Casino Bill Passes With Changes

With a bipartisan vote, the General Assembly's Planning Committee has approved a proposal that would allow Connecticut's two Native American tribes with casinos to operate as many as three more facilities in the state.

The measure includes provisions that would allow towns and cities to have the ultimate say as to whether they want a casino. Local residents would vote on the issue.

"It's about local control," said State Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat from Sprague who chairs the committee and supports the casino bill as a way to protect the industry's jobs in Connecticut. "We want cities and towns to decide for themselves what they think is best for them."

The town council in Windsor has already passed a measure essentially telling casino operators they're not welcome in the historic town.

"We just don’t think it fits in with the town, fits in with our economic plan," said Mayor Donald Trinks, a Democrat. "We’re looking for sustainable, viable economic growth."

Officials in Enfield are considering identical legislation to prevent a casino from being built on that side of the Connecticut-Massachusetts border.

Osten expects other municipalities to make their positive opinions known very soon.

"I expect in the next two or three weeks that we will see towns that are voting to support casinos within their town’s borders," Osten said.

In addition to the issue of local control, the casino measure includes language that would prohibit the state of Connecticut from providing incentives to build future casinos.

Supporters of the bill say the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes operate multi-million-dollar operations and hardly need any help from Connecticut taxpayers.

“I don’t think they need any state aid," Osten said. "That’s just a fact, and so I don’t think we need to put state aid into something that doesn’t need state aid."

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