- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The leaders of Connecticut’s two federally recognized Indian tribes haven’t chosen a site yet for a new, jointly run casino near the Massachusetts border, but are nearing “more intensive negotiations” with some communities, they said Monday.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes had originally said they would return to the General Assembly this session with a proposal for their third casino. But Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said the tribes’ are “taking the time necessary to make the right decisions.”

“We don’t yet have a site picked, but we are getting to the point where more intensive negotiations with the remaining sites should begin,” Brown said. Entities in East Hartford, East Windsor, Windsor Locks and Hartford submitted proposals.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, said given the site selection work that’s still needed, the tribes plan to work with state leaders during this year’s short legislative session, which runs until May 4, to address various concerns with the project, such as how a third casino might impact an existing revenue-sharing agreement between the state and tribes.

Each tribe owns an existing casino in southeastern Connecticut and provides a portion of slot machine revenues.

Legislation passed last year required the tribes to return to the General Assembly and seek approval from state lawmakers for a particular site. The Mashantuckets and Mohegans want to build a third casino to help blunt competition from a planned MGM Resorts International casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chairman of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said he has met with lobbyists representing both tribes and it’s unclear whether there will be a vote this session on any legislation related to the proposed casino. Dargan said his committee has a bill available just in case.

“They’re moving ahead with their business plan. I’m not sure if the more comprehensive bill will be done this year,” he said. “There are a lot of parts that need to be resolved.”

Dargan said the tribes have had discussions with Attorney General George Jepsen’s office. Jepsen voiced concerns last year about an earlier version of a bill he warned could lead to possible legal challenges and “potentially serious ramifications” for the revenue-sharing agreement between the state and tribes.

Robert Blanchard, a spokesman for Jepsen’s office, said any changes to existing agreements would need to be executed by the governor and approved by the legislature.

“Our office’s role in any such efforts would be limited to providing legal advice to the governor or legislature,” he said.

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