HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — With just weeks left in the General Assembly session, Connecticut’s two tribal casinos are turning up the pressure on lawmakers for that third gambling facility in East Windsor. With thousands of jobs in Southeastern Connecticut on the line because of a new casino complex just over the border in Springfield, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun employees are making the case for their bosses to state lawmakers. It’s not the just the jobs that are at stake. In the current state budget crisis, there’s also about a quarter billion dollars a year from the casinos that’s also at stake.
The two tribes that run the casinos in Southeastern Connecticut brought two busloads of their employees to the State Capitol for a very clear and simple message for state lawmakers.
Employees like Nichole Davison of Old Lyme who has worked at Mohegan Sun for 21 years as a Pit Manager of table games said, “The Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes have shown their commitment to the State of Connecticut and to the people that work for them and I think that’s what the State of Connecticut needs right now in East Windsor.”
The message that the tribes and their employees are focusing on is the expected loss of 9,300 casino and casino-related jobs in Southeastern Connecticut when the MGM casino complex opens in Springfield at the end of next year. They believe the best way to protect those jobs and the quarter billion dollars a year the state gets from the slots, is to allow the two tribes to open their joint casino in East Windsor. It was recently approved in a town meeting there by a nearly two to one margin.
“You see the faces. These are real people with real jobs that matter here in Connecticut,” said Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown.
Rodney Butler, the Tribal Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots added, “There is no other bill that gives certainty to the State of Connecticut with the jobs and revenue that we’re preserving here with this bill.”
But MGM says that’s not true. MGM says they and Ceasar’s and other casino developers want to compete for a casino license in Southwestern Connecticut that could be more profitable to the state. If they are shut out of the bidding, MGM says they would go to court to stop the East Windsor plan.
Uri Clinton of MGM Resorts noted, “The Attorney General for the State of Connecticut has said that there is substantial risk that can’t be minimized.”
Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) said on Wednesday, “Casinos are on the table, trying to find a way to make that work (and) insure that we protect those jobs here in the State of Connecticut.”
But, Deputy House Minority Leader Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) said, “The casino revenue, I don’t think is stable enough indicator to be basing any of our budget decisions on it.”
The Governor remains non committal on the casino issue saying on Wednesday that it’s entirely up to the legislature.