Casino plan favoring tribes passes Senate, House has other ideas

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s Native-American casino operators have won the first round in the battle to establish a third gambling facility in the State Senate; but the House of Representatives may go off the reservation.

Advocates for the tribe’s proposal were bolstered when the Governor said the state should maintain its longstanding relationship with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.

While you were sleeping, the State Senate approved the 3rd casino plan for East Windsor by a vote of 24 to 12. Ten Republicans joined fourteen Democrats to pass the plan that the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes say will protect over nine thousand casino related jobs and the cash the state gets from the slot machines when the MGM casino complex opens in Springfield.

Senators from both parties in Southeastern Connecticut were united in their support.  “We’re hoping to convince every other legislator that this is a true economic stimulus bill, a jobs bill,” said Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic).

Southeastern Connecticut casino workers were at the Capitol expressing their appreciation for the vote.  Like Robert Gallagher, of Norwich, who has worked at the Mohegan Sun for more than twenty years,  “We’re very happy, very happy for the support we got from our  legislators.”  Roberta James-Brown of Norwich has worked at Foxwoods for 19 years,  “We are very concerned about keep our livelihood, keeping our job, it’s important to us.”

But the House leadership says they still want to consider the bill that would open up the process to competitive bids, including from the people from MGM who say a casino in Southern Connecticut, west of New Haven, would be more lucrative for the state.  The House Majority Leader, Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) saying, “The bill that passed the State Senate cannot pass the House as currently written.”

The vote in the Senate comes just as MGM upped the ante in the lobbying battle for third casino with an expensive TV advertising campaign pushing for the competitive bidding proposal.

Uri Clinton of MGM Resorts saying, “We recently commissioned a poll that said 71 percent of Connecticut citizens also agree with that concept so the House is right in line with the people of Connecticut want.”

The Speaker and the Majority leader say neither casino plan will come up in the House this week.  The legislative session is scheduled to end two weeks from today on June 7.

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