HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As an important deadline draws near, a major legislative committee debates a third plan for a third casino.
Two casino bills have already passed other committees, now the committee that controls state’s cash flow is debating another. The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, the one that decides where the money comes from to fund state government, must vote on a casino bill by the end of this month.
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Almost $60 million in slot revenue; the so-called ‘Pequot-Mohegan Fund’ goes directly to Connecticut cities and towns. This year, New Haven is slated for about eight million, Cheshire, about two million.
In addition to protecting the flow of that money, plus close to 200 million dollars to state government, state lawmakers are also concerned about direct and indirect casino related jobs. Because no one disputes that when the MGM casino complex in Springfield opens late next year, thousand of Connecticut jobs will also be lost.
Even their own expert admits that the Mashantucket Mohegan casino plan for East Windsor won’t save all the revenue or all the jobs. “It won’t recapture all of the revenue that’s going to be
lost to MGM Springfield but it will recapture a significant portion of it,” said Dr. Clyde Barrow, a casino research consultant hired by the two tribes.
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MGM says Connecticut can do better with a competitive process rather than favoring the Mashantuckets and Mohegans, and could gross even more revenue with a casino in Southern Connecticut west of New Haven.
Uri Clinton, a corporate Vice President at MGM, said a casino on the shoreline west of New Haven would get them to a valuable demographic.
We really, really, want to have access to that New York market. This provides us with that access.”
It would have to, because such a deal would violate the tribes’ exclusivity agreement with the state. They would no longer be required to send the monthly payments to Hartford.
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A prominent casino expansion opponent is issuing this warning. “This is an absolute wake up call; that expansion of gambling, off tribal land, can go anywhere in the State of Connecticut,” said Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield) who is a member of a group called ‘No More Casinos in Connecticut.’
Casino opponents in East Windsor are working toward a townwide referendum on the tribes plans.
Hanging over all of the casino discussion is Attorney General George Jepsen‘s opinion that any one of the proposals being discuss would be difficult to defend in court and could jeopardize all of the funds the state gets from the tribes.