Battle over 3rd casino starts all over again

Photo rendering of the proposed development for the gaming and entertainment facility in East Windsor, CT. (provided by : Stu Loeser & Co. )

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The battle over a third Connecticut casino is starting all over again at the State Capitol.

Lawmakers from Bridgeport are pushing to repeal last year’s law and start competitive bidding for a third casino license. Because the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has still not acted on the third Connecticut casino law, and because MGM wants to stop that third casino, the debate is being re-booted.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes say they will start tearing down an old movie complex in East Windsor next week to make way for their joint casino project. It was approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor last year, but is still awaiting approval from the Trump Administration.

On Thursday, the Public Safety Committee, which has jurisdiction over gambling, heard from Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association on their work on a framework for legislation on sports betting, but this same committee now has a bill before it to start the battle over a third casino all over again.

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The proposal would repeal last year’s law, granting the tribes the right to operate a casino in East Windsor and call for competitive bidding.

“The gaming landscape has changed around the region and we’re looking to see what can we get out of our gaming license or gaming options in the state of Connecticut,” said Rep. Chris Rosario (D-Bridgeport).

Many Bridgeport lawmakers are convinced that the glitzy MGM proposal for a casino complex at Bridgeport harbor would not only create jobs for the city, but that it could create more revenue for the state than the the current deal with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans.

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They have some support for re-setting the process. Public Safety Committee co-chair Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-West Hartford) explained, “The casino in East Windsor has not been authorized, did not get BIA approval and the second thing is we have a competitor who has expressed interest in wanting to come to Connecticut.”

But Rep. Verrengia’s committee co-chair, Sen. Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) opposes the plan. He said, “This is total smoke and mirrors, frankly, and it’s expanding gambling in the state of Connecticut, which I’m not for.”

Sen. Larson’s district includes East Windsor. He notes that the East Windsor casino plan was aimed at keeping casino jobs in Connecticut because when MGM’s new casino complex in Springfield opens, projections say business at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut will suffer a serious decline.

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