Connecticut Sweeping gaming bill calls for Bridgeport casino, sports wagering

by Administrator

State lawmakers unveiled a sweeping gaming bill today calling for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to invest at least $100 million in a Bridgeport gaming facility and granting them permission to conduct internet gambling and sports wagering at their casinos and via mobile applications.

The proposed Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act could prompt a special session of the legislature, which failed to reached consensus on gaming legislation in the last regular session, which concluded in June.

“If the goal of the debate around gaming is to maximize the number of jobs and the amount of revenue for Connecticut, then this bill is the solution,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, the Sprague Democrat who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee and serves on the Public Safety and Security Committee. “This legislation will deepen our partnership with two of our biggest employers and our large single taxpayers — the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. With slot revenues showing a steady and gradual decline because of increased competition, we can’t afford to kick the can down the road. The time to act on this legislation is now.”

“This legislation is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together, regardless of our party affiliation or the chamber we serve,” said Rep. Christopher Rosario, a Bridgeport Democrat. “By investing in our cities, we can create new destinations that will spur additional development and create not only jobs but also vibrant urban centers. I’m proud to support this bill and urge other elected leaders to join the fight.” 

Another Democratic Bridgeport legislator, Sen. Dennis Bradley, a public safety committee member, chimed in.

“Bridgeport is a city that’s reinventing itself, with new restaurants and retail outlets that are already drawing people from outside the city,” said Bradley. “When we pass this bill, we’re going to put that reinvention into high gear, with new jobs for residents and new taxes for municipal government. This is historic and has been a long-anticipated plan that now will be realized because of our joint efforts to place Connecticut back on the map, and I urge all of Connecticut’s elected leaders to support this bill.”

Gov. Ned Lamont's administration was much less enthusiastic.

"Only last week did the administration receive this draft legislation. A matter of such significance requires substantial involvement from multiple stakeholders, in particular the executive branch. Something this complex should not be negotiated without all necessary parties and certainly not behind closed doors," Max Reiss, Lamont's director of communications, said in a press release. "While we are appreciative of Senator Osten's efforts and that of the various delegations, the administration's position remains the same: a global resolution that mitigates the likelihood of years of litigation and positions the state to capitalize on a comprehensive gaming platform. Further, this proposed bill falls short of what the governor wants for Bridgeport — a bill that only authorizes versus requires a meaningful project in Bridgeport is not good enough. The administration looks forward to its participation in ongoing negations with the tribes."

The bill would not alter the tribes’ plans to develop the proposed Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor, a project the state authorized in 2017.

The proposed Bridgeport development would serve as an anchor for additional private development around the casino facility, bringing the total investment in the project to $300 million, lawmakers said in a statement. Construction of the facility and surrounding development would create at least 1,000 construction jobs and lead to 500 permanent jobs.

The facility is expected to generate $15 million annually for the state.

The proposed legislation also would allow the tribes to take part in the development of entertainment zones in Hartford and two other cities that would be selected by the tribes, working in conjunction with state and local officials. The development would create 100 jobs per facility. 

The bill does not include any taxpayer money for the development and expansion of gaming. The tribes would cover costs associated with any new regulations that are put into place as a result of the expansion, and would assume all of the financial risk. If the court overturns any part of the law, the bill is rescinded.

As with the Tribal Winds Casino, the new facility in Bridgeport would contribute 10 percent of its table game revenue to the state’s tourism marketing fund. Additional “mitigation” money would be sent to Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull and Waterbury.

The bill also would allocate additional funding to combat problem gaming.

The bill would authorize the tribes to conduct sports wagering at their existing casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, and through mobile applications and would also allow for internet gaming, similar to existing law in New Jersey. Sports wagering would be taxed at 8 percent while internet gaming would be taxed at 10 percent.

Sports wagering is projected to bring in $33 million over five years while internet gaming will bring in additional $87 million over the same time period.

The bill also would bring Connecticut in line with Massachusetts and New York by authorizing liquor sales at the casinos until 4 a.m.

It also would authorize the Connecticut Lottery to offer the online and application-based sale of lottery tickets as well as internet keno, which would be expected to generate $30 million for the state over five years.