MGM Resorts sees advantage in departing senators

January 8, 2019

The imminent departure of three state senators for the new Lamont administration could mean a new advantage for MGM Resorts’ effort to stop a new East Windsor casino planned by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations.

At a time when Governor-elect Ned Lamont has proposed sitting down with all parties to discuss the new era of sports betting, the hiring of Sen. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford, co-chairman of the key Public Safety & Security Committee of the General Assembly, also removes one of the East Windsor casino’s key supporters.

Two other lawmakers, Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford and Terry Gerratana of New Britain, also favored the East Windsor site, which has lagged for several years as the tribes struggled to get the joint project off the ground.

Meanwhile, MGM Resorts Casino in Springfield, which has pushed for a new process to select another casino site, possibly in Bridgeport, has been open for months.

“These changes, as with many other developments during the past year, demonstrate that as time goes on, more and more people are recognizing that the best move for Connecticut, unquestionably, is an open process for a commercial casino license and for sports wagering,” MGM said in a statement Tuesday. “That is the public’s view, and increasingly the view at the State Capitol.”

Last week, Lamont told The Hartford Courant that he hopes to persuade the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots that sports wagering, already a reality in New Jersey, is a major opportunity and must be negotiated rather than allow the issue to languish in a multi-year court battle.

The Connecticut Lottery Corp. has also voiced interest in operating sports betting, but the current compact allows most gambling to be the sole purview of the tribal casinos, which give the state 25 percent of their total slot-machine revenue. Any expansion of gambling would require negotiated revisions to the compact, which dates back to the early 1990s, when then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., made the original deal with the Mashantucket Pequots.,

“We appreciate the comments by Governor-elect Lamont over the weekend regarding sports wagering in the State of Connecticut, and the need for all interested parties to sit down together,” said Uri Clinton, MGM Resorts International’s senior vice president and general counsel. “We agree that such a discussion is in the state’s best interest, and we are prepared to take him up on his suggestion immediately.”

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