HARTFORD, CT — Several hours after the Senate passed a bill that would give Connecticut’s two federally recognized Indian tribes the exclusive right to open a third casino in the state, Democratic members in the House said the bill would not pass that chamber in its current form.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he has many members who believe the open bidding process for a third casino “is the way to go” and “we shouldn’t be giving the exclusive rights to anyone.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said they haven’t caucused or vote-counted the casino bill yet with their members. When they do he expects there will be “32 different opinions.”
What does that mean for the fate of the bill giving the two tribes exclusivity over gaming in Connecticut?
“We believe in the House that the exclusivity aspect of expanding gambling in the state of Connecticut is worth something,” Aresimowicz said. “We believe expanded gambling in Connecticut is worth something in the bidding process. The Senate didn’t think so. We respectfully disagree.”
Ritter said the bill that passed the Senate early Wednesday morning cannot pass the House as currently written.
“This is not meant to be disrespectful to anyone or presumptuous. The bill that passed the Senate cannot pass the House,” Ritter said.
The Democratic budget proposal included $100 million from the expansion of gaming in Connecticut. It didn’t say whether the money would come from licensing fees or applications, both of which have been proposed by Uri Clinton, senior vice president and legal counsel for MGM Resorts International.
Clinton has argued the state would reap a larger benefit from opening a bidding process for a new casino, instead of just handing it to the joint business venture between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Nations.
The tribes, which have casinos on tribal land in southeastern Connecticut, have said the state would lose its 25 percent revenue sharing agreement with the tribes, which currently brings in about $260 million a year, if it decided to open the bidding process.
On Wednesday afternoon Clinton said licensing fees and support for infrastructure improvements have come up in almost every discussion, so he’s pleased the House isn’t ready to sign off on the Senate bill.
He said he’s pleased that people in the House are seeing the bill for what it is. He said if they really want to maximize jobs then the state should look at building a bigger facility and setting job requirements.
The Senate bill passed 24-12 and now goes to the House, which also has a separate bill that would create an open bidding process.