Hartford, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers have given the final green light for a third casino. It’s on its way to the governor — but the entire matter is going to end up in federal court. The tribes say not doing this is a big gamble with thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue. MGM says it’s an unconstitutional no bid contract.
By an overwhelming margin early this morning; the House gave final approval to the plan to allow the Mashantucket and Mohegan Tribes to develop their third casino at a the long vacant cinema complex in off I-91 in East Windsor. A huge majority (103-46) of state lawmakers agreeing with the tribes that the only way to save thousands of casino related jobs in Southeast Connecticut when the MGM casino complex opens in Springfield is to allow another casino facility in East Windsor.
“There was a lot of workers out in the hall for the past couple of months talking about their ability to provide for their families,” said House Speaker Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin). House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) adding, “We have to focus on jobs and the bill we did last night, that’s why I supported it, was the one bill that really focused on jobs particularly in Eastern Connecticut.”
To sweeten the deal, and to get more votes, there will be an expansion of Off Track Betting facilities from the current 18 to 24. Hartford and Bridgeport will be able to host Mixed Martial Arts matches at the XL Center and Webster arena. Republican Representative Bill Buckbee of New Milford works in the Mixed Martial Arts business and says, “The fastest growing sport nationwide so it’s a big advantage to have something, a new draw. So while we can’t have the Whalers we can at least have some fights coming to town and some great entertainment.”
But MGM, which already has a federal lawsuit on appeal against the third casino process is issuing a statement saying they will continue to vigorously fight it in the courts. Attorney General George Jepsen says the court battle will take years and that he will vigorously defend the statute. However, he is not making any promises, saying, “This is a new territory and so I’m not here to make any predictions but we do believe that we have very straight faced arguments to make.”
A spokesman for the tribes is saying that MGM has not proven that they even have standing in a potential case and they plan to move forward with East Windsor. The Kent based Schaghticoke tribe, which is also threatening legal action, is urging the governor to veto the bill. The governor issued a statement commending lawmakers for keeping the focus on jobs. Malloy stated he looks forward to reviewing the final bill.