Connecticut Casino Controversy Revisited Amid Zinke’s Congressional Run

Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke may be 1,000 miles away from Las Vegas, running to rejoin the House.

However, that Montana political race may not feel far enough away from the MGM Resorts International headquarters. A report has just come out saying Zinke lied to federal investigators about his involvement with retail casino lobbyists regarding a proposed third tribal casino in Connecticut.

Although the report doesn’t mention MGM by name, it’s widely understood that it is the casino company in question.

The site Connecticut had in mind was 13 miles south of the $960 million MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. MGM and the Connecticut tribes have had multiple legal battles as a result.

In the end, the proposed casino was never built.

Zinke’s meetings with lobbyists may be the reason that never happened, according to the report. It was released last week by the US Department of the Interior’s (DoI) Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG alleges that while Zinke was DoI secretary, he met with lobbyists who wanted him to reject recommendations from federal experts. The OIG claims DOI adhered to the casino company’s desires by “returning” the tribes’ requests regarding the proposed casino in September 2017 without action.

Brian Ahern, MGM’s executive communications director, declined to provide “any comment” yesterday for this Bonus.com story.

Third Retail Casino Could Have Complicated CT Online Gambling

If the proposed retail casino had materialized, it would have been jointly owned by Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes. They operate the state’s current land-based casinos.

As it is, Mohegan Sun Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino are competitors, both retail and online.

Connecticut online gambling and sports betting debuted on Oct. 19, 2021.

Although the Connecticut Lottery Corporation was granted the right to conduct sports betting, only Mohegan Sun Casino and DraftKings Casino (in partnership with Foxwoods) can offer online casino games.

Would a third retail casino have meant a third online brand? It’s hard to know. However, there would have been some discussion about which tribe’s partner would operate the retail sportsbook at the casino. Perhaps the solution would have been to allow a third, jointly-partnered brand.

Another sore point for MGM is that its online gambling joint venture, BetMGM Casino, doesn’t have access to the state. BetMGM, which is half owned by Isle of Man-based Entain, is the leading US online casino operator.

Zinke Is Far Removed From the Process Now

With more than 2,000 miles between Zinke and Connecticut, the former DoI secretary’s likely not in tribal leaders’ daily thoughts.

They’re probably in his, though.

The 44-page OIG report about Zinke, MGM, and the proposed third tribal casino in Connecticut was released on Aug. 24, 2022. It states:

Zinke cited [US Department of Justice] DOJ guidelines and contended that we should postpone release of this report until after the conclusion of the November 2022 election in which he is seeking public office. … We believe that doing so would itself be inappropriate as well as inconsistent with DOJ guidance and our ordinary processes.

On Nov. 8, the Republican hopes to rejoin the House and serve in Montana’s 1st Congressional District.

Meanwhile, he’s still answering for his March 2017 to December 2018 term as DoI secretary.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) tallies 18 federal investigations resulting from Zinke’s “behavior” during his tenure.

CREW ranks the one involving MGM as No. 1.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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