Casino debate expanded to include slots, high-roller venue

"Our state has a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations, who employ thousands of CT residents in their casinos".

The Democrat told The Associated Press on Tuesday night the House of Representatives plans to vote on legislation that includes provisions aimed at gaining support for a separate Senate bill that would allow the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a casino in East Windsor to compete with a new MGM Resorts casino in MA. The bill previously passed the Senate and now heads to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's desk.

MGM Resorts International had fought for two years to block authorization of what the tribes call a "satellite casino" between Hartford and Springfield to blunt the loss of gambling market share once MGM opens its gaming resort in Springfield next year.

These proposals come days before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its regular legislative session at midnight on Wednesday.

Lawmakers have said they needed one more vote to pass the bill allowing the Department of Transportation to study where to locate electronic toll gantries.

"I'm glad it's nearly over", said Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, who has been working to broker an agreement that could satisfy members of the House.

CT lawmakers have given final legislative approval to a bill that authorizes the state's two federally recognized tribes to open a casino in East Windsor. There are now two operational casinos in CT, with both of them being located on reservation land.

The tribes' deal has produced $7 billion for the state since 1993 and is projected to be worth about $260 million this year, but it has been shrinking since hitting a high of $430 million in 2007 and is expected to continue to fall once MGM Springfield opens. "With this vote, we have all demonstrated a commitment to protecting the state of CT and the good jobs of its residents", he said.

But some CT lawmakers voiced concern about granting the tribes exclusive rights to build a new casino on non-tribal land. According to the House Democratic Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Joe Verrengia, Rep-West Hartford, such a step could lead to some legal challenges over the upcoming years. MGM Resorts has pointed out that a property of this kind would require a license fee of at least $100 million, which would go directly to CT. In addition, a last-minute amendment provided for further expansion of the state's gambling industry, with the number of off-track betting licenses being increased from 18 to 24.

Her comments could help to put expanded casino gambling over the goal line in a legislative session that's been dominated by a loud and expensive lobbying battle between MMCT, the group that consists of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes that already have casinos and MGM which has been fighting to open a casino in Bridgeport. Such a move would be in anticipation of the federal government possibly allowing sports betting.

The House bills contain additional provisions that were not in a similar bill that passed in the Senate. The state had required a greater level of health coverage for MMA than for boxing, as well as a gross-receipts tax that the bill repeals. Unions have backed the MMA restrictions because a non-union casino operator in Las Vegas is a financial backer of the martial arts events, the Mirror reported.

Sportech, which runs off-track betting facilities in CT, says it's anxious about how the MGM casino will impact its venues in Windsor Locks, Manchester, Hartford and New Britain "without any remedies to protect our employees". However, that idea fell apart on Monday night.