Republican State Senate candidate Rich Deecken asserts it’s time to spread the wealth around via a comprehensive approach to gaming in Connecticut that currently operates under a monopoly controlled by the two federally recognized tribal nations that own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Deecken issued a statement in response to State Senator Tim Larson’s op-ed in the Journal Inquirer concerning a General Assembly special session on sports betting that would wire it to the tribal nations under a negotiation with outgoing Governor Dan Malloy. Connecticut has a gaming compact agreement with the tribes in which the state receives 25 percent of the slot take in exchange for granting casino exclusivity. Some state legislators, both Democrat and Republican, declare the gaming monopoly leaves a lot of cash on the table. They prefer to wait until the new legislative session in January to address sports betting. So for now, the sports betting legislation is on hold.
Deecken, a Bridgeport high school teacher, is challenging incumbent Democrat Marilyn Moore in the 22nd District that covers all of Trumbull and portions of Bridgeport and Monroe. Gaming giant MGM has proposed a $675 million waterfront destination in Bridgeport. It’s presentation for an open, competitive process to select a gaming operator passed the State House last session, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. MGM will resubmit its proposal for the start of the new legislative session in January. The tribal nations want to build a casino in East Windsor, part of Larson’s district, to counter MGM’s $1 billion enterprise that recently opened in Springfield, Massachusetts. MGM maintains that the money a Bridgeport destination generates for the state would surpass the dwindling state revenues from the exclusive gaming compact.
The state legislature must approve any alterations to the gaming compact.
Deecken maintains sports-betting legislation, following a Supreme Court ruling that legalizes it nationwide, must be part of a comprehensive package from an open, competitive process. From Deecken:
“Senator Larson, Governor Malloy, eastern Connecticut and Hartford legislators, and Connecticut tribal casinos are desperate to legalize sports betting before the November 6, 2018 general election. Unless all of the legislators are willing to negotiate a comprehensive revision of gaming, keno, and sports betting legislation that involves a competitive process for both nontribal and tribal gaming operators, there should be no reason for the Bridgeport delegation to negotiate at this time. It is important to note that Sen. Larson tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to thwart a public hearing on the competitive gaming legislation supported by most of the Bridgeport legislative delegation. The legislation passed in the State House of Representatives while the State Senate failed to act before the end of the session.
Sen. Larson blames Republicans for the failure to act on sports betting. Don’t be fooled by Sen. Larson’s rhetoric. Casino gaming, keno, and sports betting are not partisan issues; they are regional issues. Hartford and eastern Connecticut are actively trying to prevent the Greater Bridgeport and New Haven regions from competing for increased businesses, jobs and revenues to preserve a shrinking tribal gaming monopoly. Sen. Larson mentions, “the failure to come together and pass a well-regulated sports betting law that can and will bring in millions of dollars”; however, this windfall would mainly benefit the tribes, Hartford and eastern Connecticut.
Sen. Larson’s suggestion that legislators “coming together” will not benefit the state as a whole, but will continue to serve the Hartford and eastern Connecticut constituencies. Only through the passage of a competitive gaming bill and sports betting legislation, as part of comprehensive gaming reform, will all of Connecticut benefit.”