Update: Casino bill on agenda. On Thursday a stream of testimony came before the legislature’s Public Safety Committee urging an open, competitive process to select a commercial gaming operator with Bridgeport in play as host city. Several weeks ago East Hartford State Senator Tim Larson, co-chair of the committee, attempted to block the very public hearing that took place on Thursday. Sanity prevailed when he was opposed by his own members. But as co-chair he has power for what appears on an agenda. Larson wants to preserve the state gaming monopoly that provides the tribal-nation operators of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun exclusivity in exchange for 25 percent of the slot take. He’s playing a rigged game. Larson won’t allow it to come up for a vote in this short session. What’s wrong with allowing democracy to work? If the bill is to survive it must be revived from a floor vote. As State Senator Ed Gomes told the CT Post, “They treat Bridgeport like shit.”
Larson’s backroom maneuver last month came in what is typically a routine “screening” meeting where committee leadership determines which bill proposals will be considered for a public hearing. Legislative courtesy traditionally permits proposals that are supported by multiple legislators to at least have a hearing. Preventing that from happening could kill bi-partisan consensus on a host of key issues underway during the 2018 session.
It is not unusual for closed-door maneuvering to occur in a legislative session but such displays usually are seen at the end, when options for other avenues to pursue legislation are limited. With nearly two months left in the session, legislative insiders observe that Larson exposed his bias against an open, competitive process.
What’s wrong with an open, competitive process? Why does a gaming monopoly advantage the tribal nations to the economic detriment of the rest of the state including Connecticut’s largest city where polling shows residents overwhelmingly support MGM Resorts’ proposed waterfront gaming development that will create 7,000 jobs by a proven gaming leader?
Let MGM bid, let the tribal nations bid, heck maybe allow them to make a marriage, but at least allow a vote up or down on the bill.
So what’s it gonna be, a rigged power grab by Larson, or sanity on behalf of democracy?