Connecticut Lawmakers, MGM, & CT Casino Expansion

Let’s start with some statistics:

  • Total employment in Connecticut is below the level of jobs that existed in Feb. 1989 – 27 years without any permanent job growth in the state.
  • Since 2007, only Nevada and Illinois have seen less growth in personal income.
  • Once the state’s third largest sector, non-durable manufacturing (something produced for the consumer’s immediately use and usually has an expected lifespan of three years or less) is nearly $15 billion below its previous peak in fall 2007.

It’s no wonder that lawmakers from the Bridgeport and New Haven areas are calling for an open, competitive process for the evaluation of casino proposals.  The two largest cities in Connecticut would like a chance change some of their resident’s hard times.  Like many regions of the country, southwestern legislators think gambling casinos are the answer.

Kevin Brown, left, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council and Rodney Butler, right, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council,

Kevin Brown, left, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council and Rodney Butler, right, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council,

A bill was recently proposed for the establishment of “a transparent and competitive process for the issuance of commercial gaming licenses by the Department of Consumer Protection.”  Legislation authorizing commercial rather than tribal casinos would have to be enacted before the tribes — or anyone else for that matter — could open a third casino in the state.This is direct conflict with the current MMCT venture by the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans. A 2015 law enabled the tribes to jointly pursue proposals for casino sites from Connecticut municipalities.

Why? Jobs is the main concern.  But is there some shenanigans in the background?

Jim Murren and MGM Resorts

Jim Murren & MGM Resorts

MGM Resorts International, the gaming giant whose development of a $950 million casino resort in Springfield, Mass., has been against the CCMT from the get go.  Of course, they favor the bill.  MGM has even commissioned market research that determined that a casino in Bridgeport would be more beneficial to the state than one in north-central Connecticut.  But have they considered their competition – the New York City area casinos, such as Empire City and Resorts World, which just happen to be some of the most popular and lucrative in the country.

“These legislators have it right, and they are proposing what Connecticut should have done from day one: put in place a process that is fair, open, transparent, reliable, and competitive,” Alan Feldman, an MGM Resorts executive vice president, said in a statement. “That’s how Connecticut wins — with a process that allows all qualified bidders to compete and the state to get the best deal. It is hands down the best way for the state to maximize the number of jobs that can be created, and the amount of gaming revenue that can be generated.”

The Pequots and the Mohegans now remit 25 percent of their slots revenue in accordance with exclusive gaming agreements with the state. The addition of commercial casino would legally allow the tribes to pay nothing, nullifying the compact with the state.

I think it should be looked into.  Like Massachusetts, a huge application fee of an industry giant could be taken, put in the coffers, with no responsibility to any of them.  They could also follow the northern neighbor by choosing to give a licence then taking it back and not issuing it due to the possibility of over-saturation, as in Brockton and Rush gaming southeastern licence.


MGM National Harbor

And why is MGM so happy to stir the pot?  My opinion – greed and exclusivity.  Conquering the east coast gambling market is on the agenda of MGM International.  They have already become the single owner of Borgata – the best casino in Atlantic City.  They built Washington National Harbor in Maryland, close to D.C.  A Georgia licence is becoming more of a priority.  And their strangle-hold in Las Vegas as caused the death of a sacred Vegas amenity – free parking.  What better to conquer Connecticut with a “if we can’t have one, no one else should” strategy.

Any way you look at, Connecticut’s economic woes won’t be solved by casinos. Deciding the fate of casino expansion depends on sifting through the smoke-screens and scratching deep enough to find the real intentions of all parties concerned.