State lawmakers voted in favor of a proposal early Wednesday morning that puts Connecticut yet another step closer to a new casino.
The Senate voted on SB 957, which lays out how the state would regulate a casino facility in the state, and authorizes MMCT Venture, LLC, a joint venture between the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, to operate a a casino facility off tribal lands.
SB 957 passed 24 to 12, which means both Democrats and Republicans voted in favor of the casino.
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The bill states that the facility would pay a 25 percent tax on slots and 25 percent on table games – with the revenue from table games being split - 15 percent going to statewide tourism marketing and 10 percent going directly to the state.
East Windsor has already approved plans for a third casino to be built by MMCT Venture. The site would be at the abandoned Showcase Cinema property along Interstate 91. Tribal leaders said the facility would bring more than 1,700 jobs and $8.5 million annually to the town of East Windsor.
The tribes are pushing for quick action on the casino amid concerns of competition from a new MGM Resorts Management facility scheduled to open next year in Springfield, Mass.
One holdup is to make sure this new deal doesn’t violate the current compacts with the tribes and change the existing revenue sharing agreement regarding the two casinos currently operating in the state.
Following the vote, Tribal chairs Kevin Brown of the Mohegan Tribal Council and Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council released as statement that read in part:
“The state faces serious financial challenges. This overwhelming, bipartisan vote shows we can be part of the solution.”
MGM Resorts Management, which is building a new casino in Springfield, Mass., also released a statement that read in part:
“If the Senate bill were to ultimately become law, numerous national gaming operators - including MGM - would be precluded from offering a competitive bid for consideration. To shut down that opportunity would seem to be a disservice to Connecticut’s hardworking taxpayers.”
The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has threatened to file a lawsuit if the state allows MMCT Venture to build the casino without opening up the process to other bids.
“A closed casino expansion process ties Connecticut to an unreliable funding source that under the best scenario would likely continue to sink like a stone. If the citizens of Connecticut want a better deal and a proposal where the numbers add up, the open, competitive process is not only the right thing to do – it turns out to be the most financially responsible thing to do as well,” Chief Richard Velky of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation said in a statement.
The bill still needs approval from the House and from the governor to become law.
Gov. Dannel Malloy also issued a statement.
“Governor Malloy believes that, on the question of casino expansion, the legislature should remain focused on maintaining the state’s longstanding partnership with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations and protecting jobs. The casinos operated by these tribal nations employ thousands of Connecticut residents and are an integral part of our local economy - the Governor will not sign a bill that puts those jobs at risk. Tonight, the State Senate provided thoughtful consideration on the question of casino expansion and we applaud them for this effort. We will continue to monitor this legislation as it moves through the House,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokesperson for the governor, said.
There are also two proposals that would open the bidding process to the competition, allowing other tribes or commercial casinos to make an offer.