Connecticut Governor Backs Bridgeport Tribal Casino, But Concedes No Gaming Expansion Legislation in 2019

Posted on: May 9, 2019, 09:38h. 

Last updated on: May 9, 2019, 09:38h.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) said this week that while he supports allowing the state’s two Native American tribes to build a casino resort in Bridgeport, he doesn’t expect any gambling-related legislation to pass this year.

Connecticut casinos sports betting
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont says gambling legislation is essentially off the table for 2019. (Image: Ryan King/Connecticut Public Radio)

The first-term governor responded to media questions on his way to the Connecticut Conference on Tourism conference in the state’s Hartford capital. The event was sponsored by the state’s two casino resorts: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

“We’re trying to get something done, but we’re not going to get it done in this session,” Lamont explained to the Connecticut Mirror.

At the conference the governor said regarding the state’s relationship with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, “We’ve had a very strong bond and contract going back well over a generation. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that contract stays intact. We are working together going forward.”

Connecticut’s two tribes are jointly constructing a satellite casino in East Windsor to help the state compete with the recent opening of MGM Springfield, a $960 million integrated resort located just miles north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts border.

Bridgeport Casino

After Connecticut lawmakers and former Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed off on allowing the two tribes to build the East Windsor casino – known as Tribal Winds – MGM Resorts sued the state on grounds that it unlawfully legalized commercial gambling, as the $300 million satellite is being constructed on non-sovereign land. The casino giant subsequently presented plans to build a $675 million resort in Bridgeport that enticed many state lawmakers.

A legal war ensued involving the US Department of the Interior (DOI), which stalled weighing in for many months. The tribes only received authorization from the federal agency to build the satellite in March.

Lamont says he supports the tribes if Bridgeport is to welcome a casino resort.

“From my point of view, I want a global solution to this thing that’s been stuck in legal limbo for an awful long time,” the governor declared. “I’d love to make a deal with [Mashantucket Pequot chairman] Rodney.”

Connecticut Sports Betting

The governor says no gambling expansion will be passed in the legislature’s 2019 session. That means Connecticut residents also won’t be able to place a legal sports bet inside the state before at least 2020.

The tribes hold exclusivity on all forms of gambling within the state. In exchange, their two casinos share 25 percent of their slot revenue with the government.

Connecticut Public Safety Committee Chair Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-District 20) says the tribes likely won’t budge on obtaining a monopoly on sports betting.

I have to imagine that’s probably one of the major issues as their negotiations are going forward, and that’s probably a big reason why this isn’t further along as we all hoped it would be,” Verrengia told WNPR.

Since the US Supreme Court repealed the sports betting ban a year ago this month, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Mississippi, and New Mexico – have joined Nevada in getting full-scale sportsbooks in operation.