After being ratified by the Connecticut State Senate late last month, legislation that would allow the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to jointly open a commercial casino in northern Connecticut has now reportedly been passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives.
According to a report from the Hartford Courant newspaper, the Eastern state’s lower legislative body ratified the casino expansion measure by a vote of 103 to 46 on Tuesday with the legislation now due to be sent to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy for his signature.
The newspaper reported that the measure would allow MMCT Venture, which is a partnership between the casino-operating Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, to operate an off-reservation satellite gambling facility in the community of East Windsor although critics have pointed out that this arrangement could possibly jeopardize the state’s existing gaming compacts with the tribes.
The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is responsible for the Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut while the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation runs the nearby Foxwoods Resort Casino and their MMCT Venture enterprise has long promoted the East Windsor plan as a way 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.
Not surprisingly, MGM Resorts International has been one of the harshest critics of the MMCT Venture proposal and had called on the state to instead initiate a competitive process that would have allowed private operators to join with the two tribes in submitting potential bids for a third Connecticut casino. The Las Vegas-based giant has long expressed a desire to build a gambling venue in south-western Connecticut around Bridgeport, which is the state’s largest city and only about 50 miles from New York City.
The Hartford Courant reported that it is now widely anticipated that the legislation will be challenged in court with MGM Resorts International expected to be one of the first plaintiffs to make a claim.
“It’s hard to predict what their claims are going to be and then what the defenses are going to be but we acknowledge that someone is going to sue,” Matthew Ritter, the Democratic majority leader for the Connecticut House of Representatives, told the newspaper. “We don’t know who or for what reason but they will.”
Following the most recent vote, Uri Clinton, Senior Vice-President for MGM Resorts International, told the Hartford Courant that Connecticut had “missed an enormous opportunity” to institute “an open, transparent and competitive casino process [that] could have resulted in as much as $1 billion in economic development”. He declared that the competitive bidding process his firm had advocated would have additionally resulted in “the creation of thousands of jobs” and a licensing fee for the state “of up to $100 million”.
“What Connecticut got instead was far less than that,” Clinton told the newspaper. “We will continue to vigorously advocate in the courts as we seek to protect the constitutional rights of any company hoping to do business in Connecticut. And that ultimately is what our goal has always been; we’d like the chance to compete to do business in Connecticut.”
For their parts, the tribes reportedly explained that the 200,000 sq ft facility being planned for East Windsor will create more than 4,000 jobs in addition to 2,300 temporary construction positions and is to offer 2,000 slots as well as up to 150 gaming tables.
“There are families across the state breathing a sigh of relief tonight thanks to leaders in both chambers and from both parties,” read a statement from Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. “With this vote, we have all demonstrated a commitment to protecting the state of Connecticut and the good jobs of its residents.”