Starting this week, a public forum was opened to discuss what kind of impact the expansion of casino gambling in states like Rhode Island, New York, and New Hampshire will have on Connecticut. While this may not seem like a big topic of discussion, so many people showed up to the forum that another room had to be opened up due to the capitol building being overcrowded.
Many opinions have been lobbed, but the general consensus is that an expansion of the scope of legal gambling in neighboring states is and will continue to negatively affect Connecticut’s industry. Chairman of the Mashantucket Tribe, Rodney Butler, testified to Congress saying that they cannot afford to simply ignore the actions other states are taking.
Continuing with his statement, Rodney Butler was quoted as saying, “We had no idea of the magnitude of the impact on the Connecticut gaming market.” Beyond Butler’s commentary, members of the state government challenged Butler.
In fact, state representatives challenged both Butler and Kevin Brown, who is the chairman of the Mohegan Tribe.
Their challenges came from the fact that both Brown and Butler want to add another casino to the state, but do not want to open up the selection process to other casino operators. Basically, they are saying that either the state bows to the demands of the tribes, or another casino cannot exist.
In response to this, Representative Joe Verrengia was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure how to come up with a value of a license without a competitive process. I feel it is my duty to determine the best value for a gaming license.”
The need for a public forum arose due to the fact that, as of Thursday, 2 separate, competing bills were introduced. The first bill would allow the Mohegans and Mashantuckets to build the state’s 3rd casino. The project would be a joint venture and would allow the third gambling location to be located off of tribal lands.
The competing bill, however, would open up the process to outside operators other than the two tribes Connecticut has been dealing with for more than 20 years. This is a bill starkly opposed by the tribes and one that, if approved, would flip the Connecticut casino industry on its head. The reason for this, according to the tribes, is that the passing of this bill would undermine the agreement currently held between the state and native tribes. If an outside operator is selected and approved, the tribes are arguing that they will no longer be forced to pay gambling taxes to the state—a tally that accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Right now, even with the idea of a 3rd casino hanging in the air, the general consensus is that the next casino should be located in Hartford. In doing this, Connecticut will be able to siphon some gambling money over the border from Massachusetts. This is a situation that is still very much in its infancy, but is also one that we will be following closely as the year progresses. What we do know is that Connecticut very much wants to add a 3rd casino, and that that casino should be in Hartford, now they need to determine who is allowed to own and operate it; which is perhaps the biggest hurdle of all.