Lawmakers Still Working On Casino Expansion Puzzle
HARTFORD, CT — The Senate and the House on Saturday may have worked out an agreement to approve two separate casino proposals to send to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
One would give exclusivity to the two federally-recognized Indian tribes to open a casino in East Windsor to head off any traffic headed north to a new MGM Resorts International casino in Springfield, Mass. That bill has already passed the Senate and Malloy has signaled that it’s the only bill he would consider signing.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said there are no plans to amend the Senate bill in the House. That’s because they’re crafting a separate bill that he hopes will win enough support to pass both proposals.
“Instead of clogging up the Senate bill and putting that in peril of bouncing back and forth between the chambers, we would more than likely do it in a separate bill,” Aresimowicz said.
The other bill, which is still being drafted, could include anything from an exclusivity fee for the tribes to permission to allow slot machines in off-track betting facilities to allowing a boutique casino in Hartford. It would not include the open bidding process that was advocated by MGM Resorts Casino.
“We are hearing that the tribes are continuing to lose support for their bill because there are so many open questions about all the side deals that are being contemplated, and we are continuing to push our position that an open, competitive process is the only way Connecticut can maximize job creation and revenue generation,” Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel, for MGM Resorts International said Saturday.
Lawmakers said they have heard a number of different proposals.
The speaker said they have not polled their members about how they feel about the proposal because they are still uncertain exactly what the language would include.
“Right now if we vote-counted the Senate casino bill that came down, we do not have the numbers,” Aresimowicz said.
The language has to be broad enough to win the support of the Bridgeport delegation and other communities, who feel they won’t directly benefit from an expansion of gaming. It’s unclear how the revenue would be divided up if the tribes allowed video slots to be placed in off-track betting facilities.
On Monday, Clinton was questioning whether the new proposal and allowing video slots to be placed off tribal land would jeopardize the compact the tribes have with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“The side deals that would add gaming in new forms and new places present a real and present danger to the state’s revenue sharing agreement,” Clinton said.
He said the technical assistance the tribes received from the BIA “does not address the validity of legislation and compact amendments that would allow multiple new gaming locations in the state, because such actions were not presented or considered.”
Aresimowicz said Monday that legislation was still being drafted and the details have yet to be finalized.
The legislative session ends at midnight on June 7.