Connecticut lawmakers consider bill for one more tribal casino

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler, left, and Mohegan Tribe Chairman Kevin Brown appeared at a hearing on March 17 to support a bill to authorize more tribally-operated casinos. Photo from CT Jobs Matter

The Connecticut Senate is expected to vote today on a revised bill that authorizes an additional casino for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe.

The new version of Senate Bill 1090 requires the tribes to solicit proposals for the casino through a public process. After a host community is selected, the tribes would have to return to the Legislature for approval, The Hartford Courant reported.

“It has to move in stages,’’ Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D) told the paper. “It is the most prudent way to move forward.’’

The bill was revised after Attorney General George Jepsen raised questions about the legality of authorizing as many as three more casinos. He warned that new facilities could impact the existing Class III gaming compact, which bars gaming "by any other person and no other person" in the state except the two tribes.

In hopes of addressing potential concerns at the federal level, the tribes asked Jepsen to submit a statement to the Interior Department in support of their casino bid, The Connecticut Mirror reported. He declined, citing his earlier letter to lawmakers, but his office does not oppose the revised bill.

“The draft amendment, as we understand it, does not legalize casino gaming in the state of Connecticut," a spokesperson for Jepsen told the Courant. “Legislation that does not authorize casino gaming would have no impact on the current agreements between the tribes and the state and would not increase or otherwise affect the likelihood of the state being obligated under federal law to negotiate a gaming compact with tribes that may gain federal recognition in the future.’’

The tribes believe a new casino will help them address competition from neighboring Massachusetts. MGM Resorts International is building a $800 million casino in downtown Springfield, just a few miles from the state border.

The tribes have said they will invest at least $300 million in a new facility. They also estimate they could lose up to 9,300 jobs if the state maintains the status quo.

"Call your legislators and tell them that you want to protect CT Jobs," the tribes said on Connecticut Jobs Matter account on Twitter.

Get the Story:
Senate Expected to Vote Wednesday on Casinos (The Hartford Courant 5/20)
Senator Tony Hwang: Trying To Stop Casinos (The Hartford Courant 5/20)
Jepsen declined to help tribes lobby feds on casino (The Connecticut Mirror 5/19)
Strategic retreat: No final casino vote until 2016 (The Connecticut Mirror 5/19)

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