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MGM’s Connecticut face takes New York casino job

December 21, 2018

MGM Resorts’ main man in Connecticut will now head the Las Vegas casino company’s new property, a racetrack and gambling hall in Yonkers, New York.

Uri Clinton, who has been the local face of MGM’s fight to install a Bridgeport casino, will assume the role of president and chief operating officer for Empire City in Yonkers, according to a statement from MGM Friday. He will also continue to lead MGM’s now four-year push to open Connecticut’s first commercial casino.

“We look forward to further solidifying MGM Resorts’ presence as the entertainment leader on the East Coast and in the New York City region,” said MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle.

Currently, Connecticut has two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes respectively, and a third casino in East Windsor, run by the two tribes together, is still waiting for U.S. Department of Interior approval, despite pressure from the tribes and Connecticut’s congressional delegation and an investigation into the delays.

Friday’s announcement has some doubting MGM’s devotion to a Bridgeport casino.

“MGM, led by Mr. Clinton, spent millions of dollars trying to convince legislators they were interested in building a casino in Connecticut and all the while they were in the process of acquiring this property in Yonkers,” said Andrew Doba, spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, in a written statement. “That Mr. Clinton is going to run it is fitting and speaks volumes about how serious people should take their claims going forward.”

Since news broke in May that MGM was buying Empire City, the second largest video-lottery facility in New York, Clinton has been assuring Bridgeport lawmakers and local leaders that the company is indeed committed to a casino in the Park City.

“We as a delegation have gotten no indication from MGM that they are backing off,” said state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, on Friday.

“I suspect this will cut down to Uri’s commute time to Connecticut,” Stafstrom added. “He has been based out of Las Vegas. Being closer is probably more of benefit than a hindrance.”

In the spring, Bridgeport’s delegation in the state House of Representatives passed a controversial bill establishing a competitive bidding process for a new Connecticut casino, giving MGM an opening to pitch its plan for Bridgeport. But the legislation died in the state Senate.

A poll commissioned by MGM and conducted in November found that Connecticut voters overwhelmingly prefer an open, competitive bidding process for the right to build a commercial casino.

The poll, a new governor and other factors may give lawmakers momentum in 2019 to win approval for a for the bidding process.

MGM also has casinos in Springfield, Mass. and Atlantic City, N.J.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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