Connecticut lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on building a third casino in the state and they are days away from their first vote toward approving the proposal.
More than 75 people signed up to speak at a public hearing regarding plans the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal partnership -- MMCT Venture – has to build a casino at the site of the abandoned Showcase Cinema and Wal-Mart off Interstate 91 in East Windsor.
The two other casinos in the state are on tribal land.
Tribal leaders say it would bring more than 1,700 jobs, $8.5 million annually to the town of East Windsor and the state would receive 25 percent of the revenues from slots and table games.
Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal leaders say the goal would be to keep jobs and revenue in the state of Connecticut and compete with the MGM casino under construction in Springfield, Massachusetts. They say the state could lose 9,000 jobs if nothing is built.
"Now that we have a site, it's a little more real for some folkd and it's helping us gain some traction," Kevin Brown, of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said.
The casino proposal has already received unanimous approval from all five selectmen in East Windsor.
During the public hearing, employees from Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun came to show their solidarity and support for the project.
MGM executives also attended the hearing and planned to testify that Connecticut could get a better offer if the casino proposal was opened up to other businesses or tribes.
"I think it has to be a competitive process so that the state doesn't leave money on the table. If ultimately they select MGM, Caesars, Wynn, or even the tribes, they need to make sure they get the best deal," Uri Clinton, senior vice president legal counsel, for MGM Resorts International, said.
Members of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation also were there to testify that they want an opportunity to bid on a third casino.
“If Connecticut is going to allow gambling in the state, off the reservation, then they ought to get the best deal that they can possibly get. And my response to that is, then why not us?” said Richard Velky, the chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.
However Mashantucket tribal leaders argued there are no other federally recognized tribes in the state of Connecticut and they feel they would be best to move forward with this proposal.
“We have a longstanding relationship with the state of Connecticut, a very successful one to the tune of almost $7 billion contributed to the state as far as the slot agreement goes. And we feel like we have the best opportunity to work together, continue that relationship to protect the revenue and the jobs in the state of Connecticut,” Rodney Butler, the chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, said.
The project still needs approval from the legislature and the governor.
Multiple sources in the General Assembly and those close to Attorney General George Jepsen said Jepsen's office could release an opinion as early as today on what might happen to state gaming revenues and the compact with the tribes if a third casino opens on a site other than tribal land.