Casino Revenue Would Stop If Tribes Don’t Build Next Casino

Casino Revenue Would Stop If Tribes Don’t Build Next Casino
 CT Post, February 24, 2017

 by Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — If another group besides the state’s two Indian tribes develops a third Connecticut casino, it would abruptly end the flow of slot-machine revenue from Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, lawmakers were told Thursday.
 

Kevin Brown, the Mohegans’ tribal chairman, and Felix Rappaport, CEO of Foxwoods, said that if another entity were to build the next state casino, it would violate the compact between the tribes and the state, terminating the $7 billion in revenue that dates back to the opening of Foxwoods in 1992.

“We are part of Connecticut,” Brown said. “We will be perpetually businessmen in this state.”

While annual revenue representing 25 percent of the total slot-machine handle has fallen off sharply in recent years, it still amounts to $250 million annually at a time the state is facing a budget deficit of up to $1.7 billion.

Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the legislative Public Safety Committee, said after a four-hour informational meeting that he didn’t feel threatened by the statement.

“I think the pressing issue going forward is do we open it up to a competitive process and gauge the interest, or do we exclusively deal with the tribes?” Verrengia said in an interview, noting that it has been 15 months since the tribes were given the green light by the previous General Assembly to look at a third state location.

But while the tribes expect “within days” to announce a potential site for a Hartford-area casino to stem the expected flow of state gambling dollars to a $950-million casino that MGM Resorts International has under construction in Springfield, Mass., other groups told lawmakers that Southwestern Connecticut is a more desirable location than Interstate-91 corridor north of Hartford.

Casino In Southwestern Connecticut? back to top

In fact, most speakers during the hearing of invited speakers, including Chief Richard Velky of the Kent-based Schaghticoke Tribe, Charlie Aspinwall of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe, a lawyer for MGM Resorts, and the president of the statewide parimutuel wagering system, agreed that the Southwestern Connecticut market makes more sense than a gambling outpost a dozen miles south of Springfield.

Velky said his 300-member tribe is “ready, willing and able” to develop a commercial casino in Western or Southwestern Connecticut, to tap the estimated $4 billion gambling market. While Kent doesn’t have the infrastructure needed for a destination casino, the Bridgeport area does, with a pool of employees who could fill the estimated 8,000 new jobs, he said. In November of 1995, a special session of the General Assembly failed to approve a Bridgeport casino.

“Bridgeport is an ideal location,” said Aspinwall, who charged that while the Trumbull-based tribe had extensive background information for its bid for federal recognition, state officials joined the congressional delegation in 2010 to subvert them. “That’s akin to the KKK having veto power over the Civil Rights Act,” he said. “It’s time to end the discrimination, time to end the bigotry and time to adhere to the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

Ted Taylor, president of Sportech Ventures, which plans to open its 15th parimutuel facility in Stamford, a $7.5-million facility, in time for the Kentucky Derby in early May, said that building the satellite casino in East Windsor or Windsor Locks, as the tribes plan, would be “devastating” for its Teletrack at Bradley International Airport four miles away, even though the company recently invested $4 million in the site.

“You are considering a new gaming industry,” Taylor said. “This cannot be seen as an extension of what you already have. We want to be part of the discussion.”

Taylor said that the Shoreline Star in Bridgeport, the former jai alai fronton that was converted into a dog track, which is now a betting parlor, would be a perfect location for another casino. He described the current parimutuel market as “just below flat.”

Also making his pitch was Anthony W. Ravosa Jr., managing member of a group that has proposed a long-shot independent casino in an old movie theater in East Hartford.