When it comes to state leaders stepping up on behalf of Bridgeport development, city policy wonk Jeff Kohut oozes skepticism. He shares this commentary:
Past efforts at developing a casino in Bridgeport–post MGM#1 and DJT–involved the Pequots and Mohegans, but with the latter losing interest and more-or-less ceding the initiative to the Golden Hill Paugussett and Schaghticoke tribes in the early 2000s. Both the latter needed federal recognition to qualify for permission to operate casinos under federal gaming regulations. Both were extremely interested in building a Bridgeport casino. The Schaghticokes were actually granted federal recognition by the Interior Department/BIA in early 2004 and were in the process of getting details in place toward a formal proposal for a Bridgeport casino around that time.
Following this unexpected occurrence (which had experienced much opposition and many setbacks), alarmed by the increasing probability of a Bridgeport casino, Connecticut Gold-Coast Oligarchs, with input from the Pequots and Mohegans, prevailed upon Congressman Christopher Shays, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Joseph Lieberman (the aforementioned parties taking the lead on behalf of the rest of the Connecticut Congressional delegation) to exert Congressional/Presidential pressure on the Interior Department/BIA (of President George W. Bush) to revoke the federal recognition status of the Schaghticokes. This unprecedented revocation was accomplished later that year. (Recall that the original Bridgeport casino initiative–MGM#1 and DJT–was derailed in the Connecticut General Assembly on behalf of the same Gold Coast Oligarchy in the ’90s, in an effort led by then-Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy.)
When the tribal casino interest began to gather form and momentum in the early 2000s, it was Malloy, working in tandem with the (then) Stamford-based, Southwestern Area Commerce and Industry Association (SACIA), headed by Gold Coaster Chris Bruhl, that lobbied fiercely in Hartford and DC to stymie that initiative. Indeed, in a statement at a SACIA breakfast meeting in July 2002, SACIA President Chris Bruhl, in commenting about the Bridgeport casino rumblings around Fairfield County, made the statement, “… We [SACIA] can never let them [Bridgeport] have anything like that [a casino]. If that actually happens [Bridgeport casino], it could mean tens of thousands of jobs in Bridgeport. We’d lose our cheap labor force.”
Of course that statement, recorded by a Connecticut Post reporter attending the breakfast, contained the main reason for the ultimate rescission of the federal recognition of the tribal status of the Schaghticokes. A Bridgeport casino would interfere with the free ride the Gold Coast was (and still is) getting from the ability to exploit Bridgeport labor by restricting job/tax base development in Bridgeport and forcing Bridgeporters to commute to Stamford/the Gold Coast for employment, while at the same time allowing Stamford/the Gold Coast to maintain residential exclusivity while avoiding the costs of hosting its own labor force and also avoiding paying the necessary workforce Stamford/Gold-Coast resident-scale wages.
Of course “the traffic” and “moral” issues were the official reasons for opposition to the Bridgeport casino (as they are now), but “the traffic” was just ancillary to the desire to retain the Gold Coast option of using a commuting workforce (and thus maintaining residential exclusivity and the “tax free” use of cheap labor from Bridgeport). The moral issue was obviously disgustingly disingenuous, at best. (Thus the Bridgeport casino issue can be seen to be just part of the overall control of state development policy by the Gold Coast for the purpose of maintaining the Gold Coast lifestyle and lucrative Gold-Coast tax base–thus a Stamford grand list of $20 billion versus $7 billion for Bridgeport, and a Greenwich mil rate of less than 10 versus 55 for Bridgeport. Plenty of fiscal wherewithal without the need to mingle with and provide infrastructure and services for a workforce; with its social problems and needs.)
Fast-forward to 2019, and we still have the same anti-Bridgeport-casino dynamics operating in Hartford/DC and within Fairfield County and much of the rest of the state. While SACIA has morphed into the Business Council of Fairfield County, it is still run by (guess whom?) Chris Bruhl, and we have yet another Gold Coast governor in Hartford, as well as a predominantly suburban legislature that is particularly unsympathetic to Bridgeport, and unappreciative of Bridgeport’s immediate and potential value to the state (per its location, infrastructure assets, geographic assets, labor assets, transportation assets, and available commercial/industrial land).
In terms of the pro-casino machinations of our new Gold Coast governor Ned Lamont: Who really believes that Governor Lamont wants to piss off his homeboys by making a genuine effort to secure a casino deal for Bridgeport? And even if he were to be genuine in this regard, who believes the Gold Coast Oligarchy will allow the Golden Apple Cart to be upset on behalf of Bridgeport?!
As much as this lifelong Bridgeporter realizes the immediate need for an economic jumpstart for Bridgeport–which in the context of our state bankruptcy and our extreme federal dysfunction is limited to such forms as a casino (or perhaps hosting a national nuclear-waste site)–I also realize with the present political/socioeconomic complexion of the GA and Governor’s office, we’re still stuck in the same anti-casino ditch as we were in 1995.
And Bridgeport still doesn’t know how to advocate for itself.
Maybe Governor Lamont will “compromise” with the GA (about the Bridgeport casino) and take it off of the table in return for getting them to agree to give some of the toll money back to us that’s going to be generated from our daily, mass, down-county commute. (Of course, the tolls will be located only “upstream” from Stamford–maybe around mid-Fairfield, like in the old days.)
In any event, sorry to prognosticate there ain’t gonna be no casino in B’port before the first manned landing on Mars by the Basque National Aeronautics and Space Administration.