CT Governor, Senate Pick Sides In East Windsor Casino Battle
[toc]The bill allowing for a third Connecticut casino in East Windsor is through the state Senate. Do not expect it to get through the House any time soon though.
The bill is also dealing with a new opponent. In addition to a pending lawsuit from MGM Resorts, Connecticut could face legal action form the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation as well.
This difficult situation just keeps getting more complicated. Here is the latest.
Senate approves East Windsor casino plan
Last week the Senate approved a bill for a third casino by a vote of 24-12. The measure allows for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to co-own and operate a third casino in East Windsor, CT.
The tribes specifically advocated for that site in order to compete with the forthcoming MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. That property is just 23 miles from East Windsor. It is also expected to make a significant dent in the profits of existing CT casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort and Casino.
The next step for the bill is the House, but lawmakers there are already making it clear the bill has problems.
“It’s a very complicated issue in and of itself and the political piece is all over the place because you have competing interests and you’re talking about a lot of money,” said West Hartford Rep. Joe Verrengia.
MGM and new tribe fighting the CT casino in court
The bill simply grants the two tribes the right to a casino without any formal bidding process from outside parties. Therein lies the problem.
MGM already filed suit against the state for unfairly excluding businesses from bidding on a casino. The Connecticut Attorney General went on the record earlier this year that the state put itself at risk for legal action moving forward on the East Windsor plan.
Now, another tribe is threatening to take the state to court. The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Kent, CT spoke to the press after the bill passed. The Schaghticoke wants to open a casino in the state as well, but has not been able to as of yet. Representatives said the tribe would have no choice but to sue if a third casino went to tribes with existing casino interests without any competitive bidding.
Chief Richard Velky of the Schaghticoke explains:
“A closed casino expansion process ties Connecticut to an unreliable funding source that under the best scenario would likely continue to sink like a stone. If the citizens of Connecticut want a better deal and a proposal where the numbers add up, the open, competitive process is not only the right thing to do – it turns out to be the most financially responsible thing to do as well.”
CT Governor supports Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan
The CT House has several influences encouraging the group to pass on the bill. There is the Schaghticoke Tribe, MGM Resorts, and the threat of pricey legal action.
There is also a group of lawmakers who are averse to expanding state gambling with more casinos. Several local representatives are also trying to protect off-track gaming ventures, which would have trouble competing with another casino.
One lawmaker who is fine with a third major casino? Governor Dannel P. Malloy. Malloy’s office openly came out in support of the East Windsor project after the Senate vote.
“The legislature should remain focused on maintaining the state’s longstanding partnership with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations and protecting jobs,” a spokesperson said.
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