Senate passes tribal casino measure; bill moves to the House - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Senate passes tribal casino measure; bill moves to the House

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The proposed third casino would be built in East Windsor (Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes) The proposed third casino would be built in East Windsor (Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes)

The state senate passed a step towards expanding gaming in Connecticut after it voted in favor of a third casino. 

The vote came after several hours of debate. The vote was 24 to 12, with four Democrats joining eight Republicans in voting against the bill. The measure now moves onto the state House for debate. 

The bill authorizes MMCT, a joint venture between the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, to operate a third satellite casino in East Windsor.

The casino would be built on the site of the former Showcase Cinemas in East Windsor along Interstate 91.

The tribes hope the new casino will compete with a MGM Resorts Casino currently being built in downtown Springfield, MA. 

“Connecticut’s gaming industry has been invaluable to our state over the last 20-plus years, infusing $7 billion dollars into our state’s coffers and reinvigorating the economy in eastern Connecticut,” said Sen.Tim Larson who introduced the bill. “This is a jobs bill at its core. The Mohegans and Pequots have been excellent partners to our state and are the backbone of our tourism economy."

Larson said Connecticut stands to lose more than 9,000 service industry jobs as a direct result of the MGM casino being built just over the Massachusetts border in Springfield.

"This third casino will stem the bleeding of jobs and funds that would surely occur without taking this action. The tribes and their employees deserve the support of the Connecticut legislature and I am proud that we are providing it,” Larson added. 

The new casino is expected to bring about 1,700 construction jobs as well as 1,700 casino employees.

Senior Vice President and Legal Counsel for MGM Resorts International Uri Clinton released a statement following the vote on Wednesday morning.  

"The Senate vote is not the final word on casino expansion in Connecticut. However, it is disappointing that the state Senate took a vote that denies the State of Connecticut the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state," Clinton wrote. 

"Unfortunately, the [state] Senate's bill doesn’t contain a licensing fee for the state, which means that it leaves as much as $100 million on the table in the middle of a real budget crisis. Additionally, it doesn’t provide for the real cost associated with infrastructure improvements required to support the proposed casino. In short, it shortchanges the Town of East Windsor, the surrounding communities and the state of Connecticut," Clinton added in his statement.

If the House passes the bill and it is signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy, several conditions would need to be met. 

  • The governor and the tribes enter into an amendment to the state-tribal compacts and MOUs concerning the operation of an off-reservation casino, which must include a provision that the authorization of MMCT to operate and off-reservation casino does not terminate the moratorium agreement against slot operation on the tribes’ reservations.
  • An amendment to the tribal compacts is agreed to by the governor, approved by the legislature and the U.S. Department of Interior.
  • The tribes must waive sovereign immunity with respect to any action brought by or against the state concerning the off-reservation casino and agree to bring such action against the state to the superior court.
  • The authorization for the casino applies to the MMCT venture and it must remain a limited liability company owned exclusively by the tribes in which each tribe holds at least 25 percent equity interest in MMCT or the authorization would be void.

The tribes have also agreed to start a grant fund of $4.5 million which would be distributed to surrounding communities, including Hartford and East Hartford - both seen as financially distressed municipalities. The tribes would give preference to those two communities when it comes to hiring employees. 

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