe it should be easy to do. It appears in this case that the application meets the standard to create an LLC, but not the requirements of the Special Act. We are looking into what additional action should be taken.”
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky released a celebratory statement Tuesday night after he believed the state accepted the tribe’s application for a limited liability corporation, which would be known as Confluence of Rivers Business Entity LLC, “to pursue the development of a commercial casino in Connecticut.”
“We view this as a significant economic development opportunity,” Velky said in the statement. “Our objective will be to maximize economic opportunity for the residents of Connecticut, and to maximize revenue gained by the state of Connecticut.”
Velky could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday after the state reversed its decision.
The General Assembly passed the special act last year that allowed a “tribal business entity” to pursue opening a third casino in Connecticut. However, the provision is limited to the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots, which are both federally recognized tribes.
Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams, whose town has fought federal recognition of either faction of the Schaghticoke tribe, said Wednesday his community remains opposed to a gaming facility.
“The town of Kent does not have any interest in such a possibility,” Adams said.
The Legislature approved the special act to allow for a third gaming facility in the state as an effort to protect jobs and revenue from a planned casino in Springfield, Mass. Sites in East Hartford, East Windsor, Hartford and Windsor Locks have been proposed by the Mashantucket Pequot or Mohegan tribes. The General Assembly would need to approve a proposed gaming hall.
The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation previously proposed building a casino in Bridgeport and the greater Danbury area or a bingo hall on its reservation in Kent.
For years, the tribe has been unsuccessful at winning federal recognition that could help lead to establishing a casino on its land in Kent.
The Schaghticokes had fought for years to overturn the 2005 federal decision to deny sovereignty to the tribe. In 2004, the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted sovereignty. But later that year, after state officials and members of Congress criticized the decision, the recognition was reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition in 2010 by the tribal nation for a review of the federal BIA denial.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s congressional delegation — led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal — have opposed new rules by the BIA that would have made it easier for tribes like the Schaghticokes and the Golden Hill Paugusetts to win federal recognition. Under new rules released last year, tribes previously denied recognition will not be able to reapply and cannot use centuries-old state recognition to qualify for federal recognition, which would allow them to operate casinos on tribal land.
“The Schaghticokes are not federally recognized and therefore do not have authority to pursue a casino under federal law,” Blumenthal said Wednesday in a statement. “Their reliance on Special Act 15-7 seems misplaced as that state legislative act limits the operation of the third casino to a business entity controlled by the two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut — the Mashantuckets and the Mohegans.”