CT casino bills move out of committee, onto House and Senate

Andrew Cummings
March 30, 2017

But members of the legislative Public Safety Committee agreed that it would be up to other leaders of the General Assembly to decide whether the state will OK a satellite casino to keep gambling jobs and disposable cash in CT as a $950 million casino destination nears completion in Springfield, Mass.

Rep. Linda Orange said Wednesday's pass-the-buck committee vote was the right thing to do because the matter is "a much bigger issue than the Public Safety Committee" and thus "the conversation needs to continue".

State lawmakers hedged their bets Wednesday on the future of gambling, approving separate casino bills.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal partnership - MMCT Venture - wants to build a casino at the site of the abandoned Showcase Cinema and Wal-Mart off Interstate 91 in East Windsor. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, respectively, say the third casino is necessary to compete with the MGM Resorts casino being built just across the border in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A House bill favored by Verrengia would create an open competitive process to seek requests for proposals to open casinos elsewhere in the state, a measure widely interpreted as testing the interest in establishing a major gambling resort in lower Fairfield County to tap into the New York City market.

Winning casino proposals would include: $300 million capital investments; protection for existing parimutuel betting facilities; a $250 million licensing fee; and deals to give the state 35 percent of slot machine revenue and 10 percent of gross sales of other games. "I think it's very important for us to realise that". "What we are promising is real - it's founded on an actual track record of partnership with both the state and every city and town in CT, one we hope to continue in good standing for generations to come". This comes after MGM sued CT, saying the state broke the law when it gave the tribes exclusive rights to another casino. The firm said the second bill also negates potential for constitutional challenges if the tribal bill was passed, a concern raised by Attorney General George Jepsen. And an open, transparent, competitive process removes the significant risks outlined by the Attorney General that are inherent in a no-bid, non-competitive award that could jeopardize revenue streams critical to state and municipal budgets.

Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM, said the opinion affirmed what the gaming company has argued from the start, saying, "Connecticut risks hundreds of millions in annual revenue if it proceeds with a commercial casino - even if that casino is to be operated jointly by the two federally-recognized tribes".

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