Pennsylvania has served as inspiration for other states looking to legalize their casino industries. Neighboring Connecticut has also been discussing potential ways to lay the ground work of its own iGaming industry. So far, four gambling bills have been introduced, each covering a separate aspect of the industry.
While Connecticut’s seem tight legally and on track to join Pennsylvania as a place where casinos are expanding quickly, new evidence has surfaced that former Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied as part of a federal investigation involving two of the tribes in Connecticut which currently offer casino products in the state.
Tribes have been working together across the United States to ensure that they preserve the status quo, particularly in large markets such as Florida and California. Pennsylvania has not had to argue with tribes, helping it speed up the passage of its own regulated iGaming industry.
Back to Connecticut though, one of the proposed bills would have allowed the Mohegans and the Pashantucket Pequots to work together and introduce a new casino property in East Windsor. To push ahead with the plans, both casinos needed to be vetted and issued an approval by the Department of the Interior, something which hasn’t happened in the case of the Pequot tribe. Many suspected foul play and legal action ensued.
The tribes have alleged that Mr. Zinke purposefully and under political influence blocked the tribes from pushing ahead with their joint casino project. Mr. Zinke denied that he knowingly misled investigators. He further added that while his answers might not have been what the authorities had expected, they were truthful nonetheless. Amid the investigation, the DOI finally agreed to acknowledge the tribal partnership in 2017, giving the tribes the go ahead to push with joint projects.
The Grand Jury to Decide Mr. Zinke’s Fate
Mr. Zinke can get in hot water with prosecutors who are even now submitting evidence to a Washington grand jury. The purpose of this process, however, is not to prove Mr. Zinke guilty, but to establish whether he lie – which many suspect he did.
Mohegan tribe Chief of Staff Chuck Bunnell said that a Grand Jury had been expected. More importantly, the ongoing investigation can make lawmakers wearier of getting readily behind any gambling bill moving forward.
Neighboring Pennsylvania has also been a case in point. Even though PA was supposed to launch its casinos in Q1, 2019, the launch has now been postponed back to mid-year as the newly-reversed Wire Act has made the legal context more complicated than lawmakers had originally hoped for.
Meanwhile, Mr. Zinke’s will await the Grand Jury’s decision.