NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – The American Indian tribe that owns Foxwoods Resort Casino has won a federal lawsuit against the town of Ledyard over property taxes levied on leased slot machines.
U.S. District Court Judge Warren Eginton ruled this week in favor of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in the 6-year-old lawsuit. He ruled the town’s interest in taxing the leased equipment fails to justify the economic burden on the tribe and cited the tribe’s self-determination and self-government.
The tribe argued the taxes, collected since 2003, violated federal law.
The town has argued that while the Pequots are a federally recognized tribe, and their property is tax-exempt, equipment owned by private companies on tribal land is taxable.
Taxes on non-Indian entities that can be passed onto the tribe have not been historically upheld, Eginton wrote.
The tribe said it was pleased the court agreed with the tribe’s position that the town lacked the authority under federal law to impose property taxes on the slot machines.
“The court’s decision definitively upholds the federal and tribal interests in tribal self-determination and self-government, and determines that these significant interests outweighed any interest the town or state has to impose a tax on reservation,” the tribe said in a statement.
The decision relates only to the town’s attempt to impose taxes on property within the tribe’s reservation and does not affect the tribe’s payment of taxes on property outside the reservation, the Pequots said. The tribe said it is the largest property taxpayer within Ledyard, paying about $1 million in real and personal property taxes for property located outside the reservation.
Benjamin Sharp, an attorney for the town, declined comment, saying he didn’t have a chance yet to review the ruling or discuss it with town officials.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)