MASHANTUCKET, Conn. (AP) – The owners of the Foxwoods Resort Casino and a New Jersey slot machine distributor are suing the town of Ledyard over property taxes levied on leased machines.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Atlantic City Coin and Slot Service Co., of Pleasantville, N.J. say the taxes, collected since 2003, violate federal law.

The lawsuit alleges that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act “completely pre-empts state or municipal attempts to regulate, tax or otherwise control Indian gaming, except as set forth in IGRA’s express provisions.” It also alleges that the town’s taxing practices are interfering with the tribe’s “self-determination and sovereignty.”

Town Tax Assessor Paul Hopkins said that while the Pequots are a federally recognized tribe, and their property is tax-exempt, the same rules don’t apply to leased property.

Hopkins said the town has the right to tax Atlantic City Coin’s 500 machines because the company is independently owned.

This is the first year the tribe has challenged assessment of Atlantic City Coin’s slot machines, which were valued at $430,701 in the 2005 grand list. The resulting property tax is $10,758.90.

In February, the tribe appealed the assessment with the town’s Board of Assessment Appeals but was denied.

Hopkins said the town has been sued before on a similar property-tax challenge. A 2004 lawsuit disputed taxes on leased motor vehicles. A settlement, reached in March, allowed the town to keep the taxes collected up to that point but dictated that in the future it would only tax vehicles used for gaming operations that ran outside the reservation, Hopkins said.

Tribal spokesman Bruce MacDonald declined to comment on the matter.

“We’ll let the matter play out in court and just not say anything at this point,” he said.



Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com

AP-ES-08-12-06 1438EDT



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