The battle over gaming expansion in Connecticut persists in the current legislative session between supporters of a tribal casino monopoly and advocates for spreading the wealth, a waterfront destination in Bridgeport. The tribes’ most vocal legislator State Senator Cathy Osten embraces a myopic viewpoint, according to Bridgeport policy wonk Jeff Kohut who writes when it comes to her “shrill” opposition to a Bridgeport casino,’The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
On a level, it was refreshing–even soothing–to see such strong reaction to Bridgeport’s actual, aggressive self-advocacy! It made me think; “Indeed, there actually might be some real “fight” left in our parasitized, necrotizing metropolis!” I have to say in this regard that I, as a Bridgeporter, truly appreciate the passionate advocacy displayed by Bridgeport Reps. Rosario and Santiago for our city’s interests at Wednesday’s public hearing on House Bill 7055 in Hartford.
In regard to Senator Cathy Osten’s anti-Bridgeport, hostile histrionics at the aforementioned public hearing:
With the huge MGM casino already in operation in Springfield MA, and considering the proximity and scale of the proposed East Windsor CT, tribal casino, it is not difficult to realize that the latter proposed casino is a losing, illogical proposition that shouldn’t be allowed to impede the creation of a potentially hugely successful casino in Bridgeport–which the passage of HB 7055 would enable.
But in terms of any pretense at righteous indignity, with respect to reaction to any “audacious” aspect of Bridgeport’s aggressive casino stance and willingness to advocate for itself thereof: It seems that Senator Osten–who represents the region encompassing the reservation casinos of the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans–has forgotten how she offhandedly dismissed/opposed Bridgeport’s prerogative to develop a casino when MGM, in September 2017, indicated they would be interested in creating such a venue in Bridgeport. At that time it was a straightforward proposition by MGM and was not associated with an MGM counter-suit against the aforementioned tribes’ suit (the latter initiated by way of coercion of the US Interior Department to extend the tribal casino development rights of the Connecticut Tribal Gaming Compact to non-tribal lands in Connecticut, such that a tribally owned and operated casino could be developed in East Windsor). Bridgeport has been an “honest broker” in this regard, and has never sought to deny the tribes or other interests a right to compete for a fair-share of Connecticut’s gaming traffic. Bridgeport has only sought fair treatment.
While it should be expected that Senator Osten would advocate on behalf of her tribal constituents’ interests, especially since those interests are married to the economic fortunes of her district, it must be realized that the tribes had years to develop plans for future casino operations in strategic areas in the state designed to counter the competitive effects on their tribal gaming interests implicit in the predicted/predictable casino development in adjacent states that is now impacting the viability of their extant casinos and future gaming interests. The tribes failed to plan or act in a timely manner. They lived “fat and happy” on their shared, regional, casino “monopoly” for three decades before they decided to capitalize on their success, with respect to anchoring their market. They were warned, and knew to be proactive, but chose to be reactive. They were interested in developing a Bridgeport casino when they thought that competition for them might be imminent there, but then let the ball drop when they were able to stymie the Bridgeport competition/threat by way of an anti-Bridgeport alliance with Gold Coast interests. Now the neck of their golden “Monopoly Goose” has been wrung by their own complacency, and Senator Osten has been enlisted by them to engage in damage control on their behalf–and presumably on behalf of her 19th District. (But since the East Windsor casino would be in Senate District 3, it would seem to be questionable as to how the tribal benefits of an East Windsor casino would be transferable to the people of District 19–half a state away. And the business lost to the District 19 casinos from a Bridgeport casino will soon be going to Long Island, NYC and the Catskills, if the Bridgeport casino doesn’t happen soon. Connecticut will lose, big time, if this scenario plays out.)
In the aforementioned regards, Osten and the tribes were off-base with their initial attempt to quash Bridgeport’s casino overtures in 2017, and they’re off-base now. In any event, their anti-Bridgeport efforts are too little, too late, to stabilize tribal fortunes. A Bridgeport casino would have been “the ticket” for the tribes, but they chose the wrong side in that debate two decades ago and failed to strategize and plan otherwise until the competition was an oversized reality. Now their strategy is really nothing more than a vain attempt to hang on for a little while longer before an inevitable, drastic downsizing.
All that will be accomplished by preventing a Bridgeport casino is the facilitation of a greater outflow of gambling dollars from Connecticut to New York and Massachusetts. Their strategy should be to forget about East Windsor and try to get in on the action in Bridgeport as one of several bidding interests.
As to Senator Osten’s shrill opposition to a Bridgeport casino; as was stated famously by Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Rather than participate in a strategy doomed to failure for the tribes as well as the 19th District and the state, why not, as a representative of competitively positioned tribal bidders, promote a Bridgeport venture of great promise that will benefit the whole state? And rather than waste energy opposing Bridgeport’s natural right, channel that energy into promoting the diversification of 19th District business and industry beyond tribal gaming while that economic base still has some viability?