CT General Assembly Considers Third Casino Expansion Bill

by Kyle Miller

ConnecticutThe gaming fight in Connecticut continues as a third casino expansion bill is reviewed this week.

In the current legislative session, the General Assembly of Connecticut has reviewed a third gambling expansion bill. Support for an expansion is uncertain, so the General Assembly was looking into the potential revenues from expansion so possibly legislators will be on board to add more gaming to the state.

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee Co-Chairman and State Senator John W. Fonfara stated late last week that the bill will create the opportunity for more operators to provide gambling services in the state, on top of the satellite casino in the works for East Windsor by the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods partnership.

The Mohegan’s and the Mashantucket Pequots have been working together for quite some time to create a casino in East Windsor in the hopes of keeping gaming revenues in the state. MGM Resorts is currently working on a $950 million casino in Springfield, Massachusetts which would take away gambling dollars from the state.

According to Fonfara, legislators are unsure as to if the gambling expansion is the most effective way to protect the state and advance interests. The committee will be taking a closer look at what other states in the US are requiring of operators, especially Massachusetts.

About a month ago, Fonfara had stated that the finance committee would be considering an expansion bill for casino gaming in an effort to bring revenue to the state. That bill has now been drafted and was considered on Monday. The bill was discussed yesterday and if passed, would allow a third casino development for the state, opening the operation up this time to commercial developers.

Details of the Bill

The proposed bill requires any developer to invest a minimum of $500,000 and a licensing fee of $50 million must be paid to the state. This amount is non-refundable. This is also quite a high fee when considering what other states have set.

If the bill is able to gain support, it would mean that a commercial casino would come to the state, if the bill is passed. Currently the East Windsor casino is in the works by the Mohegan tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot, who are in opposition to the commercial casino plans. They feel that if commercial developers were allowed to create a third venue in the state, then as much as $86 million would be lost each year.

A Third Tribe in the Mix

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation is a third tribe that has tried to open a casino in the state since 2000 but has been unable to do so. This tribe feels that a commercial plan is exactly what is needed in order to see the state get a better deal.

Chief of the Tribe, Richard Velky, stated that studies have shown that from Southwestern Connecticut, the area has five times the value than the East Windsor area. The Chief asked the question if the gaming venue was being allowed in the East Windsor area due to an individual group (meaning the Mohegans and the Pequots) or will a gaming venue be created that will benefit the state and the citizens.

While MGM is busy in Massachusetts, the company is also interested in Connecticut. According to MGM Resorts International’s Uri Clinton, the company confirms their interest in building a casino in the Southwestern region of the state. MGM feels that they would have access to the New York market with a casino in this area, and the way to get this done is with the current bill on the table.