Connecticut House of Rep Approve East Windsor Casino
The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a plan for a casino in East Windsor, but leaders among House Democrats said they expect a legal challenge to the bill. House Majority Leader Matthew Ritter expects MGM Resorts International to mount a legal challenge.
The bill calls for a $300 million casino to be built in East Windsor, a suburb of Hartford, by the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes. The legislature also stipulated $25 million one-time casino licensing fee.
State Rep. Ritter said he expect today’s legal moves the legislature to produce a lawsuit, saying, “It’s hard to predict what their claims are going to be and then what the defenses are going to be. But we acknowlege that someone is going to sue. We don’t know who or for what reason, but they will.”
Uri Clinton Hinted at Litigation
MGM Resorts International tops the list of those who might sue.
Uri Clinton, who represents MGM Resorts as legal counsel, said the June 7 vote was far from the end of the matter. MGM Resorts, which is building a $950 million casino and resort in Springfield, about 30 miles from East Windsor, has pushed for open bidding in Connecticut’s casino development process.
MGM Resorts wants an open licensing process in which outside bidders like itself can apply for a casino license. MGM contends it wanted to build a brick-and-mortar casino in the Brideport area. In earlier legal filings, MGM claimed its proposals for a Connecticut casino were dismissed summarily. The Las Vegas Strip casino company believes Connecticut’s state legislature favors its two in-state operators, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.
“A Change to Compete to Do Business”
Mr. Clinton said, “We will continue to vigorously advocate in the courts as we seek to protect the constitutional rights of any company hoping to do business in Connecticut. And that, ultimately is what our goal has always been: we’d like the chance to compete to do business in Connecticut.”
The statement came hours after the <strong>House voted 103-46 to approve such a bill, which included an expansion of off-track betting sites, as well as sports betting if it ever becomes legal at the federal level. The provisions which expanded betting on sports and racing were added in a “sweetener bill”, which passed by a slim 77-72 margin, with two state representatives not present for the vote.
Dannel P. Malloy Expected to Sign the Bill
The Connecticut Senate approved the East Windsor provisions of the bill already, but still needs to approve the off-track betting and sports betting aspects of the proposal. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has expressed support for the bill, so the East Windsor proposal is close to becoming state law — if a lawsuit does not block or postpone the development.
The East Windsor plan calls for a joint venture between the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which own the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, respectively. Both want the East Windsor satellite casino to keep Hartford-area gamblers in-state, because the MGM Springfield Casino will be much closer to their homes than Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun would be. Thus, the two tribes are pushing a plan to build a casino in the midst of Hartford’s metropolitan area.
MMA and Off-Track Betting Bill
The vote comes amidst a whirlwind of legislative activity to help the local gaming industry. The Senate approved a bill on Tuesday night that legalized mixed martial arts matches on nontribal land as a way to help win votes from representatives of New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport. The MMA vote came after a plan to approve off-track betting sites in Bridgeport, Waterbury, and New Haven fell through on Monday night.
The House’s measure calls for an expansion of off-track betting sites from 18 to 24. The Connecticut Consumer Protection Department also was charged with establishing a regulatory framework to oversee sports betting, in the case the U.S. Supreme Court rules on behalf of New Jersey’s appeal on an earlier sports betting case. The CPD’s regulations would go into effect if the U.S. Congress approved a federal bill to legalize sports betting, something which gaming experts and sports commissioners have said would happen sooner or later.
Kevin Brown Praises Connecticut’s Lawmakers
Both sides gave the votes their own political spin. Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said the vote helped communities and families across Connecticut, as it created jobs and kept gaming revenues in the state. Brown said in a press release, “There are families across the state breathing a sigh of relief tonight thanks to leaders in both chambers and from both parties. With this vote, we have all demonstrated a commitment to protecting the state of Connecticut and the good jobs of its residents.”
The East Windsor casino no doubt would create jobs. Construction of the The 200,000-square-foot structure is expected to create 2,300 temporary jobs, while the casino itself is expected to create an additional 4,000 permanent job. The Hartford area casino would be significantly smaller than the MGM Springfield, but it would hold 2,000 slot machines and somewhere between 50 to 150 table games.
MGM Resorts on Casino Vote
MGM Resorts International countered that Connecticut’s legislature could have created more jobs and pumped more investment dollars into the economy, if it had allowed for open bidding on the casino licenses. If MGM Resorts or Wynn Resorts entered the bidding process, the size of the development plans likely would have ballooned, according to Uri Clinton.
The MGM Resorts spokesman said that Connecticut’s lawmakers had “missed an enormous opportunity tonight to put in place an open, transparent, and competitive casino process which could have resulted in as much as $1 billion in economic development, the creation of thousands of jobs, and a licensing fee paid to the state of up to $100 million. What Connecticut got instead was far less than that.“