HARTFORD, CT — The state Senate Tuesday took the first step in clearing the way for the House to approve a bill that would allow Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes to open a casino in East Windsor.
While none of the Senators seemed to be a fan of the bill that reduces requirements for mixed martial arts promoters, the Senate approved the measure by a vote of 27-9 and sent it to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature.
The bill would eliminate both the requirement that promoters’ must pay the health care costs of their fighters and a 5 percent gross receipts tax that promoters also are required to pay.
The legislation is a necessary precursor to the House running a bill to approve a casino in East Windsor.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, described the sport as “barbaric.”
He said he would never watch a match, but he understands that it’s a sport that attracts a number of people to a venue. Those spectators in turn spend money on restaurants and other amenities within a given area around a venue like the XL Center in Hartford or Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
The bill, which already passed the House, was being used to win the support of urban lawmakers in the House who were not certain about whether they would support legislation approving a third Connecticut casino in East Windsor.
The House is also expected to raise a bill Tuesday that would expand the number of off-track betting facilities in the state, create an entertainment commission, and order the Department of Consumer Protection to create a regulatory structure for sports betting in case the federal ban is lifted.
The OTB bill would then need to be taken up by the Senate before the House approves the Senate bill giving the two tribes the ability to build a casino off tribal land in East Windsor. The only hiccup they perceive is a Republican amendment from Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, who would like to put the siting decision back in the hands of East Windsor’s voters in a local referendum. The East Windsor Board of Selectmen already approved the casino location, which is the site of the former Showcase Cinemas off I-91, without a referendum.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes want to open up a $300 million satellite casino just off I-91 in East Windsor in order to capture convenience gamblers who might otherwise head north to MGM’s new, $950 million casino in Springfield, Mass.
MGM Resorts International had lobbied against giving the tribes exclusivity on gaming in Connecticut, but lost the battle with lawmakers who admit they will face a legal challenge regardless of how they proceed.