A third casino coming to Connecticut is not a guarantee, but the stronghold the two tribes had on a spot in East Windsor is facing stiff competition.
On Monday, lawmakers listened to the push for a private casino.
The competition is between the tribes and MGM Resorts, with the battleground being various points in Connecticut. MGM is jockeying for a third casino to be further south of their Springfield property, which is currently under construction. The joint venture between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes want it in East Windsor, closer to Springfield to keep local money from crossing the border.
Monday’s hearing featured representatives from both sides of the competition. While both bills are still under consideration, it delays progress of the joint tribal venture in East Windsor. Also by hearing the bill, the Connecticut General Assembly Finance Committee is entertaining the idea that the third casino won't be in East Windsor and may not have anything to do with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes at all.
“If they think that their proposal in East Windsor is so great, fine,” Uri Clinton with MGM Resorts said. “Put it against everyone else's proposal.”
Right now, tribal casinos give 25 percent of their slot revenue back to the state. The tribes said that totals roughly $267 million a year. Under the private casino proposal, the return would be 35 percent from all games.
“Every modern casino tax rate set in this part of the country is about 25-27% or higher,” Clinton said.
While MGM representatives are promising more, the tribes argue that opening the door to a private company to reap that 35 percent could actually cost the state millions of dollars. Tribe representatives say under a federal compact agreed upon back in the 90s, if the state grants a private casino, that compact could be re-negotiated with the state.
It could result in Connecticut possibly getting less than the guaranteed 25 percent it currently does. The tribes suggest it could even be zero.
“The state, if it does nothing, will lose at least $94 million in payments from the two existing casinos,” Dr. Clyde Barrow, who is a gaming expert, said. “If it builds one in East Windsor, it stands to recapture 78 million of that revenue.”
The private casino push also faced some criticism from local senators.
Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield) said a possible location for a private casino, is opposed to a third one anywhere in the state, much less in his districts.
“What you have right now is chasing after declining dollars and a business model that is unsustainable,” Hwang said.
Senators Bob Duff, Tim Larson and Cathy Osten also released a joint statement urging fellow lawmaker to reject the bill. Their full statement can be found here.
No vote was taken on Monday and because things are getting so messy, one might not be taken during this session at all.
If that happens, it could be considered a loss for the tribes, but a win for MGM, because it fends off competition for Springfield for little longer.
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