Connecticut lawmakers approved on Friday a revised bill that could pave the way for the construction of the state’s fourth casino. The piece of legislation nearly died in the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee, but last-ditch efforts from lawmakers supporting the idea helped it survive a Friday vote.
The bill was referred to the full floor of Connecticut’s lower legislative chamber after Friday’s 21-3 vote in favor.
If approved in the Legislature, the bill would allow for the opening of a new bidding process for operators interested in building a casino in Connecticut. The original version of the bill called for canceling a previously approved plan for the construction of a casino in the town of East Windsor. However, the latest version of the bill allows for the East Windsor project to be carried out.
Last year, the Connecticut Legislature passed a bill that authorized the state’s two federally recognized tribes – the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe – to jointly build and operate a commercial casino in East Windsor. The new gambling venue would aim to blunt competition from MGM Springfield, the $960-million integrated resort currently under development in neighboring Massachusetts, to keep casino patrons and casino revenue within the state, and to protect existing casino jobs.
The two tribes currently operate Connecticut’s two casinos, both of which are built on reservation land. According to a research commissioned by the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, the opening of MGM Springfield in 2018 could result in the two casinos losing customers and revenue to the new gambling venue and could force the two tribes to lay off up to 9,000 employees.
The East Windsor casino still awaits federal approval, but the tribes last month began work on the project by demolishing the old Showcase Cinemas building in East Windsor to prepare the site where their 200,000-square-foot casino is planned to be constructed.
Who’s Behind the Proposal for a Fourth Casino?
Last year’s approval of the East Windsor casino drew criticism from Las Vegas casino giant MGM Resorts International. The company is currently developing the Springfield casino, but has also long sought to penetrate Connecticut’s casino market.
MGM has proposed a $675-million casino resort for the Bridgeport waterfront that could create more than 7,000 jobs. The company has been calling for a new and fair bidding process, arguing that by selecting the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe as the preferred developers of the state’s first commercial casino in 2015, Connecticut lawmakers deprived other interested parties of the chance to participate in a fair competition.
MGM’s Bridgeport casino plan has been supported heavily by city officials, including Mayor Joe Ganim. Earlier this week, Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepsen also spoke in favor of the proposal and the bill supporting it, saying that its approval would not breach the state’s existing agreements with its two federally recognized tribes.