Slots Task Force Still Open To Adding Slots In Connecticut

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A few days ago, I posted that the possible number of gaming facilities could expand to 15, if all legislation was passed at that moment for expanded gambling in New England.

Well, it seems I was wrong – it could actually balloon to 18!  (That’s not counting the future expansion of two tribal casinos additional in CT when they are fedrally recognized due to new rulings last by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.)  I forgot to include the notion that Connecticut has a task force looking into the future addition of slots to three racing properties – Shoreline Star Greyhound Park in Bridgeport, the Sports Haven in New Haven, and the Bradley Tele-Theater in Windsor Locks.  These would strategically help to keep gamblers in the state.

One lobbyist, James Amann, from the Shoreline Star and a former Connecticut Speaker of the House said, “”This is about the fight the state is forced to wage with neighboring states for gaming dollars. This is no different than the fight for tourism dollars. Other states are taking the fight to Connecticut.”

As reported by Bill Cummings of NewsTimes.com, Amann said “the driving force behind expanding video gaming is an ongoing drop in revenue from Connecticut’s two tribal casinos, Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, because of growing competition from casinos in Rhode Island and video gaming in New York state.  The facts are that Fairfield County residents are making the 30-minute trip to Aqueduct, in Queens and The Empire City Casino in Yonkers, to play slots instead of driving two hours or more to Foxwoods or Mohegan.

The task force consists of a small group of lawmakers representing districts near those three communities, and it completed its work in January. Sen. Andres Ayala, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the task force, said “Maybe it’s time to go forward and propose legislation that would essentially do what we’re asking to do.” Although they made no formal recommendations during their last meeting, they will be looking to draft language for the next legislative session.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Chuck Bunnell, a spokesman for the Mohegan Tribe, said the agreement struck with the state 19 years ago remains in effect and gives both tribes “exclusive rights to operate these games in exchange or a great deal of money, but are willing to listen.
  • The recommendation being considered by the group allows a total of 7,500 machines at the three locations.
  • At 25 percent — the same percentage the state earns from the Indian casinos — the state’s take from the pari-mutuels would be $75 million, although the report cautioned that additional slots would decrease the state’s tribal casino revenue by $22 million annually.
  • Last year, the state collected $296 million from Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods, that’s $134 million less than in 2007.

“We are not trying to increase the number of people going to casinos,” said state Rep. David Alexander D-Enfield, a task force member. “We just would rather have them play in Connecticut than Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.”

So, the battle lines for state revenue continues to be a hot topic.  The next year continues to prove to be an interesting on for the gambling industry in New England.

That’s all for now.

Binbin