Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, Civil Action No.: 17-2564 (RC)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge
Citation344 F.Supp.3d 279
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 17-2564 (RC)
Decision Date29 September 2018
Parties State of CONNECTICUT and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR and Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, Defendant.

344 F.Supp.3d 279

State of CONNECTICUT and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR and Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, Defendant.

Civil Action No.: 17-2564 (RC)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed September 29, 2018


344 F.Supp.3d 288

Mark Francis Kohler, Robert William Clark, Joseph J. Chambers, Michael K. Skold, State of Connecticut Office of the Attorney General, Special Litigation Department, Hartford, CT, Robert Lee Gips, Kaighn Smith, Jr., Drummond Woodsum MacMahon, Portland, ME, Catherine F. Munson, Keith M. Harper, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Devon Lehman McCune, U.S. Department of Justice, Denver, CO, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

GRANTING MGM'S MOTION TO INTERVENE; GRANTING FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

The approval and regulation of gambling (or "gaming") on Native American ("tribal") land requires a careful balancing of tribal, state, and federal law, and this action implicates that balance. Plaintiffs the state of Connecticut (the "state") and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe ("Pequot") seek to amend the federally-imposed procedures authorizing gambling on Pequot land within Connecticut under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (the "IGRA"). This amendment is necessary for Pequot to operate a commercial casino on Connecticut land. The procedures require that Plaintiffs obtain the Secretary of the Interior's (the "Secretary") approval to amend them; approval the Secretary has withheld. Plaintiffs assert that the IGRA requires that the Secretary and the United States Department of the Interior (the "Department") (together, "Federal Defendants") deem the amendments approved, and they ask this Court to require the Secretary to publish a notice of approval in the Federal Register.

MGM Resorts Global Development, LLC ("MGM"), a multinational commercial casino operator, claims to have an interest in this action because the Secretary's approval of Plaintiffs' proposed amendments would give Pequot a competitive advantage over MGM in the market for commercial gambling in Connecticut and the surrounding states. First, MGM asserts that both it and Pequot have proposed the development of a casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the state's approval of one proposal over the other largely hinges on the Secretary's decision at issue in this action. Second, MGM asserts that the Secretary's approval of Plaintiffs' proposed amendments would clear the final hurdle preventing the development of a casino in East Windsor, Connecticut that would directly compete with MGM's casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. Accordingly, MGM seeks to intervene as a defendant.

Now before the Court are Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss the action,

344 F.Supp.3d 289

MGM's motion to intervene as a defendant, and several related motions. For the reasons stated below, the Court will allow MGM to intervene as a defendant and it will dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

The IGRA governs Class III casino gaming—blackjack, roulette, and other table games—on tribal land. 25 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq. ; 25 C.F.R. § 502.4 ; Amador Cty., Cal. v. Salazar , 640 F.3d 373, 376 (D.C. Cir. 2011). It mandates that a tribe must obtain authorization from a state before conducting Class III gaming on land within that state's borders. 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(1)(C). Typically, such authorization is secured through a negotiated agreement between the tribe and the state, a "tribal-state compact." 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(3)(A). However, the IGRA authorizes the Secretary to prescribe "procedures" ("secretarial procedures" or "procedures") authorizing a tribe to conduct Class III gaming if the tribe and the state cannot reach an agreement. See 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(7)(B)(vii).1 The two forms of authorization—tribal-state compacts and secretarial procedures—are governed by separate subsections of the IGRA as follows.

1. Tribal-State Compact

Section 2710(d)(8) governs the approval of tribal-state compacts, and 25 C.F.R. § 293.1 et seq. implement that section. Section 2710(d)(8)(A) authorizes the Secretary to approve compacts, and 25 C.F.R. § 293.3 further authorizes the Secretary to approve amendments to those compacts. The Secretary must either approve or disapprove a tribal-state compact and its amendments within 45 days of receipt. 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(A)–(C) ; 25 C.F.R. §§ 293.4(b), 293.12. The Secretary may disapprove a compact or compact amendment for one of three reasons: (1) it violates the IGRA, (2) it violates any other provision of Federal law that does not relate to jurisdiction over gaming on tribal land, or (3) it violates the United States' trust obligations to Native Americans. 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(B) ; 25 C.F.R. § 293.14. Importantly for this action, if the Secretary fails to explicitly approve or disapprove a tribal-state compact or amendment "described in subparagraph [2710(d)(8)(A) ]" within 45 days, the compact or amendment "shall be considered to have been approved by the Secretary ...." 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(C) ; 25 C.F.R. § 293.12.

A tribal-state compact or compact amendment that has been approved by the Secretary or deemed approved by operation of law takes effect when notice of its approval is published in the Federal Register. 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(3)(B) ; 25 C.F.R. § 293.15(a). And the Secretary "shall publish ... notice of" the approval within 90 days from the date the compact or amendment was received by the Office of Indian Gaming.2 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(8)(D) ;

344 F.Supp.3d 290

25 C.F.R. § 293.15. In other words, the Secretary may only disapprove a tribal-state compact or compact amendment within 45 days of its receipt, only for one of three specific reasons, and if the Secretary fails to disapprove the compact or compact amendment its approval must be promptly published in the Federal Register.

