Time to break open the truth serum for the tribal nations gaming strategy. First they were all in favor of an economic jolt for Bridgeport, then changed their minds. Then one half of the tribal nations–Mohegan Sun–trotted out a disingenuous partnership with the Webster Bank Arena as a response to MGM’s proposal to build a $675 million waterfront destination in Bridgeport. And now, in the final days of the General Assembly session, lawmakers are on high alert for a legislative rat burrowing into an unrelated bill for a fix the tribes assert they didn’t need in the first place–but apparently do now–the requirement that the federal Department of Interior must approve a proposed casino in East Windsor before it can happen.
Two weeks ago Attorney General George Jepsen warned the legislature against allowing the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, operators of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun respectively, to jointly build a casino in East Windsor without federal approval. Connecticut gaming operates under a monopoly–with shrinking revenues–in which the tribal nations receive exclusivity in exchange for providing 25 percent of the slot take. The East Windsor site is on non-tribal land that represents a response to MGM’s nearly $1 billion casino in Springfield Massachusetts scheduled to open in August.
Legislative allies of the tribes are quietly positioning an amendment to a bill that would create a legislative fix to Jepsen’s ruling.
In legislative jargon a rat is generally something legislators loathe–an attachment to an unrelated bill–but sometimes swallow.
A year ago, when a similar effort was underway, it was vehemently denied by the tribes joint venture, MMCT. Now it appears they’re back at it, in the face of a warning by Jepsen that federal approval of East Windsor is required.
On top of this the tribal nations assert they want exclusive control of sports betting if it comes into law, asserting the revenue-sharing agreements that give the state a 25-percent cut of video slot machine revenue from their casinos each month also pertains to sports betting. Hmmm, there was no sports betting in Connecticut 25 years ago when the gaming compact was signed. And that very compact is bleeding financial return to the state.
How do you spell greed? And rat politics?
The legislative session ends May 9.