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Connecticut Lawmakers in Divide as the House Considers Gambling Expansion Bills

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Connecticut Lawmakers on Casino Gambling Bill

On Friday, May 4th, the Connecticut House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill that sanctions submission of casino proposals in Connecticut. Reportedly, the move could see MGM Resorts International spend roughly $675 million to bring a casino and entertainment complex to Bridgeport. At the same time, terminate a long-standing partnership between the State and the Tribes.

The bill passed 77-73, and some fear it could jeopardize the state’s share of the slot-machine revenue generated by the Tribes’ Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino. While it is reported that the bill doesn’t mention Bridgeport, the measure is believed to benefit MGM Resorts, which for a long time has maintained an interest in a gaming institution in the state’s largest city, Bridgeport.

After Friday’s vote, Uri Clinton, the MGM senior vice president released a statement that suggested that the company could be in line to land a deal with the state and applauded the House for moving a step closer in this two-part process of the expansion bill. He also added that MGM is looking forward to rival other gaming companies including the Tribes as the state determine the best proposals and deals the suits state.

Opposing the New Casino Expansion Bill

It was also reported that Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot staunchly opposed this measure as it could prevent them from making revenue-sharing payments that saw them amass more than $270 million in the past year. The bill, which is now set to be considered by the 36 members of the Connecticut State Senate, would allow MGM to submit new proposals provided they are willing to invest $500 million in the project and pay a one-off licensing fee of $50 million. The operator will also need to part with a refundable application fee of $5 million and guarantee that it will create over 2,000 jobs for Connecticut residents.

This unexpected gambling expansion bill began late Thursday and resumed for several hours on Friday. Eastern Connecticut representatives argued that passing this law would mean that the Tribe would stop sharing their gaming revenue with the state. This would overturn the 25% revenue sharing deal agreed between the state and the Tribe over a decade ago.

“We’re basically in a marriage,” one of the representative Joe de la Cruz, said of their partnership with the Tribe. “In this divorce, we (the state) would lose the kids, the car, the house…. there is no middle ground.”

Majority of other Eastern Connecticut representatives believe that if the Tribal nations could stop paying their share of the revenues, it would put the state at risk of losing hundreds of millions a year.

However, Democratic State representatives such as Chris Rosario argued that inviting various casinos, such as MGM and Tribes, to compete to build a commercial casino would be a better deal for the state regarding jobs creation, community benefits, economic development, and support for local businesses.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” Rosario is reported saying. “If the bill is approved, we’d be working on other opportunities for Bridgeport to get jobs.”

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