After failing to reach a gambling agreement for years, last week Connecticut legislators presented a new coalition which is seeking to get official permission for a new casino venue in Bridgeport and legal sports betting services.
However, there is one major aspect of the negotiations for the considered gambling bill which is currently missing – Governor Ned Lamont’s direct participation, which has been considered a bit unusual. It comes at a moment when the first-term Democrat is still trying to build his connection with Connecticut legislators and consolidate his positions in the Capitol among competing interests and contradictions.
Governor Lamont managed to pass a state budget before the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1st, but he has still been struggling to gain some progress with other suggestions such as his plan for electronic highway tolls. The reshuffling of senior staff which happened in July was also seen by some analysts as a way for Lamont to put some key issues in the spotlight, but according to lawmakers, the casino bill was not one of them.
Now, Connecticut lawmakers have explained that they proceeded with the gambling legislation without Governor Lamont because his negotiations with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Indian tribes which were seeking what they called a “global solution” to expanded gambling had faced some difficulties. Local legislators, however, do not believe that the state could afford to wait any longer, especially when it comes to sports betting which has already been legalized in New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Desired Gambling Expansion Expected to Bring $200 Million to the State in Five Years
After the Governor failed to reach an agreement with the two Indian tribes, last week he explained that he is open to see the issue revived and to once again seek expansion of the local gambling sector, an issue which has had little progress in Connecticut since the end of Governor Daniel P. Malloy’s tenure.
Governor Lamont has confirmed that revival of gambling ideas was part of his plans for the upcoming three-year period but he was still unsure whether the matter was among the top 20 of his priorities for the state. This statement made the leader of the Republican House Themis Klarides say that the new Governor’s office did not seem to be as engaged in gambling expansion as the administration of Governor Malloy.
Still, Senator Cathy Osten and other supporters of the two Indian tribes have explained that the issue is important to the future of Connecticut, as the tribes are, respectively, the seventh- and eighth-biggest employers in the state. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations currently account for over 15,000 jobs combined. Their casinos have been among the major gambling attractions in Connecticut, with millions of customers visiting the venues on an annual basis, with more than half of them being local residents.
For almost three decades now, the tribes’ revenue-sharing agreement with Connecticut have brought a contribution of $8 billion to the state on an annual basis thanks to the permission allowing them to operate slot machines.
The gambling expansion bill is to provide the two Indian tribes with permission to continue their plans for a casino situated in East Windsor, as well as to establish a Bridgeport casino worth $100 million. Apart from that, if the proposed bill is transformed into law, the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot tribes would be granted the exclusive rights to offer sports betting services at their casinos.
Under the provisions of the proposed bill, the Connecticut Lottery would be authorized to offer online services, with a new iKeno game expected to generate a $30-million contribution for the state over the first five years of its existence. In total, the sought gambling expansion is expected to bring fresh revenue of over $200 million over five years.