“Mini casinos” now in the mix at State Capitol

Casino slot machine (WTNH)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Some are calling it “sweetening the pot”, while others are calling it “Let’s make a deal.”

Lawmakers from the state’s largest cities are pushing for “mini casinos” for New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury before they’ll vote for the facility in East Windsor. With the legislative leadership agreeing to move the debate about a state budget solution to a Special Session later in the month; the decks are cleared from some of the more ‘hot button’ issues.

Under a plan hatched over the weekend, off-track betting facilities like “SportsHaven” in New Haven and “Winners Shoreline Star” in Bridgeport could end up with slot machines; and potentially other forms of gambling. Waterbury and Hartford are also being discussed.

It’s the price that a large block of urban legislators is suggesting is the way to get their votes for the East Windsor casino that the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes are pushing as a way to compete with the MGM casino complex under construction in Springfield. They say the East Windsor plan will save jobs and revenue the state gets from the tribes.

Democratic Representative Chris Rosario of Bridgeport is chairman of the 26 member Black and Puerto Rican caucus of state lawmakers, “We’re looking for jobs for the people of our communities. Quite often here in this building there are a lot of proposals and it seems like the inner cities are kind of left out of the conversation.”

Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) says he is open to the idea saying,  “The thought process is folks would go there, the restaurants would benefit, the current OTB parlors would benefit. It would just be another reason for folks to head into the cities.”

The House Republican leader, Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby)  is against the mini casinos and says there are enough Republican votes that will join Democrats to pass the East Windsor plan without the urban lawmaker, “On the heels of Aetna last week I think it is very clear that we throw money after money at every business that wants to leave and this bill would not cost any money and would save jobs.”

MGM’s spokesman saying that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs would likely strike down the mini casino idea.   “This is about people in the House thinking that they are going to get the benefit of a bargain that will never materialize,” said Uri Clinton of MGM Resorts.

On the other ‘hot button’ proposals; the Speaker said today he has “not given up yet” on the tolls, which he believes is one vote away from passage and he intends to allow a full debate on legalizing recreational marijuana before the regular session ends on Wednesday night.

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