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NEWS 16 March 2017

Connecticut’s Public Safety Committee approves two casino expansion bills

By Nicole Abbott
A legislative committee in Connecticut have recently approved two separate casino expansion bills, sending them forward to be considered by the full House and Senate.

The first bill authorises the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a satellite casino in East Windsor as a joint venture. The tribes claim that this new casino is needed to protect jobs at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resorts Casino in south-eastern Connecticut by moderating competition from the MGM Resorts International casino currently in construction in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The second bill will call for the state Departments of Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development to craft a process for requesting proposals from developers to build a commercial casino anywhere in Connecticut. The bill highlights its financial benefits to the state, including a licensing fee of $250m.

Several members of the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee said that this vote should not be taken as a sign that both of these bills will be passed, as a wider discussion on the implications of authorising a casino on non-tribal land is required in order to settle the matter.

Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester says: "The conversation needs to continue. It's a much bigger issue than the Public Safety Committee in the General Assembly. I think it's very important for us to realise that."

Supporters of the tribal bill argue that over 9,000 jobs and millions of dollars in state tax revenue are in jeopardy if MGM is permitted to open its new $950m casino over the state border in late 2018 without a competing casino operating in Connecticut.

"Today's vote takes us one step closer to keeping both right here in Connecticut," said Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler.

However, Proponents of the second bill claim that the state has the potential to reap even more revenue and jobs by offering more opportunities to other locations and developers. MGM have supported this case and expressed its interest in building a casino in south-western Connecticut. The firm said the second bill also negates potential for constitutional challenges if the tribal bill was passed, a concern raised by Attorney General George Jepsen.

Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM, comments: "The committee's approval of the competitive bill reflects the realisation that it offers Connecticut the best way to achieve the greatest reward with the least risk."
RELATED TAGS: Casino | Legal & Regulatory | Industry
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