Third Casino Expansion In Connecticut Could Be Delayed
The debate surrounding gambling expansion in Connecticut became heated during a legislative hearing held last week, with some proposing that instead of approving an existing tribal proposal, the field be thrown open to new operators for building a third casino.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are pushing their proposal to build a satellite casino in East Windsor to counter competition from an upcoming project across state lines the $950-million MGM Springfield.
However there are others who are pushing for a totally fresh approach to strengthen the state’s gambling industry. They are suggesting that a wider net must be cast in terms of operators and proposals in order to gain maximum benefit.
The hearing was before the Public Safety And Security committee and featured experts from both sides who put forth key facts supporting their stance.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe said that a delay in the state’s response to the challenge could lose the state nearly $70 million by way of slot revenue as well as 9,000 direct and indirect jobs tied to the industry. MGM Resorts International has been vocally against the tribes’ proposal and has sued the state for approving the plan without considering other bidders for the project.
Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel at MGM Resorts, testified in the hearing and pointed out that the committee and the General Assembly had to consider the approach that ensured maximum tax revenue and number of jobs to the state.
Sen. Timothy D. Larson, D-East Hartford lashed out against the casino operator during the hearing for having released a brochure that criticized the process adopted by the authorities for finalizing the casino development agreement.
Robert Maynard, East Windsor's first selectman, testified before the committee that the project would result in much-needed revenue for the local government and communities, boosting economic growth in the area. Apart from MGM, a rival tribal group called the Kent-based Schaghticoke nation also urged that new contenders be considered for developing the third casino in the state.
Richard Velky, the chief of the Schaghticoke tribal nation, highlighted that Southwestern Connecticut as a region offered more opportunities for growth than Hartford, adding that Connecticut citizens should demand a better deal. Gambling opponents also testified before the committee.
In a statement the Rev. Denise Terry, senior pastor of the East Granby Congregational Church, said
These include increased debt, bankruptcies, embezzlement, divorce, domestic violence, drunk driving and addiction. As a recovering impulsive gambler, I am particularly sensitive to this issue. I don't want to live less than 3 miles from a casino, and to pass it at least twice a day