HARTFORD, CT — A bill that would have expanded casino gaming in Connecticut is officially dead for the year.
That’s according to the proponents of the legislation who were successful in getting a vote last week in the House.
“A year ago, the bill never received a floor vote,” MGM Resorts and RCI Group said in a statement. “This year it passed the House. That is significant. We realize that change is hard and takes time, and we respect the delegations’ preference not to dominate debate with this issue with much to accomplish in a short time in the session’s final hours.”
RCI Group is the developer MGM teamed up with to build a waterfront casino in Bridgeport.
The two federally recognized tribes have exclusivity over gaming in Connecticut at the moment and plans to build an East Windsor casino to attract convenience gamblers on their way to MGM’s new Springfield, Mass. casino have been stalled.
MGM had made a big push to get Connecticut to open the gaming industry and allow them to bid on what might be a third or fourth casino. There are already two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, in southeastern Connecticut. The two casinos share slot revenue with the state.
During the House debate, Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, said the legislation puts in jeopardy the state’s current revenue sharing agreements with the two tribal nations. The state receives about $270 million from the two tribes as part of a 25-percent slot revenue sharing agreement.
He said the proposed legislation is incomplete because it doesn’t account for possibly violating the revenue sharing agreement and it doesn’t include a timeline.
Soto, whose district is near the two southeastern casinos, said that if the request for proposals went out and then at some point a casino would be authorized, he said the second step in the process “would violate that compact.” He said he doesn’t agree with the second step of the process.
However, for Bridgeport and New Haven lawmakers the MGM plan meant jobs for their constituents.
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, has stressed that the legislation isn’t just about a casino. It’s about economic development for the New Haven and Bridgeport corridor, which could stretch as far south as Fairfield and as far north as North Haven.
“We want a destination,” Walker said. “We don’t want just casinos.”
She said places like Beardsley Zoo are part of this proposal in drawing people to that part of the state.