Courtnesy of CT-N

A Republican lawmaker failed to convince his colleagues Monday on the Planning & Development Committee to amend the casino expansion legislation to give host municipalities more leverage.

The amendment would have:

• reduced the number of casinos from three to one;
• restricted financial assistance to the two tribes operating the casino;
• required greater participation from a municipality, and;
• forced a town go to hold a referendum before agreeing to play host to a casino.

Rep. Bill Aman, R-South Windsor, introduced the amendment saying he’s concerned about the municipalities having a seat at the negotiating table with the state and the two tribes.

As currently drafted, the bill requires the legislative body of a town to vote on whether to welcome a casino, “but it doesn’t necessarily say what they’ve voting on.” Aman said his amendment would require a memorandum of understanding between the tribes and the town.

“It makes life a lot easier for the casino, the state, and the municipality,” Aman said.

For example, the agreement could ban left-hand turns off casino property between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, said he would not want to tie the hands of the municipalities and he would like to see the host municipality hold a referendum. He asked to amend Aman’s amendment to require a referendum. Aman’s amendment and Cassano’s addition failed on a tie vote, but the concepts received bipartisan support.

Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he thinks any town should have the option to go to referendum, but they may have charters that don’t allow for that to happen.

“I think for any town that’s going to do this it should definitely go to a vote of the citizens,” Ritter said.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said she’s all for prohibiting the use of state money for casinos and would like to see the casino issue go to a referendum in the host community. However, it wasn’t the right time to amend the legislation.

“This bill has to have some real changes made to it, but I am not willing to do it vis-a-vis this way,” Osten said.

She said the changes need to be made through a master amendment that likely will be added to the bill when it reaches the floor of the Senate.

Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, and Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, thanked the committee for their vote.

“The strength of the relationship between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes and the state of Connecticut has been the willingness of all three governments to work together to solve complex issues and problems,” they said in a statement. “Our government-to-government partnership has been strong and mutually beneficial, and we respect today’s vote by the committee to continue to move forward.”