The prospects of proposed legislation that could see Connecticut open a third casino could reportedly be helped by the possibility that the eastern state’s $5 billion budget deficit is set to grow due to plummeting income tax revenues.
According to a report from the local Hartford Courant newspaper, Connecticut legislators are currently considering two competing measures that would expand casino gambling away from Native American reservations for the first time. The first would allow MMCT Venture, which is a joint venture of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, to open a satellite casino in the community of East Windsor in order to dilute the impact expected after the late-2019 opening of the $950 million MGM Springfield development being built by MGM Resorts International in neighboring Massachusetts.
The newspaper reported that the second piece of legislation would initiate a competitive process and allow private operators to join with the state’s tribes in submitting potential bids for a third Connecticut casino. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International has long pushed this option and wants to build a gambling venue in south-western Connecticut around Bridgeport, which is the state’s largest city and lies only about 50 miles from New York City and its over 8.5 million residents.
“I think casinos are on the table,” Joe Aresimowicz, Speaker for the Connecticut House Of Representatives, told the Hartford Courant. “I really think it will work its way out through the budget process. I think the casino itself will be part of the budget solution. I won’t take it off the table.”
Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy is known to be a fan of the first option despite concerns that granting MMCT Venture permission to open a casino away from aboriginal lands could jeopardize the state’s existing gambling compact with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which is this year set to account for tax revenues of around $267 million.
“MGM [Resorts International] is in the building because they know they got a great deal in Massachusetts, so that they can compete for Connecticut dollars,” Malloy told the newspaper. “They know it and they don’t want that to happen [in East Windsor]. That is why they are in the building. Let’s not argue that they are the defenders of commerce. They are not. They want their exclusive piece of the pie based on the casino in Springfield.”
Conversely, Uri Clinton, Senior Vice-President for MGM Resorts International reportedly revealed that other American casino operators including Caesars Entertainment Corporation and Pinnacle Entertainment Incorporated had been in Hartford lobbying for the legislation that would initiate a competitive bidding process.
“That shows there is a competitive marketplace,” Clinton told the Hartford Courant.