A new legislative effort is underway to open Connecticut’s gaming industry to competitive bidding while canceling the 2017 license for a proposed East Windsor casino.
State Rep. Chris Rosario (D-Bridgeport) is introducing a bill that would void the license issued to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that allowed them to build a casino on a nontribal parcel in East Windsor. That project has been indefinitely stalled by the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision not to offer either approval or rejection on the July 2017 gaming compact amendments signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the tribes. The state and the tribes have filed a lawsuit to force the Interior Department to issue an approval.
The East Windsor site is widely viewed as competition for MGM Resorts International’s casino across the state border in Springfield, Massachusetts, which is scheduled to open in the fall. Rosario argued that if the federal government had approved the East Windsor casino, “then we’d be working on other opportunities for Bridgeport to get jobs.”
Rosario’s bill requires casino developers to make a $500 million minimum total investment in a gaming venue that would generate a minimum of 2,000 direct jobs. Developers would need to provide a $50 million nonrefundable license fee before construction and provide the state with 25 percent of gross gambling revenue from table games and slot machines and 10 percent of annual gross gambling revenue from video slots to the public education funding account. An additional $8 million fee would go to the locality where the venue is based.
MGM Resorts proposed a casino in Bridgeport, which would require a change to state law that gives exclusivity on gaming operations to the tribes. In December, the tribes issued a statement that acknowledged the Bridgeport casino proposal, saying that they “want to be part of that discussion.” However, the tribes rejected the prospect of working with MGM Resorts by running online advertising that stated, “Connecticut isn’t getting an MGM casino – it’s getting played.”
“A competitive process will bring Connecticut the best deal, in terms of jobs, economic development, community benefits and support for our local businesses,” Rosario said in a statement. “This process will let every developer with an interest, whether it is MGM or the tribes or anyone else, give it their best shot.”