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Casino Expansion 'Open Competition' Bill Debated At The Capitol

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Casino Expansion 'Open Competition' Bill Debated At The Capitol

Debate on a bill that would scrap the license for a casino in East Windsor and open up competitive bidding for the state’s first casino off tribal lands quickly heated up Thursday in a hearing at the Capitol.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim told the members of the legislature’s public safety and security committee that Bridgeport would certainly benefit from securing a casino on the city’s watefront.

But he also said he doesn’t necessary think plans for a casino in East Windsor should be scrapped and could perhaps be developed in tandem,

“"It's not to take jobs from one part of Connecticut or to put them in another," Ganim said.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said competitive bidding would provide the best option for not only Bridgeport and New Haven but for the state of Connecticut.

"Connecticut should have real competition in which competitors put their best deals on the table," Harp said.

State lawmakers last year backed giving the tribal operators of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun the go-ahead to jointly establish the first commercial casino in East Windsor. MGM Resorts International subsequently proposed a casino in Bridgeport.

The bill calls for a two-step process, first seeking bids and then making a selection.

A push for open competition in the legislature failed to gain traction last year.

Some committee members Thursday expressed frustration that the debate over competitive bidding must include rescinding authorization for East Windsor.

“I am astounded that to do that, we are going to have to kill a casino,” Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, a committee member, said.

Debate over expansion heated up after MGM secured approval and began construction of a $960 million casino and entertainment complex in Springfield. The prospect of the venue stoked worries that gamblers in Connecticut would be drawn out of the state, costing the state not only revenue but jobs tied to the gaming industry.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has staunchly supported the state’s long-standing ties with the tribes and their effort to expand to East Windsor as a competitive response to MGM Springfield.

State law requires the legislature to approve any expansion of casino gambling.

After MGM proposed its plan for Bridgeport, the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans also expressed interest in the Park City, but said it was a separate issue from East Windsor, where the tribes insisted they are still moving ahead.

A week ago, the tribes began demolition of an old movie theater in East Windsor in preparation for construction of a $300 million casino. But tribal leaders say no building will start until a dispute with federal regulators over the expansion is resolved. They said that is expected in late spring or early summer.

The bill, which is drawing support from Bridgeport and New Haven delegations, calls for:

  • a minimum of 2,000 people to be directly employed at the venue.
  • at least $500 million in investment.
  • a $50 million nonrefundable licensing fee.
  • 25 percent of annual gross gaming revenues going to the state on both slots and table games.
  • another 10 percent of annual gross gaming revenue from video slot machines to be set aside to fund educational cost-sharing grants for towns and cities.

If the bill becomes law, bids would be due to the state Department of Consumer Protection by Jan. 1. MGM said it stands ready to make its case for Bridgeport.

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNFe3eOtyCh0qVbh5pgkqiIt3jo8qg&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=hZiqWpjvApqEhwGPpL7ICQ&url=http://www.courant.com/business/hc-casino-expansion-bill-hearing-20180314-story.html

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