The idea to expand Connecticut‘s gambling market to allow the construction of a third casino was tossed about at a recent hearing, which became exceptionally heated as both sides of the debate tried to get their points across. Each side brought their own experts and consultants who packed the Legislative Office Building in the hope of convincing the committee that their opinions should be taken into account.
The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are pushing for the right to create a third casino in East Windsor that would act as a satellite of their two highly successful gaming locations in the state, namely the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. Proponents of gambling expansion in Connecticut argue that the tribes have deep roots in the state’s gaming industry, and committee members cannot overlook the fact that the tribes have generated over $7 billion from slot revenues into state coffers.
Opponents to the expansion of gambling were also heard by the committee, including the usual arguments such as the social costs that the state is expected to pay if another casino is built.
“These include increased debt, bankruptcies, embezzlement, divorce, domestic violence, drunk driving and addiction,” noted the Rev. Denise Terry, a resident of East Windsor.
Interestingly, a third voice was also heard – those who support the expansion of gambling but are opposed to tribal exclusivity of any expansion plan. This group, led by MGM, called for the right of other operators to present their proposals for the building of a new casino and then comparing these proposals to what the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are offering.
In 2015, MGM challenged the tribes’ plans to search for a location for a third casino, arguing in court that potential operators are being unfairly excluded from the process since the new casino will be located off tribal lands. The legal counsel for MGM addressed the committee and said that members should consider how the state could structure a competitive process which maximizes the gaming tax revenue for the state and the number of new jobs created.
Heated words were exchanged between MGM’s legal adviser, Uri Clinton and Senator Timothy D. Carson who is a staunch supporter of the tribes’ plans to build a new casino in East Windsor. Challenging Sen. Carson’s opinion, Clinton said: “The city of East Windsor could actually do much better. In a closed, no-bid process that is not open for competition, the deal they got is what they could get. In a competitive process, all the bids would be richer, the economic benefit to the state would be greater and the contribution to the state’s infrastructure would be greater.”
There is increased pressure on the committee to reach a decision this week, as March 16th is the deadline for the committee to send legislation to the full House and Senate for consideration.
The chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Rodney Butler, implored the committee not to delay its decision, saying that doing so would cost the state $70 million in slot revenue, and could affect the creation of employment in the casino industry.