HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a bill on Wednesday that would authorize a casino in Bridgeport and allow sports betting and internet gaming.
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The group called it the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act.
It said it enhances the partnership between the state and the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.
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Some lawmakers are now calling for a special session to take up the matter.
“If the goal of the debate around gaming is to maximize the number of jobs and the amount of revenue for Connecticut, then this bill is the solution,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat who represents Sprague. “This legislation will deepen our partnership with two of our biggest employers and our large single taxpayers – the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. With slot revenues showing a steady and gradual decline because of increased competition, we can’t afford to kick the can down the road. The time to act on this legislation is now.”
“When it comes to our state’s gaming industry, we’ve got two simple choices - do nothing and let the increase in competition continue to erode our state’s revenue, or take action and create new jobs and new sources of revenue,” said Rep. Christopher Davis, a Republican who represents Ellington and East Windsor. “The proposal being presented [Wednesday] takes action and doesn’t pit Connecticut communities against each other. I’m proud to lend my support.”
Lawmakers said the bill does not involve the use of taxpayer money.
It would authorize an entertainment and gaming facility in Bridgeport and call for a minimum investment of $100 million by the tribes. The money would serve as an anchor for additional private development around the casino and bring the total project development to $300 million, lawmakers said. It's estimated to generate $15 million annually for the state.
The tribes would control sports wagering at their two casinos, as well as through mobile apps and online.
Tribal leaders said "We've long believed that the best way forward for the state is to protect and preserve the historic partnership with our two tribes, one that's generated more than $8 billion in revenue for Connecticut.”
The state gets a part of the action, with 10 percent of table revenues at Bridgeport, 8 percent of sports betting, and 10 percent of internet gambling.
They said casino is expected to create 500 permanent jobs and 1,000 construction jobs.
The bill would also allow the tribes to take part in the development of entertainment zones in Hartford and two other cities, which would create 100 jobs per facility.
Gov. Ned Lamont said he is skeptical about the deal and is concerned about a possible lawsuit by MGM.
"Sports betting and internet gambling, its been locked up with a legal cloud hanging over it for a while, so over the last few years I have had several concerns," Lamont said.
MGM is not part of the deal. So far, they've decided not to comment on this latest proposal.
What's not in the deal is off-track betting. Sportech, which has rights to wagering for horse and dog racing, is left out, and the CT Lottery will only be able to put their own games online and nothing else.
In a statement it said "Sports Betting licensing should be awarded equally to current State gambling operators. Any deviation from that creates legal challenge and does a massive disservice to the constituents of Connecticut."
Democrats and Republicans said this is not a solution to the state's financial problems, but it will create revenue and jobs.
"It's a positive step for the state of Connecticut. Bridgeport has finally realized that all the false promises from MGM never came to fruition, most likely they had no true desire to do anything in Bridgeport," said Republican State Rep. Chris Davis.
This comes as the tribes are getting ready to build a third casino in East Windsor.
"I think its a conversation that should be had an considered, from the data and research I've seen over the last few years by the tribes and MGM for expanded gaming that there is the opportunity for for casinos that would not cut down on existing tribe casino," State Rep. Davis said.
Read the complete bill here.