2. Secretarial Procedures

Section 2710(d)(7) governs the imposition of secretarial procedures for tribal gaming, when a tribe and a state cannot reach good faith agreement on a tribal-state compact. In the absence of an agreement, the tribe must first sue the state in federal court under 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(7)(A)(i). If the court concludes that the state failed to negotiate a compact in good faith, it shall order the parties to return to the negotiating table and produce a compact within 60 days. Id. § 2710(d)(7)(B)(iii). If the tribe and the state cannot reach agreement in 60 days, they "shall each submit to a mediator appointed by the court a proposed compact that represents their last best offer for a compact." Id. § 2710(d)(7)(B)(iv).

When the tribe and the state are sent to mediation, the mediator must "select from the two proposed compacts the one which best comports with the terms of [the IGRA] and any other applicable Federal law and with the findings and order of the court," and submit the selected compact to the state and the tribe. Id. §§ 2710(d)(7)(B)(iv), (v). If the state agrees to the selected proposed compact, the proposal will be treated as a tribal-state compact under §§ 2710(d)(3) and 2710(d)(8). Id. § 2710(d)(7)(B)(vi). But if the state does not agree, the mediator must notify "the Secretary and the Secretary shall prescribe, in consultation with the Indian tribe, procedures" for Class III gaming activities "which are consistent with the proposed compact selected by the mediator ... the provisions of [the IGRA], and the relevant provisions of the laws of the State." Id. § 2710(d)(7)(B)(vii). In summary, the remedial provisions of § 2710(d)(7) are designed to facilitate a tribal-state compact—at each step of the process the tribe and the state are given a new opportunity to negotiate—while authorizing the Secretary to impose gaming on a reluctant state if all else fails. The Department has not promulgated regulations implementing § 2710(d)(7), apart from regulations governing specific circumstances not present here.3

B. Procedural History

This case originally involved two tribes, Pequot and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut ("Mohegan") (together, the "Tribes"), which both operate casinos in Connecticut. Pequot has operated under secretarial procedures since 1991 (the "Pequot Procedures"), having failed to agree on a tribal-state compact with the state. Compl. ¶ 25, ECF No. 1; see also Mashantucket Pequot Tribe , 913 F.2d at 1032–33 ; 56 Fed. Reg. 24,996 (May 31, 1991). Mohegan, on the other hand, has operated under a tribal-state compact since 1994 (the "Mohegan Compact").

344 F.Supp.3d 291

Compl. ¶ 24; 59 Fed. Reg. 65,130 (Dec. 16, 1994).4

Importantly, the Memoranda of Understanding implementing the Pequot Procedures and the Mohegan Compact mandate that the state receive up to thirty percent of the Tribes' gross operating...

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12 practice notes
  • State v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, Civil Action No.: 17-2564 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 15, 2019
    ...secretarial procedures and procedures amendments—including amendments to the Pequot Procedures. Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of Interior , 344 F.Supp.3d 279, 318–19 (D.D.C. 2018). The Court dismissed the initial complaint on those grounds. Id. at 319–20.Undeterred, the remaining Plaintiffs—the......
  • Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Bernhardt, Case No. 1:18-cv-02035 (TNM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 5, 2020
    ...any. But other judges in this District have done so, citing Ninth Circuit case law. See Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior , 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 314 (D.D.C. 2018).In any event, this exception to the Indian canon does not apply here. All but one of the cases the Department and Interv......
  • E. Band of Cherokee Indians v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, Civil Action No. 20-757 (JEB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 16, 2021
    ...Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Bernhardt, 442 F. Supp. 3d 53, 80 (D.D.C. 2020) (citing Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 314 (D.D.C. 2018) (applying the exception)); see also Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cmty. of Oregon v. Jewell, 75 F. Supp. 3d 387, ......
  • Richardson v. Trump, Civ. Action No. 20-2262 (EGS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 8, 2020
    ...Glass Decl., ECF No. 55-2 ¶ 3.11 The Court takes judicial notice of the Senate report. See Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior , 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 313 n.30 (D.D.C. 2018) (RC).12 The Court takes judicial notice of the USPS press release because it is a federal agency document availa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • State v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, Civil Action No.: 17-2564 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 15, 2019
    ...secretarial procedures and procedures amendments—including amendments to the Pequot Procedures. Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of Interior , 344 F.Supp.3d 279, 318–19 (D.D.C. 2018). The Court dismissed the initial complaint on those grounds. Id. at 319–20.Undeterred, the remaining Plaintiffs—the......
  • Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Bernhardt, Case No. 1:18-cv-02035 (TNM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 5, 2020
    ...any. But other judges in this District have done so, citing Ninth Circuit case law. See Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior , 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 314 (D.D.C. 2018).In any event, this exception to the Indian canon does not apply here. All but one of the cases the Department and Interv......
  • E. Band of Cherokee Indians v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, Civil Action No. 20-757 (JEB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 16, 2021
    ...Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Bernhardt, 442 F. Supp. 3d 53, 80 (D.D.C. 2020) (citing Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 314 (D.D.C. 2018) (applying the exception)); see also Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cmty. of Oregon v. Jewell, 75 F. Supp. 3d 387, ......
  • Richardson v. Trump, Civ. Action No. 20-2262 (EGS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 8, 2020
    ...Glass Decl., ECF No. 55-2 ¶ 3.11 The Court takes judicial notice of the Senate report. See Connecticut v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior , 344 F. Supp. 3d 279, 313 n.30 (D.D.C. 2018) (RC).12 The Court takes judicial notice of the USPS press release because it is a federal agency document availa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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