Lamont has to be careful he’s not being played in casino talks

February 26, 2019

Gov. Ned Lamont needs to be careful not to be snookered into making a bad bet as his administration tries to negotiate a grand compromise that would allow MGM Resorts International and the two tribal casinos to co-exist in Connecticut with the resultant revenues flowing into state coffers.

“Without getting into too much detail, it’s a deal that would maintain our commitment to the tribes in our compact in a way that satisfies both parties, gets the lawyers to stand down, and we have something going on in Bridgeport as well. Let’s leave it as that,” the governor said when he met with our editorial board Tuesday.

It is hard to imagine the path to such a deal.

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort are large, established employers in the state and drive visitors here. Under their compact with the state that allows them to exclusively offer slot machines, 25 percent of the slot revenue goes to the state, about 250 million in gaming revenue in its first year. MGM executives told the Massachusetts gaming commission that they expected the casino to generate about 500 million letter of credit to show us (they’re) serious,” Lamont said.

He also said he will not allow the talks to drag on — “I’ll tell you more in a few weeks.” — and placed the prospects of success as “50-50.”

As for legalized sports betting, Lamont said it is coming to Connecticut in some form and will likely involve the casinos.

“We’ve got to work out the issue of the tribes and MGM (first) and sports betting is going to come after that,” Lamont said.

Our expectation is that the governor is wasting his time and he can’t afford to waste much of it. If these talks don’t progress, if any resultant deal does not come with ironclad assurances, Lamont should move on and get behind a bill to authorize construction of the East Windsor casino without Department of Interior approval.