Connecticut is nearing approval of a third casino to be operated by the state’s partnership of Native American tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal partnership (known as MMCT). The new casino would be located East Windsor, and would be the state’s first casino to be located outside of Native American reservations. Although the casino would not be located in a reservation, the bill would strengthen MMCT’s control of gambling operations in the state.
The House Speaker acknowledged to reporters that a deal was in the works to approve the bill, and that there was around a 70% chance that the bill would pass. The plan to build a third casino was prompted by the opening of a new casino by resort giant MGM in Springfield Massachusetts. Although MGM has offered to build a casino in Connecticut to mitigate the impact of the Springfield casino, the government is concerned about the revenue and job impacts of the MGM Springfield, which prompted the proposal for the new East Windsor Casino.
The Speaker said preserving jobs in the state is a top priority, and in order to do this, it would be necessary to be strategically protect revenue streams. The MMCT partnership presently generates $260 million annually for Connecticut, and according to MMCT, under their agreement with the state, that revenue would disappear should the state authorize a competing casino. MGM, on the other hand, has argued that revenue from a new Bridgeport Casino, would make up for the lost revenue.
MGM’s proposal was made at a recent legislative hearing, and two House members from Bridgeport, both Democrats, have introduced a competing bill, which would eliminate the East Windsor Casino and entertain bills to build a third casino in a location closer to the New York state line.
The Chief of the Schaghticoke Tribe, who MGM is backing to operate the possible Bridgeport Casino, has argued that a casino near New York makes far more sense. He believes that the new Springfield casino would mean dwindling revenues for the casinos located in the eastern portions of the state, and that the southwest region is the obvious choice of casino expansion.
In addition, MGM is arguing that the state might end up losing money through federal intervention if the Bureau of Indian Affairs tosses out the operating agreement with MMCT. The 25% share that the state receives is higher than rates found in similar agreements throughout the country, and a new casino could mean that the federal government will step in and void or alter the compact.