HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There’s more talk about expanding gambling in Connecticut because of the projected huge budget deficit next year.
News 8 first reported last November that the Mohegan Tribe, owners of the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, wanted to start a dialog about opening some sort of gambling facility north of Hartford to compete with the big casino that’s planned for Springfield, Mass. But there is already a proposal to bring video slot machines to the Off Track Betting facility in Windsor Locks and two other cities.
“They’re already licensed,” said Rep. Peggy Sayers, D-Windsor Locks. “There’s one in New Haven, there’s one in Bridgeport, and the one at Bradley in Windsor Locks, so to add something there would not be that difficult.”
The legislative committee that regulates all gambling in Connecticut has this on its agenda. It’s mindful that money from both the existing casinos is shrinking fast, and that the state is facing an ever-increasing budget deficit.
“I think that’s why we need to have that discussion to see if there’s that much public support and legislative support for the increase of gaming within our state,” said Public Safety Committee co-chairman Rep. Steve Dargan, D-West Haven.
But critics, like former Congressman Bob Steele, note the highly addictive nature of the latest slot machines could create thousands more problem gamblers in the cities. He’s written a novel called “The Curse” about the negative impact of casinos on a small town.
“Slot machine casinos create almost no new jobs; they’re low income jobs,” said Steele. “This whole thing is exactly the wrong way to go.”
“Addiction is so prominent in the most vulnerable population, particularly in the urban centers that you’re looking to put these video slots in,” said Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield.
If the state moves in this direction it would most certainly have to give the Indian tribes a cut of the action because they currently have an exclusive agreement with the state for slot machines in return for 25-percent of their profits.