Third Connecticut Casino Approved by Governor
The gambling arms race continues in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states as Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed a bill Tuesday which authorizes the construction of a third casino in the state. Public Act No. 17-89, formerly Senate Bill 957, says that the casino, which will be built in East Windsor, will be owned and operated by MMCT Venture LLC, joint venture between the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.
“Over the years, our state has maintained a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations, who employ thousands of Connecticut residents at their casinos,” said the Governor in a press release Tuesday. “Make no mistake about it – the legislation I signed today is about jobs for the residents of Connecticut, and securing those jobs in our state.”
Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman echoed the jobs theme, saying, “This bill protects Connecticut jobs and adds new ones – it’s good for our economy and our workforce. It also speaks to our long relationship with Connecticut’s tribal nations and the importance of that partnership and the compact.”
The bill signed by Governor Malloy moved relatively quickly through the state legislature, seemingly an oddity for a gambling bill in the United States. It was introduced in early March, passed by the Senate by a 24-12 vote on May 24th, and then passed by the House on June 7th by a 103-46 vote. It was sent to the Governor about two weeks before he signed it.
According to the terms of the legislation, MMCT must pony up $1 million to the state right off the bat. Once operational, the casino must pay 25 percent of gross gaming revenue to the state. The 25 percent tax on gross gaming revenue from games that aren’t “video facsimile games” will be split up; 10 percent tax will go to a state tourism fund and 15 percent tax will be earmarked for the state’s general fund.
MMCT will also be required to shell out $300,000 each year for problem gambling concerns. Connecticut itself will give grants to the local towns of Ellington, Enfield, South Windsor, Windsor Locks, East Hartford, and Hartford.
“Today the Governor signed one of the most significant jobs bills passed by the General Assembly this legislative session,” said Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler in the press release. “With so much at stake, we can’t thank him and his partners in the legislature enough for standing with us in our fight to save jobs and revenue in Connecticut.”
The saving of jobs that everyone is talking about likely has to do with next year’s opening of the MGM Springfield casino, located only 15 miles north of East Windsor. East Windsor is in the north-central portion of Connecticut. The state’s current casinos, the very popular Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, are south and east, not very close to the northern border of the state. MGM Springfield poses a serious threat to Connecticut’s gambling industry, as those in the northern and western parts of the state would be more likely to visit MGM Springfield than Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun because it is closer. MGM Springfield will likely draw more people from nearby areas of Massachusetts than the TBA East Windsor casino will, but East Windsor will certainly draw some customers from those places, which is more than would gamble in Connecticut without a new casino.
As mentioned, this is just another salvo fired in the continuing arms race of the region as states try to claim and reclaim gambling territory from their neighbors. New York saw its third of four casinos open in upstate New York in February. New Jersey was looking at expanding casino gambling to the northern part of the state to combat the migration of gamblers from up there to casinos in Pennsylvania, though a referendum failed miserably. Maryland Live! is just a few years old and continues to grow in popularity and MGM National Harbor will open late this year near Washington, D.C.
Then you have the online gambling battles. New Jersey’s gaming industry we know about, bred partly in order to keep New Jersey residents’ gambling dollars in-state, away from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is nearing its own online gaming industry if it can just work out some kinks (all be they very gnarly kinks). New York’s online gambling push looks dead for now, but it seems like something positive will probably happen next year or the year after.
The planned location for the new casino is off of Interstate 91 on the site of a former Wal-Mart and Showcase Cinema. Per MMCT’s development agreement with East Windsor, MMCT will pay the town $3 million, due by a date 15 months before the casino is to open. MMCT will also pay East Windsor $3 million per year on top of taxes.
*Lead image courtesy nbcconnecticut.com