Interior agency delayed tribal casino approval after competitor’s lobbying: report
A pair of American Indian tribes are accusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and an agency in his department of slow-walking approval for a casino they want to build, Politico reported.
The Interior Department decided to exceed the 45-day limit after officials spoke with MGM Resorts International, a casino giant that opposes the Connecticut casino and is developing a competing project in nearby Massachusetts.
Documents obtained by Politico show that Interior officials had numerous calls and meetings with MGM and Republican lawmakers who support its position, but there is no evidence that the casino issue came up.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes sued Zinke and Interior in federal court over the delay.
“It’s 100 percent about delaying us for as long as they possibly can,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for the joint venture the tribes formed, told Politico.
Interior, as the department responsible for the federal government’s relations with tribes, is obligated to review changes to state gambling agreements with tribes.
But in the case, Associate Deputy Interior Secretary James Cason said such a decision would be “premature” and his department had “insufficient information” to make it, Politico reported.
Interior did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment, nor did representatives of Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller or Rep. Mark Amodei, both Republicans.