Casino Battle Continues at State Capitol


There is little certainty about what a casino bill may look like by the end of the legislative session.

The dueling ideas, one of which was before the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee Monday, have pitted commercial casino operator MGM against the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, that operate Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, respectively.

The proposal before lawmakers Monday would lay out parameters and requirements for a Request for Proposals for a third casino, in Connecticut, though it would be commercial and not on tribal lands. The bill would create a competitive process that would allow bids from possible suitors.

"This is a process that we would support," said Richard Velky, the chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. The tribe has been fighting for federal recognition for years, and has always had the intent to open a casino. Velky said private investors and operators have maintained interest in a partnership to operate a casino.

“They have reached out to me to let me know that they are still very interested and they would support us if necessary if we go ahead on the bid,” Velky said.

The bill before lawmakers laid out a taxing structure, more than the current 25 percent agreement between the state and the current federally recognized tribes and a requirement that any casino have a minimum of a $500 million investment in a facility.

MGM's legal counsel, Uri Clinton, said a process that requires bids, rather than allowing the tribes to open a third casino outright, is more fair.

Clinton, also acknowledged that MGM is in a position to benefit from any outcome, since it will open a casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, next year.

“From our standpoint, our win is whether or not we can find an economically feasible path to the New York market which, by the way, also helps the citizens of Connecticut and that’s a win-win,” Clinton said.

Clyde Barrow, a gaming economist for the two tribes, said the best outcome is for the state to maintain its relationship with them and allow for a third casino to open in East Windsor, the site selected by the tribes earlier this year.

Barrow said without another facility, job and tax revenue losses will follow.

“If Connecticut does nothing, it loses unquestionably. You’re going to see over $200 million every year leave Connecticut for MGM,” Barrow said. 

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