MGM, Massachusetts, Provide Answers to Connecticut’s Casino Mess

Concerning more casino gaming………I think I had it all wrong – and Connecticut has it all wrong, too.

It seems MGM International has won the battle, and will seemingly win the war of casino competition.  MGM has:

  • flooded the towns considered for the MMCT third casino venture with propaganda to promote disinterest
  • stirred the pot by inciting other CT tribes to “get their piece of the pie,”
  • made CT legislators consider other processes for gaming in the Nutmeg State
  • studied and suggested Bridgeport as the best place for a new casino (away from Springfield)
  • continues litigation with the state of CT concerning the casino addition
  • slowed the third casino process to a crawl, getting ahead with their project in Springfield while
  • continuing to move forward steadily in building MGM Springfield
  • and even has CT politicians & residents alike thinking that no additional casino is the best scenario

    Jim Murren and MGM Resorts

    Jim Murren & MGM Resorts

Meanwhile, Connecticut, the Mohegans & the Mashantucket Pequots slowly try to get their ducks in a row, all the while getting further and further behind in the process.

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,

But, as I said, I’ve been looking at it all wrong.  Maybe MGM has the right idea.  MGM International has always said that the process should be transparent and fair. Maybe they’re correct in the ability for a casino in Bridgport to succeed so close to NYC. Maybe, the state of CT should take MGM’s suggestions and run with them.

Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already laid out the perfect plan during their casino expansion. Before we take a look at the MGC casino application process, I would like to introduce to you the columnist that got my blood boiling one morning as I read the paper – David Collins.

David Collins, staff writer for the New London Day, wrote an OP-ED piece called “Can the tribes outmaneuver MGM?” Why did it get my blood boiling? – because he spewed a lot of correct view points, leading me down a different path of thinking.

Here are excerpts from his column:

  • “Two bills to expand casino gambling in Connecticut came out of a skeptical Public Safety and Security Committee earlier this session of the General Assembly looking pretty much dead on arrival……one to allow the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indians to build an off-reservation casino in East Windsor, the other to open bidding for a commercial casino license elsewhere”
  • “Both [bills] have the potential to endanger the current payments to the state by the tribes for the slot machines on their reservation, part of an exclusivity deal…… that guarantees the state 25 percent of reservation slot revenues.”

    Cinema in East Windsor for proposed casino.

    Cinema in East Windsor for proposed casino.

  • “The attorney general has wrung his hands a lot over the MGM lawsuit threat and isn’t promising the state could win…….Clever maneuvering by MGM lobbyists and lawyers seems to have smartly put the tribes at this dead end”
  • “The tribes’ slot machine payments would stop with the first new law granting a license, as early as next year, and that would probably leave too much lost revenue to make up, from the time a new casino were legalized and when it actually opens its doors.”

Mr. Collins, you have nailed it.  So, I suggest taking his analysis further.  Let’s follow the Massachusetts model for casino expansion.

  1. Accept both bills. Set up a process for  accepting license applications similar to Massachusetts.
  2. Begin the bidding process for both the Bridgeport casino & East Windsor Casino. This will stop the 25% guarantee on slots to the state, but later on, this will not be a problem.
  3. Allow MMCT to bid for East Windsor, as well as anyone else.  Mr. Collins made another good point – “MGM couldn’t bid even if it wanted to, because its Massachusetts license has a radius restriction on building new casinos nearby……there are few commercial operators willing to launch a casino between the new MGM Springfield and the tribes’ big destination casinos on the reservations, especially if it also meant matching the state’s revenue from those tribal casinos.” So, because MMCT would be considered a company interested in a commercial casino in East Windsor, it would have to cover the new fee together (25% of table games & slot revenue.)

    Mohegan Sun Slots

    Mohegan Sun Slots

  4. If chosen, Mohegan & Pequot tribes would stop their deposit to the state coffers, but would now cover 25% of slots and table games at the East Windsor site.  If they decide they aren’t interested, someone (but not MGM) will build a casino in northern CT, at the same 25% slots and table game status. (remember, the previous pact with the tribes covered 25% of only slot revenue)
  5. Meanwhile, all applications, similar to Massachusetts, will be accompanied by stringent background checks and $500,000 application fee (higher due to the inflation of 6 years).  Eight companies were interested for the Springfield and Boston region casinos.  An application fee of $400,000 immediately brought in over $3 million dollars in revenue before the process had begun!
  6. In the end, it seemed obvious to me that the MGC were leaning towards Wynn & MGM. I’m not suggesting the process be skewed toward our tribal casinos, but am established working relationship should go a long way compared to unknown relationships with commercial casino companies.
  7. The need for a casino in Bridgeport could change or be voted down. A south-western CT casino could eventually be a moot point, if CT decides it doesn’t want it any more. In Mass, even now, Brockton & Rush gaming were held hostage until the MGC dropped the Region C license due to the litigation troubles the Mashpee Wampanoags were going through.

    Brockton Casino Driveway

    Brockton Casino, no longer an option.

  8. In the end of the MA process, MGM Springfield ended up paying an $85 million licensing fee to the state to accept the license and build their casino.
  9. Both East Windsor & Bridgeport would cover the tribal pacts with the state of CT.  Jobs would be secured, and the Sun & Foxwoods would have less revenue payouts to consider while improving their empires, keeping jobs, and expanding it’s diversity portfolios.

Problem solved.

I know, it’s too simple.  Or is it?

Maybe we should thank MGM for looking at other options.  After all, when all is said and done, CT may have two more casinos paying the same or more money to the Nutmeg state, while MGM focuses on an “urban resort” (remember, MGM is interested in the resort business, not the gambling business – or so they say.)

Thank you Mr. Collins.  Thank you MGM.  Thank you Massachusetts and the MGC.  Behind all this gambling mess in CT could be a silver lining, and all provided by you.

That’s all for now.