An idealized casino in Bridgeport could be a lynchpin to get the budget across the finish line in the final days of the legislative session. It would also act as a sweetener to get sports betting and changes to the state lottery approved.
Negotiations between the Speaker of the House and the tribes that run Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun started, in earnest, two days ago. The conversations have since intensified to the point where both sides are considering a proposal that would combine some of the major elements relating to the gaming industry in Connecticut.
“This is like a hail mary pass to get this to work out,” said Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, (D–Berlin), who is also a high school football coach.
The proposal would authorize sports betting, digital lottery games, and the development of a new casino in Bridgeport. It would leave the existing arrangement for the East Windsor casino, which is also slated to be run by the Mashantucket and Mohegan Tribes, in place.
“There have been conversations with the tribes and with legislative leaders,” said Rep. Chris Rosario, (D–Bridgeport), one of the supporters of a casino in Connecticut’s largest city. “They’ve been fruitful and they continue to be ongoing.”
The tribes acknowledge there have been discussions taking place with legislative leadership. With spokesman Andrew Doba telling NBC Connecticut in a statement, “Both municipalities can play a critical role in helping us to maximize jobs and revenue for Connecticut. We continue to have conversations with the administration, legislative leaders, the Bridgeport delegation and the mayor on a global solution that will also bring some level of investment in the Park City.”
But other members of the General Assembly are not convinced the talks will lead to any changes from the status quo.
One influential Democrat on the Public Safety Committee, which handles gaming issues, told NBC Connecticut there is, “no shot in hell,” of a tribe-run casino ever being located in Bridgeport.
Supporters of the effort acknowledged that they could expect a legal challenge from those who feel the agreement to allow a commercial casino off tribal land is illegal.
A spokesman for MGM, which has been pursuing a Bridgeport facility for several years, said the company is continuing conversations with lawmakers.
Sportech, which runs Bobby V’s and off-track betting locations, is also pleased to be included in the possible authorization of sports betting.
Sports betting on its own appeared to be a dead issue two weeks ago, when Gov. Ned Lamont announced talks had not reached a point where a deal could be reached.
Republicans say they have been unaware of these discussions happening behind the scenes.
Rep. JP Sredzinski, (R–Monroe), said, “To be frank, I know nothing about them. We haven’t been included.”