Connecticut Public Safety Committee to Hold Hearing on Competing Hartford Casino Bills
The Connecticut legislature plans to consider competing bills on a third casino for the state. Under legislation proposed on Wednesday, lawmakers will allow potential developers in addition to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to make pitches to the state.
For over a year, plans for a third Connecticut casino in the Hartford area have involved a joint venture by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes respectively own Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the two other casinos in the state.
For decades, the tribes had been rivals, but they came together for the Hartford satellite casino idea. They even came to an agreement recently with East Windsor, a Hartford-area suburb, on a plan to develop a casino along I-91. Local residents petitioned the state to consider other casino operators and state lawmakers have acceded to their requests.
Committee to Review 2 Bills
Now, the Public Safety and Security Committee plans to review two separate bills. One bill would allow the East Windsor development to proceed, with the Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun partnership owning the casino. The other bill would open up bidding to outside developers, with Jonathan A. Harris, the state consumer protection commissioner, making the decision on the casino license.
The lawmakers with the most influence on the process seem to share the same attitude towards the bills. Their talking points note that they want to give the legislature maximum flexibility in making decisions for the future, though each seems to prefer the Connecticut tribes’ development plans. State lawmakers have a 25-year history with the Mohegan Tribe, while having a 30+ year relationship with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.
Joe Verrengia on March 16 Proposal
State Rep. Joe Verrengia (D), the co-chairman of the Public Safety Committee, plans to schedule hearings for both bills. His committee has until March 16 to send a proposal to the Connecticut House and Senate.
Rep. Verrengia said at a public hearing this week, “It is important that we have the two competing bills introduced to begin the public discussion with respect to the expansion of gaming. These are the two issues at the root of whether or not it is in the best interest of the state to expand gaming.”
It is no coincidence the Rep. Joe Verrengia is from West Hartford. Other communities in the Hartford area also would like a chance to host the third casino in the state.
Timothy Larson on Due Diligence
Sen. Timothy D. Larson, who also co-chairs the Public Safety Committee, said this his committee is doing their due diligence by responding to residents’ concerns. Sen. Larson, who is from East Hartford originally, also hinted that the Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun would receive a fair hearing.
Sen. Larson said, “There was some sense from the public safety committee that there had to be a second option. In the interest of moving this along, I didn’t want to create any logjam. People will be able to come to a public hearing with another option.”
Andrew Doba on East Windsor Casino
Andrew Doba, spokesman for the tribes, declined to give a comment on the rival bill in the Connecticut legislature. Doba emphasized the job creation the tribes planned when he stated, “As we’ve said from the beginning, our project will save thousands of Connecticut jobs and millions in state revenue.”
The Hartford Satellite Casino
The Hartford casino is a plan to create an economic firewall along the border between Massachusetts and Connecticut. When the MGM Springfield opens in Western Massachusetts in the spring of 2018, Hartford-area gamblers will find a casino much closer to them than either Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. Springfield is less than 30 minutes drive down I-91 from Hartford.
Thus, a third casino is meant to draw gamblers from Hartford, keeping Connecticut money from flowing into Massachusetts. The tribes emphasize that the casino is going to create jobs in the Hartford area. It is expected that the East Windsor casino would have 2,000 slot machines and between 50 and 150 gaming tables. Such a casino would create at least 1,000 local jobs.
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