Connecticut’s Unite Here casino union is speaking out in support of MGM Bridgeport, a proposed $675 million waterfront resort that would employ more than 2,000 people.
That should come as little surprise, as the state’s powerful labor coalition is based in nearby New Haven.
At a rally Tuesday night, Unite Here Local 35 President Bob Proto revealed he’s struck an agreement with MGM Resorts that assures the Las Vegas-based casino operator will engage the labor and casino workers’ group to fulfill its staff should the project move forward.
“This state needs new ideas, and now a private investor wants to come in, who won’t put a burden on taxpayers,” Proto stated. “If you go against this project, you’re going against opportunity.”
Unite Here is a large nationwide labor union that represents workers in the hotel, food service, laundry, warehouse, and casino gaming industries.
The casino union made plenty of headlines in 2016 when it battled Carl Icahn in Atlantic City over the restoration of certain benefits at Trump Taj Mahal. The public feud led to the billionaire shuttering the Boardwalk resort.
Tangled Legal Web
Connecticut lawmakers signed off last year on allowing the state’s two tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Sun tribes, to jointly construct a $300 million satellite casino on non-sovereign land in East Windsor. The goal of the legislation is to keep gaming dollars from flowing across the Connecticut-Massachusetts border into nearby Springfield, where MGM is constructing a $960 million integrated casino resort.
The satellite casino requires the authorization of the US Department of the Interior, but the federal agency has failed to fully clarify whether the East Windsor gambling venue would still classify as a Native American facility.
MGM says the General Assembly and Governor Dannel Malloy (D) essentially authorized commercial gambling, and in doing so violated its own state constitution by not obtaining voter consent. The casino company also opines that holding a competitive bidding process gets Connecticut its best deal, and subsequently unveiled its Bridgeport vision.
This week, State Rep. Chris Rosario (D-Bridgeport) introduced legislation that would revoke the tribe’s East Windsor license, and open a competitive commercial bidding process.
Critics believe MGM Bridgeport is nothing but a bluff, and a carefully designed stall tactic to delay the tribe’s satellite from being built. “Let’s call this bill what it is: the MGM Massachusetts Protection Act,” a spokesman for the two tribes said this week.
MGM CEO Jim Murren might have tipped his hand in November when he told shareholders that the company’s development cycle of building new casinos from the ground up is ending with the Springfield property.
Mashantucket and Mohegan Sun officials, as well as state lawmakers who support the East Windsor site, say the venue is critical to protecting jobs and maintaining gaming taxes currently generated by the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.
The Connecticut General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis says without East Windsor, the state will lose $68 million in annual tax revenue, as MGM Springfield poaches from northern parts of the state.