Employees of two casino-owning tribes went to the state capitol on Wednesday to make one final push to keep jobs in Connecticut by opening another casino in the state.
The workers for the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes argued that a new MGM-owned casino in neighboring Springfield, MA will bring added competition that will put their jobs at risk. They said more than 9,000 jobs will be threatened when the new casino opens for business.
Lawmakers will be debating a number of casino bills, including one that would open a new casino at an old Showcase Cinemas location in East Windsor, a venue that could compete with the Springfield facility. It would be a joint venture between both tribes.
"The proposal we've made and Bill 957 is the right way to go and East Windsor is the right place to be," Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin Brown said.
Last week, voters in East Windsor rejected a proposed referendum that would have asked to regulate how that proposed casino operated.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes support the East Windsor proposal. They said it will bring more jobs and added revenue to the state.
"There is no other bill in the state of Connecticut that gives jobs and revenue that we are preserving with this bill," Rodney Butler with Mashantucket Pequots said.
Right now, they said they guarantee the state 25 percent of their slot machine revenue. That has added up to $7 billion since the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos opened.
"Our jobs are important to us. They are important to us to our families and to our communities," Anne Sanders, who is a communications Specialist for Mohegan Sun, said. "We're just not a number, we're people behind those numbers.You have to keep that in mind."
Dozens of the tribes' employees held a rally outside of the state capitol building at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
"This is just the latest in a continuing message we've been delivering the state legislature about the importance of the jobs we're trying to retain here in the state of Connecticut," Butler said.
MGM is trying to stop plans in East Windsor. They want to build a casino in Bridgeport.
"The market here can really only support one and if we are looking for that best option is, it's where the money is," MGM Legal Counsel Uri Clinton said. "You follow the money and that's to the New York border."
Some Connecticut lawmakers are against more gambling while others said they worry about the attorney general's warning there could be litigation for years, if the current agreement with the tribes’ changes.
But, the money from a casino is tempting with Connecticut facing huge deficits. The current two casinos give the state $267 million a year and a third between $60 and $70 million.
"I would say casinos are on the table,"House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said. [We're] trying to find a way to make that work and ensure we protect those jobs here in the state of Connecticut. [It] protects those taxpayers in the state of Connecticut and allow casinos to stay competitive is important."
The session ends in about a month from now. Some said they feel it’s unlikely lawmakers will try to push something like this through in these final days
The tribes said they're going to be at the state capitol every single week these next few weeks to say why this is important to them.
Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.