Connecticut was one of the early adopters when it came to adding casino gambling in the northeastern United States.
When Foxwoods opened in 1986, the closest competition was in Atlantic City, and even with the opening of Mohegan Sun ten years later, those two casinos stood out like an island in an area devoid of gambling options.
But times have changed, and some in Connecticut have felt that it is time to expand gambling beyond those two casinos in order to compete with increasing competition in the region.
Unfortunately for those who were in favor of such measures, they won’t be coming in 2015.
Connecticut State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) announced on Monday that a proposal that would have legalized slot machines outside of the two Indian casinos in the state was dead for the year, putting off a vote on the issue until 2016 at the earliest.
“While this will be a difficult budget season, Connecticut’s economy continues to recover,” Duff said. “The unemployment rate is down, and we continue to grow jobs.
Former Speaker Amann’s idea of putting slot machines at off-track betting sites near the Massachusetts border is not the answer, and any expansion of gaming needs to be done in consultation with the tribes. With that said, this proposal will not be raised in the Senate.”
Expanded Competition in Region Prompted Calls for Slots
The prospect of expanding slot machines throughout the state was raised due to the increasing competition cropping up in surrounding states.
Massachusetts recently approved two casinos and a slots parlor, and could well approve a third casino later this year. New York recently recommended adding three upstate casinos, could decide to suggest a fourth, and might add downstate resorts in the future.
And other locations like Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, and Rhode Island are all within driving distance for many Connecticut residents as well.
However, there are concerns that adding such slots around the state may not be legal. Both the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes (which operate the two Native American casinos in the Connecticut) operate under revenue-sharing compacts that were agreed to more than 25 years ago.
Under those agreements, the tribes must pay 25 percent of their slot revenues to the state; however, they in turn have the exclusive rights to operate such machines.
That agreement has been fairly lucrative for the state of Connecticut, though revenues have fallen in recent years. Slot revenues peaked for the state back in 2007, when they took in $430 million.
That figure is projected to drop to $267 million in the current fiscal year, and analysts are predicting that number to fall to $191 million by the 2018 fiscal year, which will be the first year after MGM opens their new resort in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Some Lawmakers Think Bill Will Still Be Considered Sooner or Later
Former State Speaker of the House Jim Amann, a Democrat from Milford, said that while he understands why Duff would make the decision to kill the bill, he still thinks that the idea is eventually something the state will have to consider.
“It’s about jobs. It’s about revenues. It’s about protecting Connecticut revenues,” Amann said. “This is a fight for the survival of Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and our parimutuels,” Amann said. “I don’t understand why there isn’t more urgency on this.”
Other legislators have said that despite Duff’s comments, it’s still early in the year, and anything could happen in the months to come.
“Pitchers and catchers haven’t even arrived yet,” said State Representative Stephen Dargan (D-West Haven). “It’s early in the season.”