As lawmakers in Connecticut continue to consider controversial legislation that would expand casino gambling, the mayor for the eastern state’s largest city, Bridgeport, is reportedly remaining circumspect on the matter.
Last week saw the Connecticut State Senate approve a measure that would allow a joint venture of the casino-operating Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to open a commercial gambling enterprise in the northern Connecticut community of East Windsor. However, the legislation is expected to face stiff opposition in the Connecticut House Of Representatives due to many lawmakers alternatively favoring the initiation of a competitive process that would allow private firms to join with the two tribes in submitting potential bids for the third Connecticut casino.
According to a report from the Connecticut Post newspaper, MGM Resorts International would be one of these firms as the Las Vegas-based casino giant has already expressed an interest in building a gambling venue in south-western Connecticut around Bridgeport, which lies only about 50 miles from New York City and its over 8.5 million residents.
“While we have not been allowed to have any negotiations, there is no doubt that Bridgeport would be an ideal location,” Uri Clinton, Senior Vice-President for MGM Resorts International, told the newspaper.
But, the Connecticut Post reported that, far from being excited about the prospect of hosting the state’s newest casino, Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim is remaining cautious despite being on the receiving end of intense lobbying from the commercial casino industry. He recently declared that the “city has been through that” and had spent “more than months, years; on something that wasn’t, that never developed”.
“Listen, I think the mayor’s experience 25 years ago, it’s a cautionary tale and it’s a cautionary experience for him,” Av Harris, a spokesperson for Ganim, told the newspaper. “He doesn’t want to get so far out on this thing only to see it blocked in the legislative process.”
The Connecticut Post reported that the early-1990s saw Donald Trump partner with Ganim during the Democratic mayor’s first stint as mayor of Bridgeport in order to push for a waterfront casino development in the city. The project ultimately failed due to opposition from rival gambling mogul Steve Wynn and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates the Foxwoods Resort Casino, along with resistance from then-governor Lowell Weicker.
Instead, the newspaper reported that the state entered into a compact with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which is responsible for the Mohegan Sun development, that saw the pair granted exclusive casino rights in return for agreeing to hand over 25% of all slot revenues.
“He’s avoided a meeting up until this point just because it hasn’t been real,” Harris told the Connecticut Post. “But as we get down to the wire in the session and certain bills start to emerge, he’s more willing to meet with people. It doesn’t mean he’s committing in any way to a particular casino.”
Although Harris reportedly told the Connecticut Post that Ganim is open to the possibility of a casino in Bridgeport, the newspaper alleged that the 57-year-old mayor could be remaining cautious in order to get a better deal for his constituents should the legislative process swing his way.
“Look, if something looks like a real possibility and casino is going to be built in Bridgeport, the mayor does not have a philosophical opposition to that,” Harris told the Connecticut Post. “In some way, maybe this fits. If this fits with that, we’re all for it but we are not about to jump in. It’s not ripe for the city of Bridgeport to jump in.”