There is a new push in the Connecticut General Assembly to establish an open casino bidding process that could allow for Bridgeport to have a chance at a gaming facility.
The Bridgeport delegation is putting pressure on Democratic leadership, even though the governor signed into law last year the mechanism to allow for the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes to operate a facility in East Windsor.
"As has happened in every other state that licenses commercial casinos, a competitive process will bring Connecticut the best deal, in terms of jobs, economic development, community benefits, and support for our local businesses," Rep. Chris Rosario said.
The East Windsor project is currently on hold, pending clearance from the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. The state’s two tribes are entangled in a legal fight arguing that the project should have been given the green light by now, but the federal agency has moved to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The battle brewing is the same one that’s been waged for the past three years in the Connecticut General Assembly: between MGM and the entity MMCT, established by Connecticut’s two tribes with gaming operations.
Uri Clinton, who has spearheaded the lobbying effort in Hartford on behalf of MGM, says the delay in Washington should provide pause for state lawmakers, saying, "The Department of the Interior hasn’t given traction to the East Windsor casino and I think that MGM has put a vision forward and made significant investments in Bridgeport so that people see what the vision can be."
Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were vocal in their support last year for the East Windsor project and Sen. Bob Duff, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said his position hasn’t changed.
"By putting a casino in Bridgeport, it breaks a compact that we have with the Mashantuckets and Mohegans and so I don’t think that’s a good idea," Duff said. "What we’re trying to do in East Windsor is by opening up another facility is not to promote more gambling, it’s about protecting over 6,000 jobs in the state of Connecticut."
Clinton, with MGM, said the company is still in a strong position, with its construction on a Springfield casino nearly complete, but said there is still a goal of locating a facility within driving distance of New York City and its suburbs.
"I will tell you unequivocally that we’ve asked repeatedly for the chance to build in Bridgeport," Clinton said.
The tribes responded to the latest push with a statement, with a spokesman saying, "Let's call this bill what it is - the MGM Massachusetts Protection Act. A bill that will cost Connecticut $1 billion dollars in revenue and eliminate 4,000 jobs was a bad idea last year, and is still a bad idea."