The state legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee on Tuesday advanced several gaming-related bills including a proposal for the creation of a Connecticut Gaming Commission and competitive bidding process for a resort commercial casino. MGM Resorts has proposed a $675 million waterfront destination at the Steelpointe Harbor redevelopment area.
With so many moving and competing parts this is not yet a done deal in the legislature. These bills must be approved by the full State House and Senate.
Governor Ned Lamont supports a gaming destination for Bridgeport, be it MGM, Connecticut’s two tribal nations or a marriage that accomplishes the same.
State Senator Dennis Bradley is Senate chair of Public Safety,
“I am pleased with the committee for advancing this legislation,” said Bradley in a written statement. “I have long been in favor of a competitive, fair and open bidding process to potentially bring a casino to the city of Bridgeport. This process enables us to choose what is best for our state. It gives us control to determine what will have the most positive economic impact on the lives of Connecticut residents.”
The following bills advanced to the Senate and House floor, according to Bradley.
House Bill 7055 would establish the Connecticut Gaming Commission and a competitive bidding process for a resort casino.
“This would be great for Bridgeport,” said Bradley. “Development and renovation is already happening in the city. A casino will create economic opportunities and jobs for people of the Park City. Still, it is important to note this legislation would greatly benefit our state as a whole, not just Bridgeport. My intent is to ensure fairness across the board, it is not about isolating Bridgeport, it is about transparency, fairness and ensuring it makes dollars, because if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.”
Bernard Kavaler, spokesman for MGM, issued this statement:
“Today’s committee action advances legislation that puts Connecticut’s interests front and center–creation of an independent state gaming commission, a transparent competitive process for a valuable commercial casino license, and a competitive sports betting marketplace that will benefit consumers and the state. We will continue to work with legislators and the administration to achieve what’s best for Connecticut–maximizing jobs, economic development and revenue.”
The rub here is the state’s compact with Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribal nations that operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. It requires the state to receive 25 percent of the slot take in exchange for granting gaming exclusivity, something Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler and acting Mohegan Tribal Chairman James Gessner pointed out in a joint statement.
“The best path forward is one that maintains the mutually beneficial partnership between our two tribes and the state. Any bill that undermines that partnership will simply cost the state jobs and revenue at a time when we can least afford it.
“We know that economic development in Bridgeport is a priority for many legislators and for Governor Lamont. We want to say clearly that we can move forward with East Windsor and still find a solution that puts people to work in Bridgeport without putting a dollar of the revenue we currently send to the state at risk.”
The tribal nations are seeking legislative approval for a third state casino in East Windsor to counter MGM’s recently opened resort in Springfield, Massachusetts.